With 876 Posts, 6,929 Followers, 15,179 Comments–3,821 of them mine–A Pilgrim in Narnia just passed 700,000 viewers a couple of weeks ago. The stats are pretty good for a blog that hits at a fairly high intellectual level–and after it has been said that blogging is a dead art. The blog has done exactly what I meant it to do, allowing me to test material, hone my craft, and extend my reach. A Pilgrim in Narnia has become a terrifically effective sandbox for playing with ideas about C.S. Lewis, the Inklings, literature, world-building, and theology. It has also allowed me to sharpen my writing skills, though my spelling is still mit and hiss.
And when it comes to the last goal, expanding my network and providing me a platform from which to work as an independent scholar, it has exceeded my best imaginations of what was possible. Without any advertising, no network-growth software, no real focus on design, and no media or celebrity attention, A Pilgrim in Narnia has grown organically over the last 7 years.
The only thing the blog hasn’t done is get me a book deal, land me a major award, provide me an invitation to speak in a warm spot in winter, put me in line for a tenure-track position, or get me a chance to argue about Tolkien with Stephen Colbert.
A Pilgrim in Narnia has grown as I have grown, developing a more academic tone the further I’ve gone into the project, and slaloming back and forth with the questions I am knocking about in my brain. I like that, and I like writing the blog.
And I like readers. Faithful readers and those just passing in for a visit have clicked through to more than 25,000 links to other blogs, websites, writers, and social media. Nice folk have shared this blog on Twitter more than 15,000 times and more than 35,000 times on Facebook–and my ability to track that is pretty limited. Thousands of comments have come in, each one shaping the reader’s experience and the writer’s scope. And many of those readers have become (or began as) guest bloggers, leading to the most popular guest blog series ever, the Inkling and Arthur series from last spring, edited by David Llewellyn Dodds.
All that is pretty cool, but there have been some challenges. I have never been able to get the time to update the platform, for one. I love the header for my topic, but it is more than a wee bit dated. I have refused to monetize–I think that learning and scholarship should be as free as possible–but I have not taken advantage of Amazon accounts or Patreon to get rid of ads on the blog (which I can’t control and might well be offensive). I have also fallen off of reading and commenting on most other blogs, because of a limitation of time. I appreciate you bloggers who still show up, like, share, and reblog my work, and wish I could be more connected.
Ultimately, I have been unsuccessful in being able to control the time this blog takes to research, write, edit, design, moderate, facilitate, and promote. I am at the very last stages of Ph.D. thesis writing. In a few months when someone on an airplane shouts, “this man is having a heart attack, is there a doctor on board?”, I can confidently stand up and provide the dying man with a list of critical tools for reading fantasy literature theologically. As he will no doubt be grateful for.
But for now, my time is incredibly full. So it is time to take a wee break.
Not a total break, just a kit kat break. I have blog posts lined up for the next six weeks or so, including a series of “Throwback Thursday” posts that draws out old material. This is what my break looks like:
- I will not be engaged on social media like Facebook and Twitter, though I will probably still share things
- I am turning down all unpaid speaking, teaching, guest blogging, preaching, consultation, editing, writing, podcasting, and reviewing requests until the summer; requests come almost weekly now so I have to take this step
- I am putting off the “Other Fiction of C.S. Lewis” series until the end of March; more anon
- I am moving the Planet Narnia series to this fall (a bit awkward, but I have another reason for doing so)
- I will not be moderating comments on blog posts for the next 6 weeks; this is not really a problem as 90% of comments are from a few dozen intelligent and generous thinkers, but I will miss the dialogue (note: most of you know how to contact me if things go awry)
How can you help? I know you were wondering!
First, if you happen to have a book deal for me, or want to give me a major award, or provide me with an invitation to speak in a warm spot this winter, or you have the ability to put me in line for a tenure-track position, or if you are on Stephen Colbert’s team, you can drop me an email: junkola [at] gmail [dot] com. Oh, and if you are a wealthy patron who wants to support independent scholarship, I’d also take that email.
Since those are sort of superhuman things, for most readers this is where I need help from you:
- 2019 will be the first year that I (likely) won’t experience growth on the blog. We are still on track to get 150,000 visitors this year, but I expect numbers to soften. If you would be so kind as to share by email, social media, or personal invitation, it would be a blessing. This is especially the case with facebook groups, where I typically find the best conversations (outside of the comments on this blog). I’m not all that fussed with numbers, personally, but they do help independent scholars convince editors and committees their work is worthwhile.
- Is there an older blog post that you liked that you think could use a new audience? Let me know in the comments here (or email me).
- I have 2 or 3 guest blog spots open for March if you are interested (just email me).
- I have need of beta readers of my thesis of two types. First, I could use critical readers for logic, flow, and scholarly conversation. Second, I could use bright readers who have an attention to detail (either grammar or format).
Besides a magic focus fairy, or a Gandalfian mentor with magical editing abilities at my elbow, these are things that I could use in this season.
Asking for help is tough, and so is taking a break. I have worked here for years with no supporting institution, no patronage, no grants, and absolutely no income for the blog (or for most of my writing). I have taught more than 80 courses in the last 13 years, and have only twice received a short-term contract at full pay–and have never received medical insurance or other benefits. I am in year 6 of an unfunded, full-cost Ph.D., and I am still very much in the midst of it. The statistics at the top of this post make these numbers look pale, but there is a weariness that sets in from longterm overwork combined with insistent poverty. So a breath, now, while I can.
Most of the Ph.D. student bloggers I know have had to stop, so I hope that this shift gives me space to breathe so I can begin a new life as A Pilgrim in Narnia later this year. Readers will be pleased to know there is a book in the works for late 2020 or early 2021, and I am looking to do some travelling (and hopefully some speaking) in spring-summer of 2020. There is more ahead, but long ago Bilbo warned us of the danger of pilgrimage:
“It’s a dangerous business … going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Hopefully, this move steadies me a bit! Everybody does need a little time away, apparently, so I leave you with Chicago. Boy, they can write a break-up song, but I am pleased that this isn’t a break-up post! I’d love to hear from you before I slide into the ether, so leave your thoughts in the comments below.