A reader writes:
1. How on earth do I spread the fact that I have a new Catholic blog that other people should come to? My blog deals with major cultural issues of the day. Where or who would I go to to spread the word?
I should probably give you the address of my blog, in case you wish to make sure that I’m not a heretic or anything…
Don’t worry. A good rule of thumb is that people who are worried about being heretics aren’t–except by accident. I knew a priest who said, “Everybody is a material heretic.” I think he’s right. So don’t sweat it and make the appropriate course corrections when you find out that some opinion of yours doesn’t quite square up with the tradition. Jesus saves by grace, not by our flawless theology. St. Peter is our sign of hope here. Rock upon which the Church is built, and yet clueless enough to get called “Satan”. Yet still he was dear to our Lord.
As to the blogging stuff, here’s a little excerpt that may be helpful from my essay “Modern Epistles: Blogging the Faith” from Brandon Vogt’s excellent new book The Church and New Media.
It Takes a Village to Raise a Blog
The very nature of the Internet is interactivity. When planting my blog, I decided from the get-go to both exploit the connections I had and to make new ones with brashness. So I emailed writers and bloggers I either knew or whose work I liked and said, “Hey! I’ve started a blog! Could you tell your readers?” There’s no need to be shy about that. The worst that can happen is that the blogger or writer will ignore you. The best (and much more common thing) that can happen is that the blogger you contact will stick a link up (as is my custom) announcing “New blog!” and sometimes linking to something in particular you have written, thereby funneling his or her readership to you and providing you with your first readers. I have a number of readers who send me links to stuff they’ve written and who link stuff I write. Additionally, of course, you can use other social media (Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, etc.) to refer readers in those circles to your blog and build up your readership through the immense interconnectivity of the Web.
As you continue to blog, keep a little list in the back of your mind of other bloggers who might be interested in a given piece you’ve written and send them a link suggesting they might like it. The more your blog is present to the public consciousness, the more chances readers have to say, “It’s that guy again. I liked his piece on ‘Prayer and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance’, so I think I’ll check out his new piece on ‘Underwater Basket Weaving and the Second Coming’”. The trick is to realize that readers develop loyalty to writers, not topics. If they come to like you, they’ll read whatever you choose to write about, because they like you.
2. My eventual goal is to work in the field of Catholic apologetics.
How on earth do I go about getting myself established in that field?
Mostly by stapling your butt to the chair and doing the study and the writing and the honing of your craft necessary to make what you have to say faithful to the Church’s teaching, charitable, intelligible (and fun) to your reader. It really is 99% perspiration and 1% inspiration. The great thing about apologetics is that the Faith has nothing new to say, so you don’t have to make stuff up. Just remember your lines and don’t bump into the furniture. Of course, in another sense, it’s the only really new thing in the world, because the world’s narrative is entirely money, sex, and power, with a little trivia thrown in to make it interesting. But I think you take my point.
That doesn’t mean you have to be boring to be faithful. On the contrary, one of the paradoxes of the faith is that if you don’t try to be “creative” and just try to tell the truth you will find yourself accidently creative. The Holy Spirit is funny that way.
Beyond that, remember what I tell any writer about any subject: Write what interests you and nothing else (if you are interested, your reader will be too). Old words are better than new ones and old words, when short, are best of all. Learn to use a Writer’s Market. Learn good manuscript mechanics, as well as spelling and punctuation (see the Writers’ Market). Don’t fear rejection letters. They are a part of life and not a verdict from God on your worth as a writer and a human being.
Above all, don’t put apologetics first. It is a cardinal mistake made by a lot of young Catholic males. There is no office of “apologist” in the Church. There *is* an office of evangelist, according to St. Paul. Evangelism, not apologetics, comes first. I discuss, at some length, the consequences of getting that order mixed up.
May God bless your work in the Vineyard!
And, my minions, go and check out his blog!