300 posts. Wow.
When I began this project, I had little sense of an end in sight. It really began as a way of reading C.S. Lewis out loud. Over time, as my roots have deepened, the tree has branched out in brilliant new ways:
- I have, I hope, added some unique conversations to C.S. Lewis’ biography. Sometimes this has meant looking at Lewis’ books and publications in new ways.
- I have been able to bring in my love of reading Tolkien, just in time for Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films.
- I have taken the chance to explore Fantasy literature more broadly, with regular features on writers like Terry Pratchett, Ursula Le Guin, Neil Gaiman, Madeleine L’Engle, Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, and Guy Gavriel Kay. You will see I called one of the above a jerk and got away with it.
- I have dug deeper into genres that I had only scratched the surface on, including Faërie, Gothic, Horror, Dark Fantasy, High Fantasy, and Arthurian lore. 2014 could really be the Year of Arthur.
- I have stretched my reading into more difficult foundational books, like Morte D’Arthur, The Worm Ouroboros, and Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, which I was so exhausted by I didn’t even blog it. I also read some things I was unnecessarily avoiding, like Beowulf and Charles Williams, whom I’ve come to love.
- I took some risks in exploring the relationship between faith, culture, and literature. These are not usually the most widely read pieces, but they often have the most comments.
- I began tickling the theories of fantasy writing, including ideas like speculative cosmography, fictional world-building, and how far we can stretch the Ransom universe.
- I have featured some great resources on writing, including the Writing Wednesdays feature. I even got to write about Sesame Street on that one.
- And I have included a number of digital friends through guest blogs, reblogs, and the occasional Feature Friday post. This winter will feature of number of guests for a series on C.S. Lewis’ The Great Divorce.
Not all things have gone well. On April 1st this year, I thought it would be loads of fun to make a pseudo-serious Lewis exposé spoof. My blog, “The Obscure Writings of C.S. Lewis, Jr.,” did not do well. Nobody got it, I think. Well, some got it. There are always some who connect. But sometimes that “some” is very few, as it was with my Kirk Cameron posts. Apparently 80s heart-throbs are off limits. And there are the forgotten blogs.
But mostly it has gone well. More than well. Here were my goals in beginning, and how I’ve met them:
- I wanted to deepen and extend my reading. I really have exceeded my own goals in this. Though I still struggle to read quickly, I’ve grown tremendously. A Pilgrim in Narnia became a place to test out the ideas that came out of that reading experience.
- I aimed at getting to the centre of C.S. Lewis’ life and thought. Though I am still learning, I have a sense of who Lewis was, and much of what he was on about. My chronological project for reading Lewis was a great way to get a sense of the man; I’ll spend the next decade understanding his ideas and influences.
- I planned on extending my digital and academic networks. This happened far beyond my expectations. Conferences have helped, but I’ve been constantly amazed at the ability of social media and blogging to extend one’s digital friendships. Besides Google, Facebook and Twitter are my biggest portals to new readers.
- I intended to move my work toward a PhD program. This was the biggest gamble, and my work paid off. In summer 2011, I began pretending that I was in a PhD program. I set out work programs, reading goals, and blogging schedules. Two years later my plan paid off, and I am doing a PhD in Christianity and Literature from the University of Chester.
- I shaped my blogging so I would get better at writing. This is harder to judge, but I think I have grown as a writer. Forgetting about audience response, I have worked on voice, poignancy, and vivid phrasing. I have dug for the narrative arc in an idea and used it to write good essays. Not all are winners, I am sure, but it was a great way to become a stronger writer.
- I hoped to increase my readership. Very few writers are content writing to no one. I had been hammering away at the keyboard for five years without any real sense of how the world might respond. Since launching A Pilgrim in Narnia, I have grown to an audience of 6000 online readers a month and more than 3000 followers. Considering the make-up of this blog, that is pretty huge.
These six goals were my master plan. I had other ideas in mind, like a book that might emerge from my posts. That may still come. I also realized as I went on how baffling and discouraging the publishing world was. I had hoped by now to have a fiction deal for Hildamay Humphrey’s Incredibly Boring Life or for The Curse of Téarian. Nothing has come. That world seems to grow farther away rather than closer to my trembling hands.
Even then, I have found blogging a comfort as I spoke openly about my frustrations from time to time. I am not alone, I realize. And there is something in the not-aloneness that spurs me forward as a writer and researcher.
So, the question in the title will make sense to anyone who has blogged for any extended period of time: Is all this work just digital dust? 300 posts, 2 months of hours that could have been paid work, 400,000 words, 11,000 tweets… what does it all add up to?
I cannot speak for the readers, who have their own reasons for exploring the worlds I inhabit on A Pilgrim in Narnia.
But for me, it has been a tremendous project. And one worth continuing, I hope. As I throw these goals forward, as my research deepens and my writing becomes more diverse, as I continue to play in the realms made by marvelous minds, I hope you will continue to join me.
Thanks for sharing!