When someone asks me what I do, it feels weird to tell them that I’m a blogger. It feels like a category error. It feels like I’ve been asked, “What do you do for a living?” and I’ve answered “I post on Facebook.” Like, who doesn’t have a blog? That’s not a profession. And it’s not like being officially published, right? It’s basically just keeping one unedited public journal among the countless millions all over the internet. I mean, maybe you can call yourself a “blogger” if you were one of that tiniest fraction of people who actually made a living blogging. But who does that? Surely not a small fry like me with an obscure blog that nobody’s ever heard of outside of a tiny subset of an already niche internet community.
And, yet, as I am sitting here thinking about that day eight years ago yesterday when I relaunched and renamed my personal blog as Camels With Hammers, determined to make it a highly visible outlet where I would write prolifically, I am staggered at just how incredibly successful this blog has been and just how life-changing being a blogger has been for me.
Beyond just the ways that this blog has been a medium to pour out countless words developing countless ideas and brought me the gift of millions of readers over the years, this blog has allowed me to become self-employed and support myself teaching independent private philosophy classes online. My business is already in its fifth year and its fourth full time. So while the blog itself has never paid me anywhere near enough to live on, I have actually figured out how to convert my blog into a living indirectly.
But, more staggeringly for me to contemplate, I owe to this blog the happiest development ever in my life. My eventual wife found me by reading this blog. Then we got to know each other and eventually fall in love when she took the private philosophy classes that probably would not have existed without this blog.
So, now, here I am in France, married as of last October, a stepfather, awaiting the birth of our first child together at the beginning of next year. Out of our home office, I teach a large slate of my own, self-run philosophy classes every week to self-motivated students online. I am able to support myself devoting the bulk of my work energies to doing philosophy, and doing it on my own terms. I get to work with absolutely delightful interlocutors in my classes. And since some of my students attend for literally years on end, I am both motivated and justified in doing the copious amounts of rigorous and invigorating philosophical research on a wide range of topics, on a daily basis, that my bananas adjunct teaching life never made possible.
And I owe it all to this blog, and especially to those of you who as readers, subscribers, and students helped me put all these pieces together through your support for my work.
It feels weird of late to think of myself as a blogger since I’ve spent most of the last two and a half years on long hiatuses from actually blogging. But then I remind myself, to my perpetual amazement, I owe this incredible life that’s distracting me to the blog itself.
I have a little saying that I have always repeated to myself, “An empty blog is a symptom of a full life.” Of course that’s not to say that bloggers have empty lives. It’s just my way of reminding myself that when people seem to have entirely disappeared from the planet because their blog is not updating ironically they’re actually in many cases especially present and fully engaged somewhere else.Now I look at my blog and when I get discouraged at the inactivity the last couple years, I remind myself, “My empty blog is a fruit of its success.” It’s been a good problem to have been pulled away from writing for the time being.
But, I’ve still been dying to get back to blogging this whole time. A huge part of my life satisfaction comes from expressing myself in writing. I have missed it terribly. And there have been so many vital public discussions that I have wanted to participate in. It’s been very frustrating.
But these hiatuses have been for a reason. I have needed the time and the mental space to do the research I’ve been doing. I’ve needed to work on issues that I’m not ready to publish my thoughts on immediately and to allow myself some time to dig deep into the philosophical literature before just popping off from the top of my head. It’s been helpful to revisit material I studied as an undergrad or as a graduate student with my current understanding. It’s been invaluable to have the room to catch up in the contemporary philosophy literature more broadly in a way that the myopia of dissertation research on a narrow topic didn’t allow me to do for a number of years. It’s been immeasurably good for me to switch from my blogger’s diet, overstuffed with internet writings, to scholarly writings again.
I have learned an immense amount the last few years. I’m restocked with fresh ideas and I have a broadened and deepened background philosophical knowledge to inform my perspective on particular issues. I’ve been filling a whole lot of gaps. I have every confidence that this fallow period as a writer has been making possible many fertile periods o come.
At this point, the only thing holding me back from blogging has been figuring out how to find the balance between scholar and blogger again. Having rehabituated myself to think like a scholar again there’s a little Scholar who sits on my right shoulder. Every time I get excited about an idea and want to race to the blog to write about it, the little Scholar pipes up and says to me, “Shouldn’t you first exhaustively master all the relevant existing literature on that topic before presuming to utter an opinion on it?” This little Scholar used to torment me to no end in graduate school and is in no small part responsible for my slowness in finishing.
Fortunately, eight years ago a little Blogger climbed up on my left shoulder and whispered in my ear, “Just blog. It’s not like being officially published. No one’s going to presume that you mean to pronounce the final word on anything in a blog post. You’re free on a blog to just think aloud and see what happens. So go for it.”
Stepping back and appreciating how much I owe to following the little Blogger’s advice, I’m thinking it’s time to start listening to it more often again.