Like. Follow. Subscribe. …Or create.

It’s a curious thing how I self-sabotage my attempts to detach from media (social or otherwise).

I started using Medium and Feedly as news aggregators with the intention of divesting my energies from Facebook and reducing the temptation to scroll or blog-hop for hours. In the end, I find myself now hoarding (ahem, collecting) bookmarked articles on both platforms, which I am hopelessly behind on reading, and I’m still using Facebook (though decidedly less-so).

I’ve culled my FB friend list to people I have had meaningful (or at least intentional, word-based) interactions with in the last 2 years. I have “unfollowed” and “unliked” a host of websites and entertainment pages on FB, though Zuckerberg still thinks I’m not getting enough advertising in my diet. (“Your friend Joe likes the ‘Peruvian Llama Juggling’ page!” Well… good for Joe?)

I infrequently trim down my Twitter follow list, but then I’ll take on new Twitter activities like anonymous accounts (let’s call that “fun-work”). I’ll turn off Twitter notifications on my phone, but keep the app and check it frequently.

I’ll delete podcasts from my devices, and then subscribe to new ones. Same with my streaming movie service. I have several authors to whom I owe book reviews, and yet I’m still adding books to my hold-list at the library. Why? Because I’m a jerk blogger/reviewer. (I owe apologies along with those reviews.)

[I pause to add the following clarifying statement: I’m not complaining. I’m not asking for assistance. I’m just talkin’ here, folks.]

The truth is, I still like using social media. I know the dangers. I’ve read the news articles about its negative effects. I’ve seen scores of blog posts about how people quit FB and Twitter, and their lives are JUST. SO. AMAZING. NOW. (See: previously-mentioned bookmarked Medium articles.) And I know that’s all true.

But I also know that I enjoy interacting with my “Twitter friends.” I still use FB groups and messaging to stay in touch with people, groups, and projects.  I’m aware of the sneaky dangers of FOMO and my tendency toward oversharing, and I’m working on both. I think I can stop worrying and learn to love the blog.

However, there is one side effect of continued social media interaction that I need to start taking more seriously: Social media engagement proves that “I don’t have time to write” is a lie.

I’ve got the basic outline, a few solid chapters, and a handful of scattered scenes written for the first book in a trilogy of crime stories that I’d really like to finish. I care about the main character, I’m intrigued by the themes that these books involve, and the questions that the overarching story raises set it apart from other books in the genre. I think it would be a really cool thing to bring these stories into the world and share them with you.

For the years–YEARS–that I have weakly gestured at writing, I have convinced myself that I don’t have the time to commit to it. My time spent on social media proves otherwise.

I want to write more. I have the ability and time to write more. And I don’t have any good excuses for not pursuing it.

So, well, uh, there it is.

=====

What, you were expecting more of a rousing call to action?

Do we really need one?

Would it really work?

Wait a minute–I have a blog, don’t I?

[No posts for more than 3 weeks? Wowsa.]

A few words to update you on what’s been going on with me:

At the moment, I’m at the tail end of a pernicious head cold. So I’m a little foggy-headed today, but I wanted to post something new.

Honestly, things are pretty good. December was a good month for me. Some exciting things are happening in my offline life that I can’t quite talk about yet. Work is keeping me busy. A few weeks ago, I took a roadtrip with my wife up to my old college town to pick up my sister at the end of her first college semester. We enjoyed Christmas in-town with the family. It was a good end to a challenging year.

As for the radio silence: I honestly just haven’t had much to say, or at least much that was worth saying. I hit a point when I just didn’t care enough to write regular posts. Part of that blogging drought may be that I also haven’t been reading regularly this month (so as you will see soon, I only added one more “reading challenge” title to my final count).

The end of the year is always a time of introspection and reflection, and a reassessment of where I am and where I want to go. Maybe that’s a cliched approach, but there it is. The point is, I’m taking some time this week to take stock of my priorities and agenda, so that I’m spending my life on things that I care about most. (No, that doesn’t mean we’re breaking up–but I do want to consider how much time I’m ready to invest into this project.)

Here’s the deal, gang: My blogging mojo is in a bit of a trough, and I don’t just want to blather for the sake of posting new content. If you’re taking the time to read what I write, then what I write should be worth your time. I have had a few ideas in the past couple of weeks, but I wasn’t sure if I had enough new to say to justify 700 or so words about it.

What does that mean, moving forward into 2017? It means that when I have something new that’s worth saying, I’ll say it. I may adapt some of my Sunday School materials into short posts here, if I think it would be profitable. If I gather enough items for a Friday Five, I’ll post that here on Fridays.

The next Federalist post will go up on the “4thDavePapers” blog next Tuesday, and I hope to throw some new content up there once or twice a week, because the read-and-respond approach will keep me thinking and producing material.

But I’m not going to post just for posting’s sake, out of some sense of obligation to vomit up internet content. I’m not going to offer up half-baked hot takes on current events because everyone else is doing it. There’s enough of that going around.

The best way for you to keep up with my blogging in 2017 is to subscribe. You can subscribe by email at the bottom of the page, or follow my blog through WordPress, so that you get notifications when I have new content available. And I’ll do my best to make sure that any new content is worth your while.

Thanks for subscribing, thanks for reading, thanks for sticking around. My hope is that my 2017 writing, however inconsistent, will become more and more beneficial to you.

Happy New Year, friends!
–d.

 

The4thDave’s Friday Five (11/18/16)

Hey friends! Sorry for missing last week’s Five, but I hope this week’s bit of awesomeness will make up for it!

This video about being terrible. I appreciate Steve Kamb’s work on Nerd Fitness (you should check it out, it’s pretty fun). He’s recently starting to post more regularly on the NF Youtube account. For some reason, this video was really encouraging to me. I mean, what he’s saying may seem basic/obvious, but it’s good to hear once in a while. (Content Note: He uses a few swear words in the second half of the vid. I guess they’re “TV swears.” For what it’s worth.)

The Magnificent Seven (2016). I was listening to the Gut Check Podcast, and the hosts were talking about how much they enjoyed this summer’s remake of The Magnificent Seven. I don’t remember how much I’ve talked about that movie online, but as I was listening to their discussion, it reminded me how much I really, really enjoyed the flick. It’s been ages since I’ve seen the original, so I can’t really compare the two. I’ll say this, though: even with Rogue One and a few others still on the horizon, The Magnificent Seven is easily one of my top-five movies of 2016. It is a “classic” Western in all the best ways, and I expect it will be joining my video collection at some point.

Trust-Based Relational Intervention (TBRI). Part of our training as foster parents involves learning TBRI as a method for disciplining “children from hard places” who have endured trauma. While I will freely admit that I was suspicious when I was first exposed to TBRI as a parenting method (I assumed it was “hippie parenting”), I’m coming to appreciate its strengths. I look forward to learning it, using it, and infusing it with as much Gospel as possible. This may not interest you in the least, but if it does, you should check out this site that features videos by the late Dr. Karen Purvis, who helped develop this method of ministering to wounded children.

“The Show Must Go On.” I randomly happened to catch a recent episode of The Voice on NBC, and I heard this performance from one-time-child-music-star Billy Gilman. While he’s not the most dynamic performer, I don’t think you can deny he’s got some pipes.

The Federalist Papers. Inspired by some college friends on Twitter, I started rereading this fundamental work of American political writing (something I’ve been toying with for a few months). It’s available here on Kindle for free, and I would recommend downloading a copy.

Why? Because starting Monday (hopefully), I’ll be writing at least weekly blog posts with observations/applications about all 85 treatises in the lead-up to the inauguration of our next president. Sometimes, I’ll focus on a specific “paper” and other times, I’ll sum up a group of them. I’m not promising hard-hitting analysis or rhetorical brilliance–just the ordinary thoughts of some conservative, nobody blogger on one of the most important collections of writings in United States history.

Probably while humming something from Hamilton.

=====

So that’s my Friday Five. What about you? Anything cool you’re enjoying lately? Share in the comments!

Let’s Try That Again: Day 1 of Month 2.

[I wrote this entire post last night, only to delete it accidentally, because I was using a tablet instead of my laptop and I switched apps without thinking. So here’s my best approximation of last night’s post.]

One month ago, I wrote about how I was going to treat the first day of the month like a new year, and start working on a new habit of daily Bible reading. How did that work out?

It went pretty well…for about 2 weeks.

Sometime around my birthday celebration, it all kind of fell apart. I stopped reading the Word regularly. I stopped tracking my food intake (resulting in my gaining back the little bit of weight I had lost in the previous month). I stopped working on my 2016 reading list. I just let up for some reason. My normal schedule was disrupted by parties and travel and family activities, and rather than leaning into the daily habits I had been developing, I fell back into bad patterns.

So now, here we are, a month later, and I’m sorry to say that my adherence on last month’s goal was about 50%, if not a tad less. That’s just sad. So you know what that means… Happy New Year! I’m starting over. But not just starting over–I’m adding a new element. (I know, it’s crazy. Just roll with it.)

Last November, I participated in NaNoWriMo for a few weeks (hmm–starting to see a pattern) before realizing it wasn’t quite the right time for me. I got about 15,000 words of a novel written, with notes and random scraps of text to carry through the rest of the book and into the next two. Over the last year, the story has been pressing into my consciousness at various times, and I’ve been keeping a record of ideas and insights that have resulted. It’s a project I am determined to get back to, because I think it will be worth doing.

While I’m not going to go full-NaNo this year, I have decided to add something writing-related to Month 2 of this “new-year” approach.  For the month of November, in addition to continuing to increase my Bible intake, I will try to write 300 words a day of something. You will sometimes see the results of this on the blog (like this post!), and other times these words will only be for my own purposes–writing prompts to sharpen my skills, poetry for my wife, incremental work on my novel. 300 words a day–a modest amount. Nothing to go crazy over. But if I do that, at the end of November, I’ll have produced at least 9,000 more words of creative content, which will be a good thing for me, no matter what.

So, welcome to Month 2. I’m looking forward to keeping you up to date on my progress.

=====

Your Turn: Are you working on any new habits? Are you taking part in NaNoWriMo? How can I encourage you or help you in that?

 

No way I can stop at 7.

The current trending hashtag among my friends on Twitter is #7FavBooks. I have to admit that I’m a little intimidated by my friends’ selections, which are on the whole very theologically-inclined. (Goes to show you the calibre of scholars I pal around with on Twitter.) If I tried to limit myself to seven books, I think my list would be much more focused on fiction,and I would need to explain all my selections. So I’m going to break the rules a bit.

What I’ve included below is not my all-time list (I don’t know if I can come up with one), but it’s definitely my much-beloved list.

Seven Novels/Series I Love and Recommend (Mostly):

  • The Chronicles of Narnia, by CS Lewis. Yes, I have some problems with Lewis’ theology in a few places, but this series has been formative in my life. I’ve read through these books almost a half-dozen times, starting back when I was in grade school. I have a deep and abiding love for these books that won’t go away any time soon.
  • Gilead, by Marilynne Robinson. It’s been almost a decade since I’ve read this one, and I think that’s way too long. This Pulitzer-winning novel tells the story of an septuagenarian Iowa preacher named Aames, who is writing down his legacy of memory to give to his young son, since he probably won’t be around to see the boy reach adulthood. It’s a touching meditation on fatherhood and faith, and I need to get back to this one soon.
  • Les Miserables, by Victor Hugo. The summer between high school and college, I worked my way through the 1400-page unabridged version of this classic novel, and I loved every bit of it. Even the random fifty-page diversions in which Hugo would talk about the details of Napoleon at Waterloo or the particular history of an order of nuns in France. The story of Jean Valjean’s transformation of grace is one that has been depicted over and over again in film and on stage, because there is something compelling about the power of forgiveness and mercy. This book revels in that beauty.
  • The Pilgrim’s Progress, by John Bunyan. Criticisms of this Puritan classic generally include that the allegory drives the story–that the story is just an excuse for the didactic sections. That may well be true, but if you’re a believer, I don’t think you can read this book without coming away encouraged and reminded of the spiritual realities of this world. This is a book I have appreciated more and more with each reading, and I think I’m going to start reading it every year or two because it’s so rich with truth.
  • A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens. Dickens is still one of my favorite writers of all time, and it was hard to choose one title to represent that. However, I know that his wordy descriptions and multitudes of characters can be tough sledding for some, so I think Tale is his most accessible work with one of his most memorable scenes. No spoilers, in case you made it through high school without reading it, but let’s say that the final chapters produce a moment of nobility that is awe-inspiring. Worth another look, if you haven’t read it in years.
  • The Brothers Karamazov, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky.  This sprawling story about the relationship of the three brothers Mitya, Vanya, and Alyosha is possibly over-long (it’s Russian, so that tends to happen), but within its pages are some of the greatest examples of a novelist wrestling with the realities of faith. There’s a LOT going on here, and it’s a daunting read at first. But it’s worth the investment in order to experience this story. This is another one I want to tackle again sometime.
  • The Dark Tower Series, by Stephen King. This one will get me some raised eyebrows, no doubt, but Stephen King’s books are one of my slightly-guilty pleasures. What fascinates me about King is that his novels demonstrate a startling understanding of the depravity of man, but he refuses to turn to Jesus as the answer to that depravity. (As such, religious figures in his books are generally painted in a pretty terrible light, focusing on hypocrisy and moral corruption.) That said, he knows how to spin a good yarn, and the Dark Tower series is his magnum opus–a sprawling fantasy epic that pulls in elements of westerns, horror, science fiction, and medieval fantasy, and shares points of contact with nearly half of King’s immense bibliography. I would definitely NOT recommend it to everyone for several content-related reasons. And I don’t know if I’d ever try to read it again. But I still regard it as a storytelling masterpiece and it holds a special place in my memory.

That’s my current seven for fiction. Tomorrow (probably), I’ll post my list of seven non-fiction books. See you then!

=====

Your Turn: Okay, I’ve given you my list; now what’s yours? What are some of your favorite works of fiction? Share them in the comments below (and, as always, be courteous about the opinions of others).

Na-No-What-Now?

As far back as I can remember, I have loved stories–hearing them, reading them, and telling them. I was the nerdy kid who took his 8th grade homework assignments (write 10 sentences using your new weekly vocabulary words) and turned them into a serial adventure about American and Soviet spies locked in covert battle.

I wrote short stories all throughout high school. When I went to college, I changed my major from Journalism to English, because I loved fiction and wanted to write books. During college and into my early 2o’s, I wrote more short stories and the first part of at least 2 novels. But something happened. I stopped believing it was worth the effort. I liked the idea of “being a writer” more than the actual work of writing.

Over the last 10 years, I stopped writing fiction regularly. I’d blog and write poetry, but I felt like the idea of being a novelist was a “childish thing” I needed to put away. Sure, I would still bring it up from time to time, as I’d run into story ideas that intrigued me, but I told myself that I couldn’t really pursue something like that. I had to grow up and move on.

Then something strange and wonderful happened: I got married to a woman who not only loves and cares for me, but who believes in me. I married a woman who doesn’t think that being a writer is a crazy, childish dream. Over the last year-plus, every time the critic in my head has said “Why bother?”, hers has been the voice in my ears saying, “Why not?”

So, after some deliberation and encouragement, I decided I’m going to take on a new challenge. This year, I’m going to take part in National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), starting on November 1st. It’s a worldwide challenge to write a 50,000-word book in 30 days. It’s an incredibly intimidating task, but I need to take on this challenge. And I’m telling you fine folks, because I need to go “on the record” so I don’t back out.

So, starting this Saturday at midnight, the NaNo clock will begin counting down, and I will have 30 days to write like I’ve never written before.

(By the way, what this means for the 4thDaveBlog is that, for the month of November, I’ll be posting some lighter content. From time to time, I’ll update you on the writing process. And if any of you would like to submit a guest-post, I’m definitely open to that. Hit me up at the4thdave at gmail dot com.)

The question you may be asking at this point is, “What in the world are you going to write about?”

In the last few months, I’ve started kicking around a new story–a mystery/thriller about a man with a dark past who is trying to figure out how to live as a “new creation” in a violent world. It’s a story about faith and doubt, and about holding onto black-and-white moral values in a grey-scale city. And it’s a story about defending those who can’t defend themselves against the wolves who seek to devour them.

The working title of the novel is “Good Shepherd.”

As you can tell, I’m pretty excited about it. I’m pretty nervous too, but I’m hoping the excitement wins out. The most important thing is that I’m ready to challenge myself in a new way, and do something I’ve always wanted to do but have been too afraid to try.

=====

What about you? Can you think of a time when you’ve really challenged yourself to try something new or scary? Or, do you have some specific words of wisdom for me as I begin this event? Please share below!