I must also admit that some of my aspirations in starting this blog were less than humble; I could generously call them “lofty” aspirations, but a more accurate word would be “grandiose.” I fantasized about fame and, perhaps, a small but respectable fortune. After all, writing a page or two every week is a great way to get a book together. This blog in its totality is around three-hundred pages by now, and maybe fifty or so of those pages have some really good stuff in them. Many books have been published with less. I imagined I might get a book deal out of a blog if I stuck to it. I imagined that I might amass a great following of readers online. After all, I would be writing to a niche that doesn’t really exist: thoughtful reflections on parenting through the lens of progressive spirituality. Like Dr. Spock meets Rob Bell.
None of that has happened. No one has been emailing me looking to offer me a book deal, and the agents I’ve solicited have all politely ignored me. I have a few loyal readers (you who are currently reading this are likely among them) for whom I am deeply appreciative. Some of you aren’t even related to me, and it means so much that you would visit my blog on any regular basis. But I’m not at all a popular blogger, despite three years of work, a semi-regular gig posting for the parenting site Dadditudes, and that one time Rachel Held Evans featured a post of mine for her Sunday Superlatives.
There are some moments when I’m mostly okay with this. The internet is a giant ocean full of every kind of life imaginable, and rising to the surface takes a unique blend of persistence, insight, talent, media savvy, and dumb luck. I don’t have all those things in near the quantities it takes to get noticed. I’ve tried to expand my “platform,” but that presents all of the same challenges. (My Twitter account gets more posts from hackers than it does from me.)
There are other moments that I’m decidedly not okay with this. After all, I’m saying something useful, right? That’s more than could be said about a lot of crap on the internet. I still believe I’m contributing to a niche that no one else is filling: the spiritually thoughtful blog about a father’s personal reflections on child development. (How’s that for an elevator pitch?) And I have been working hard; trying to say something interesting once a week in some form of intelligible prose without any misspelled words is actually quite difficult. I don’t think it’s so off-base to want to get some kind of recognition for the contributions I could be making to the conversations about parenting in our culture. Besides, what I have to say could be really helpful to parents everywhere.
I’m not unaware of how egotistical and self-serving this is. It’s been a dream of mine to be a published author, and I thought this blog might provide me the ticket. It might still; I’m (completely) not giving up. But I’ve noticed that in recent weeks I’ve found myself lacking the energy to come up with anything that feels worth saying. Maybe it’s due to the stress of the recent transitions in my life. Maybe it’s because my child is now at an age where developmental change doesn’t happen at a daily pace. Maybe I just really don’t have anything interesting to say right now.
Which has me circling back to the reasons I started this blog in the first place. Yes, I hoped it would be a way to get a book deal and write to a market that doesn’t exist. But honestly, that’s not the most inspiring motivation in those moments when ideas aren’t forthcoming. I think most writers will tell you that success, fame, and riches are not at the top of the list of things that inspire them to write. I think writers are inspired to write because there’s a story within them, because making their voices heard is its own worthwhile goal, that something would compel the words to flow even if it were certain no other person would ever read them.
I just wonder if that’s really enough inspiration for me. Do I really need to write that badly? Would I still be posting to this blog if I had zero readers? If no one ever commented on any of my blogs, would I have kept it up? I say I started a blog so I’d have readers to be accountable to. Initially, I thought this meant that I would make myself write even when I didn’t want to because I would think that my readers would want to hear from me every week. But truthfully, I’m probably just desperate to have readers because it feeds my need to believe I have something to say. (Of course, that’s probably why every blogger blogs.)
At the end of the day, I want to relinquish my desperate need for readers. I want to trust my own voice, trust that I have something worth saying even if it’s in an empty room where no one could hear. I want to believe that the speaking out loud is its own reward, that it betters me first and foremost, and if anyone overhears and is touched by it, then all the better. But honestly, that just doesn’t cut it. I’m not sure I really do value the speaking of my voice for its own sake.
There is one other reader, though, that I believe is worth writing for: my child. No, she doesn’t actually read my blogs, nor do I plan on reading them to her. I’m not even necessarily planning on compiling or saving these as some kind of gift to give her when she leaves home or has children of her own or whatever. I do, however, believe somewhere deep inside that even when writing this blog makes no difference to me, it does make a difference to her: writing every week about being a parent makes me a better parent. It keeps me self-reflective and honest in ways I could otherwise ignore. It helps me to find meaning in difficult moments. It helps me to uncover the ways that my own spirituality is alive in the various acts of caring for a child. It helps me to offer grace to myself for my shortcomings, which in turn provides me the inspiration to keep trying.
I’m probably not going to get famous with this blog. I’ve quit pretending that a publishing company will find this blog and offer me a book deal. Some weeks, I don’t even value my own voice enough to see the point. But what I do believe is that my child will be the better for my commitment to her. For my commitment to be present to myself and to my family; for my commitment to take hard looks at how my attitudes and behaviors shape her environment and upbringing; for my commitment to using my gift for writing as a resource that will maximize the output of love I am capable of bringing to my daughter. She is what keeps me writing, even if I’m not sure I have anything worth saying.