Links and “Jesus Freaks”

By November 12, 2013Writing about Writing


A Blog within a blog…

Since the beginning of my cracky-voice, adolescent years I’ve always had an interest in writing a  really cool blog. I aspired to be like my long-time internet hero, Philip DeFranco, whose YouTube account turned from a simple video-diary to a multi-million dollar web-based business.

Lot’s of DeFranco’s success comes from a combination of his personality and diverse audience appeal, covering current events, tech/nerd news, pop-culture, and, as he puts it, “sexy time.” Now, I’d like to think I have a pretty likable personality, but my foray into blog-writing doesn’t appeal to quite as diverse of an audience. First ever blog post, published on November 8, 2013, is all about Orthodox Christianity.

So is Orthodoxy ever going to be as popular a topic as most of the stuff posted by the internet’s top bloggers? As my lovely grandmother would say, “Hells to the no,” but given how involved I’ve been in the Orthodox church’s university ministry, the Orthodox Christian Fellowship, it’s definitely something that I’m extremely passionate and fairly qualified to write about.

So here’s my blogging challenge: Orthodoxy is definitely an ancient faith. A common phrase you here in theological academia is that the theologians of the seventh and eight centuries were “dwarves seated on the shoulders of giants” of their second century counter-parts. So if they’re only dwarves, then I guess that makes me an amoeba seated on a gnat, on a fly, on a frog, on a bump, on a log, on the shoulder of a dwarf seated on a giant.

Making it relevant…

I wanted to make my blog relatable but substantial. A lot of people suggested I make a “how to” blog. They suggested topics like organizing meetings or suggestions for ways to observe Lent. Unfortunately, I really find that kind of stuff boring. Sure it’s useful, rarely do I get that “mind blown” feeling writing it. Instead, I decided to focus on a key concept of Orthodoxy (faith) and I tried to connect it to something really cool that would seem totally out there to a casual observer.

Like many writers, I tend to listen to music while I brainstorm, and the playlist for that evening’s brainstorming session was the latest Vampire Weekend album. So I thought to myself, “Hey, these lyrics are pretty deep and have religious themes. Let’s role with it!”

The blog turned out to be more of a reflective piece, focusing on the challenges of keeping one’s faith while examining viewpoints expressed in Vampire Weekend’s lyrics and comparing them with other Orthodox literature and theology. At the end of the day, it was a REALLY fun blog to write and well-received by a lot of my peers.

So what???

Blogging can be challenging because people want to read about familiar, big ideas presented in an original and creative way. I’ve found the easiest way to produce all sorts of quality writing is through making connections between things that most wouldn’t make. Some would consider this process, “bull-shitting” I consider it the natural expression of human thought.

Life is all about connections. Certain smells remind us of fond memories. Lyrics to songs or poetry remind us of our life experiences. The frustration of not being able to come up with a topic for a blog can inspire you to come up with a topic for another blog.

I initially considered making Orthodoxy relevant to a college reader because of how distant it might seem from a modern American society, but there’s always some theme out there that I could relate to my faith even if it’s just the chorus from one of my favorite songs.

So my advice for writing? Look for connections. Are you feeling a certain way? Does a particular text inspire some kind of thought in you? When have you felt that way before? When have you thought of that concept before? Find a connection. Find two, or six or forty-seven; it doesn’t matter. Find a connection, latch onto it for dear life, and then get on your keyboard and elaborate the Hell out of those ideas. You may be pleasantly surprised at the beautiful thoughts you’ve just put on screen.