An Update on the 700,000th Hit, or Everybody Needs a Little Time Away

Dear Readers,

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.

Yet.

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.

Cheers,
Brenton

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About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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28 Responses to An Update on the 700,000th Hit, or Everybody Needs a Little Time Away

  1. salooper57 says:

    Brenton,
    Congrats on the 700,000 hit! Pilgrim is the blog I appreciate most.Can you answer a quick question? Besides you, do you know anyone who might be able to articulate some aspect of faith clearly and engagingly to nerds? Our church sponsors something we call NerdChurch, and we are looking for resource people. Thanks for any suggestions, blogs, podcasts, websites, etc.

    Like

    • Shayne, thanks for the nice note.
      I like the idea of NerdChurch. I’d love if there was a “smart faith” collective of some kind. I suspect that’s largely happening on grad school and college campuses, but it often stays there. Do you follow Englewood Review of Books? That’s an interesting group. And the Patheos Blog collective? I’ll have to think of this one. Anyone else know of anything?

      Like

    • Sorry to hijack a question not really addressed to me… but gotta say: LOVE this idea of NerdChurch!! I’m a complete Biblical Hebrew Nerd. I occasionally preach and sometimes teach at my little Presbyterian Church in North Tryon PEI. In the Fall I taught an 8 week study on the Jewishness of Jesus. My blog is http://www.hebrewwordlessons.com (tracing a Hebrew word through the Tanakh and into the B’rit Chadashah (New Testament)). I’d be happy to be a point of research, if needed! You can reach me at: sefisher@upei.ca

      Liked by 1 person

    • Yewtree says:

      NerdChurch sounds excellent. Depending on your theological perspective(s), there’s a group based out of either St Martin in the Fields, London, UK, or St Mary Virgin in Oxford, UK, which discusses faith, mysticism, and apophatic theology, among other things. I forget what it’s called.

      It’s the intellectual Christians’ challenge/ alternative to the (dreadful, ghastly) Alpha Course.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. danaames says:

    I’d be happy to be a grammarian proofreader – whole thing, or chapters as you wish. Email me.

    Dana

    Like

  3. Dorothea says:

    All the best as you take this little break, Brenton. Good on you for whittling down the responsibilities to get the dissertation done. Looking forward to congratulating you on the right-to-stand-up-to-the-“is there a doctor on board” request.

    Like

  4. Brenton, I very much enjoy your postings… but a sabbatical (or shabbat’ical) is often just the thing to bring new vitality and excitement to your work. Seeing how vibrant it is now, I suspect that after your break its future will be super-sparkly! 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Yewtree says:

    Happy to read for grammar and possibly critical thinking. I’ll DM you on Instagram with my email.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Wow, if you had a Kit Kat for every viewer – that’d be a lot of Kit Kats (it might be like the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, but with Kit Kats instead of mops…). Anyway, congratulations and best wishes for so wise a (working) break!

    Like

  7. Hannah says:

    May a dragon inspire and steady you in ‘your ether’ …

    Liked by 1 person

  8. loritischler says:

    Test. I wrote a long incredibly lovely message of encouragement and then it disappeared. Trust me. It was beautiful. I mean It was encouraging. Blessings brother.

    Like

  9. Allyson Wieland says:

    I hope you have a productive break that results in a book deal, or at the very least a completed dissertation and diploma. Love the blog. I store my favorites in an email folder. Especially enjoyed the LM Montgomery series from last summer.

    Like

  10. Karen Trate Scheffler says:

    All the very best for you and your family Brenton!
    I have learned so much from you, I can imagine how very fortunate your students must be.
    Ditto on the comments above – ( I especially smile at Lori Tischler’s because knowing her a wee bit, I bet it was a beautiful note)
    Cheers to every minute ’till we meet again
    Sparkle on

    Like

  11. I love this reflection on your blogging journey, and wish you all the best as you take a break and attend to your dissertation. I look forward to congratulating you when you’re done!

    Liked by 1 person

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