In many ways, 2011 has been one of the most exciting years Mere-O has had in the course of our seven year history. I’ll never be a first-time author again, after all, and that is something.
But as I reflect, I can’t help but feel that I have missed something in all my attempts to get the word out about Earthen Vessels. I’ve resisted writing any meta-reflections about the process of publishing a book, if only because that sort of meta-consideration is the route that all authors take. But I’ll offer this much: over the past few months, I have tacitly commoditized Mere-O by treating it as a means of selling books to the world, rather than a space wherein I can work out my thoughts and arguments on matters of public concern. I didn’t mean to, but I did.
Of course, I’m not intrinsically opposed to commoditizing my thoughts. At least I’m not in practice. The book is for sale because the publisher needs to recoup the investment they made in me at the beginning of the process, an investment that allowed me to justify the hours and labor that the book required to my wife, friends, and family. Public intellectual reflection as anything more than a hobby or personal discipline requires capital. As I’ve slowly (and largely unsuccessfully) tried to make my way into the ranks of the vocational intellectuals, that’s become even more clear to me.
But as I think through Mere-O and what I want out of my life in 2012 (and beyond), I want it to be more than a platform that pushes books ad nauseum. Or rather, I don’t want it to be a platform that from which I’m constantly selling.
I want it to be home for writers who are unrelenting in their inquiry, and who are rigorously charitable in their critiques and unflaggingly optimistic and cheerful in our setting out of a more excellent way. I want it to be a place where truth and beauty meet, where at the end of my days I will look back and say, “This was not vanity.” And that has no price tag attached.
All writing allows the formation of a limited friendship that enables us to look with another at the world and imagine it differently than we did before. But the timely and temporal nature of blogging enables that process uniquely, by collapsing the gap between proposed thought and feedback. It’s limiting in its own way, of course, but the narrowness paradoxically leaves an expanded space for genuine interaction. A book leaves less space for questions than 500 words.
But commoditization undermines that possibility through introducing a transactional dimension to the relationship. It tends to make the author/reader dynamic one of creator/consumer, rather than one of co-creator. And for that, I am sorry.
Will the advertisements stay? Well, yes. For now. I’m not at the point where my vocational aspirations and my income are aligned, a state which I recognize is a historical luxury. It’s an odd world we live in. But the pseudo-professionalism that has constrained me in my writing here at Mere-O will hopefully go. I may even let a grammatical error through, or two.
A long preface, which is precisely what we’re known for around Mere-O–flouting the standard blogging conventions of bold sentences and bulleted lists in pursuit of thinking.
But your feedback is welcome, and by “welcome” I mean earnestly and eagerly desired. As in, please?
I’m curious to hear who you are, and what you like and don’t like about Mere-O. It should take 4-5 minutes.
A thank you note will be sent to everyone who participates, provided that you give me your address. Resisting commoditization begins with baby steps, after all.
Hey Matt, I took the survey! I understand your mixed feelings about commoditizing Mere-O for the sale of your book, but for what it’s worth I think you’ve done a really good job striking a balance and keeping the nauseum out of ad nauseum. :-)
Thanks, Stephen. Appreciate the feedback.
Took the survey.
“Or rather, I don’t want it to be a platform that from which I’m constantly selling.” (Grammar check? ;)
I understand and thoroughly agree with that thought, but I have enjoyed the blog in the past anyway, in spite of what you call its “commoditization.” The only blogs I make time for in my college schedule are Mere-O, The Front Porch Republic, and *ahem* the NY Times Fashion blog. And I always find Mere-O interesting, particularly when its authors speak on subjects of everyday current controversy: tattooing, for example, has recently become a bigger issue in my church and school circles, and I have appreciated your posts on the issue. Also, you have a Chesterton quote in the lower right-hand corner of the page, and I highly approve of this. :)
I’m going to belligerently leave that grammar error in, just for posterity’s sake. It was, I assure you, unintentional! : )
My new mission for 2012 is to persuade you to no longer read Front Porch Republic. It’s the only way I’ll be able to say, “This is not vanity” at the end of it all. : )
Thanks for reading, especially while in college. That means a lot.
I read Mere O regularly and enjoy it! I also approve of the Chesterton quote. I’m nearly done with Orthodoxy and have a lot to process! Thanks for all you do!
Thanks, Abby. Glad you enjoy it. And so happy you’re reading Chesterton. Orthodoxy…so, so good.
Thrilled to have gotten to know you and this whole blog over the last 8 months or so. Definitely have been enjoying it, and I’m consistently interested in the sorts of things you guys write about. Thanks for your work, Matt, and the rest of the crew.
James, getting to interact with you has been one of my highlights this year for sure. Can’t thank you enough for everything you have done.
When friends ask me, “so, what blogs do you like?”, Mere Orthodoxy is one of two blogs that I can say I love to read without any qualification. I like Challies, DeYoung, Ref21, Slate, Rachel Held Evans, Patrol… but all of them I have quibbles with (some big, some small.) Mere-O is the one that I recommend to as many of my friends as I can.
Matthew, just wanted to say that this is balm to the weary writer’s soul, and I’m not sure we deserve it (except for Cate, who is awesome). Thank you.