Thursday, 31 December 2015

Too Much Dorothy

UPDATE: Here's the new blog, in which I will make experiments in eschewing the first person singular. I will be updating it sporadically, so do drop in once in a while. Thanks to all my regular readers and fans, especially those two who sent me gifts via Amazon, and those who donated to my various causes.

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When I as a fledgling writer, I received two pieces of advice that I completely ignored.

The second, from the late, great Canadian poet Margaret Avison, was not to write in the first person (i.e. "me, myself and I") for ten years. That was over ten years ago, and behold. 

The first, from the late, great Canadian professor of prose, Harvey Kerpnik*, was the remark, scrawled on one of my more lighthearted compositions in the mid-90s, "Too much Dorothy."

Woot!

Before I went on our Christmas holiday, I had a think about my dependence on the internet and my perhaps unwise habit of "giving [almost all of] it all [i.e. my deathless prose] away for free". I also had a think about how much I am encouraging, through my own work, the regrettable North American tendency to "let it all hang out." It left me feeling rather depressed, but as St. Ignatius of Loyola said, one shouldn't make decisions while in a state of desolation. 

So B.A. and I went to Italy, and I turned my face to the beautiful southern sun, waiting to be placed in a state of consolation. And what I have decided--B.A. assuring me that entirely giving up writing in the first person is impractical--is to start a new blog, in which I write rather less about myself .  For example, I will stop writing sentences like "I think Sienkiewicz was a genius" and write "Sienkiewicz was a genius" instead. Stay tuned for the link to the new blog.

Meanwhile, I have pledged to write more often for pay than for blog, so insofar as I can, I will publish links to my paid work. (If you want to read regularly my biweekly column in the Toronto Catholic Register, please subscribe to the online edition.)

Incidentally, after ten days without the internet, the only important news I discovered I had missed was rampant flooding in the United Kingdom, the country in which I live. Naturally I already knew about the wretched circumstances of Christians in the Middle East--and the indifference of the world to their particular plight-- and so I encourage you to send the right Christian agencies money, in the hope that it will be used to help at least some Christians.

*I may have misspelled his name . Alas, Harvey died before any mention of him was recorded on the internet. 

15 comments:

  1. Welcome back & Happy New Year!

    Couple of quick observations that I hope cheer you a little:

    1. Avison & Kerpnik advised you prior to blogs & social media, so couldn't envision the writing style required for these.

    2. This blog, like your last, seems to have at least one goal of helping young adult Catholics navigate relationships in a healthy Catholic way. This requires examples to illustrate the faith principles you outline, so you use your own life experiences to give analogous examples to situations your correspondents ask for help with. Such writing intrinsically necessitates heavy use of first person and 'too much Dorothy', but is done to advise all readers while protecting those who describe their personal life to you. I hope exposing so much of your private life hasn't hurt you or BA. Your writing certainly has helped others!

    3. Understandable that a writer would like some recompense for your work. The Church really should have a global Vatican fund for web writings, as it reaches people globally, not in one diocese or nation. Kinda like a press association for Catholic writers, photographers, videographers, etc, that publications can grab from and pay for (and maybe we subscribe to?). Perhaps you could crystallise something around yourself and other writers like Dawn Eden? (tho church leaders are notoriously tight with funds I know).

    4. Is EH blog meeting your writing goals? it certainly seems varied in content, and some writing (eg Traddy Tuesdays) talk more about issues/liturgy than your life. Are you changing blog to change content type, or (as it seems) to change writing style? Surely the style can be changed (if needed) without swapping blogs?

    But most of all, your style is relaxed and easy to relate to (how remarkably Canadian), and you cover topics interesting to myself and plenty of others it seems. So your efforts are very much appreciated :)

    Southern Bloke.

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    1. Thank you for all this thoughtful stuff! Fortunately, I do have recompense for work I do for mainstream Catholic media, especially the excellent "Catholic World Report".

      I will tell you a thing. Part of my strength as an advocate for Catholic Singles was being politically non-partisan. For years I tried to keep world, religious and Church politics out of it, for I knew readers were already divided by them, and wanted all Single readers to feel comfortable when they read my blog. However, I am increasingly unable to do that. I believe that certain values deemed "politically correct" or "the only decent behaviour" or espoused by certain factions of the Church are of enormous (and increasing) danger to the happiness, general well-being and even salvation of men and women.

      Not to long ago, I got a blistering email about my defense of social cohesion (enjoying cultural similarities in Scotland as a relief from the chaotic, alienating, hyper-diversity of Toronto) which made me realize that this was rather strong meat for Nice Mostly-American Catholic Girls who just want to get married. That reminds me, I must buy an English translation of Michel Houellebecq's "Soumission."

      At any rate, advocating the protection of Western Civilization--or just the European-ness of Europe--is a far, far cry from writing about Single Life, and a perhaps unhappy exchange of readership. Naturally, however, giving advice to Catholic Singles to help them navigate the horrors of the sexual revolution is an important part of preserving Christendom. Oh dear. If only I could wave a magic wand and make it so that all Catholics not called to religious life or orders would marry happily and faithfully by the age of 29 and have at least three children per couple. Woe.

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    2. Ahh, thanks Seraphic!

      I think I understand your reasons a bit better now. It must have been a monumental effort to address the issues readers raised without dragging topical Church disputes into your posts; as you say, things have polarised to such a extent that people's faith is being endangered with shocking behaviour.

      I thought you were pushing the envelope (and was glad you did) on the social cohesion (a great phrase - I shall borrow it ;)). My city of 1.5m is just as hyper-diverse as Toronto with nearly half born overseas, but we dodge such issues as we are far from conflict zones and it is physically impossible for refugees to flee here (1,000 miles from nearest land) without the constraint of air travel.

      I wish you well in your new blog. You seem to have already ditched the first person pretty effectively :)

      I think you still have a great deal to offer on the Catholic singles front, but you have to balance that with the rest of your paying work and life with BA of course. Tho' if you do find that magic wand... ;)

      Thank you again for being so open, even to eavesdroppers who (inadvertently) constrained combox discussion!

      SB.
      P.S. Hmmm, every paragraph begun in the first person... perhaps it is I who should follow your mentor's advice!

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  2. It's curious to me what you say about "letting it all hang out," because you are one of the few people I see advocate regularly for maintaining privacy, both for oneself and for others. Don't share tales of your sexual experiences OR inexperiences with others, particularly with men. Don't talk about other people's crushes.

    I'm excited to see your new writings. I know it is important for a creative person to keep trying new things and pushing forward.

    I appreciate you haven't gone the clickbait/Patheos route so many other Catholic bloggers have taken, and that you still update daily with long pieces.

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    1. I will always beg young people to maintain their privacy. Sadly, though, there are readers who enjoy most my most personal and painful posts, and praise them as "brave", which has almost become a code word for vulgar, as in the sad case of Bruce Jenner--and, may I say, in the case of Miles-the-Traitorous-and-Allegedly-Deceitful Protegé of Voris. (I repeat that I am not a Voris fan, but I manage to disagree strongly with my own mentors without ever having felt the need to abjure them by name and/or online.[One of my heartaches at BC is that I had no mentors; quite unlike in Toronto, where I had many, bless them!])

      You are right about creativity. Thank you for being such a loyal and perceptive reader. I do hope we meet some day, as you must have been commenting on my blogs for at least 8 years!

      I must confess, Patheos has never approached me. But that is just as well as Patheos pays its bloggers incredibly badly--something like a penny or two a click. No doubt this is why their writers employ such desperate strategems as clickbait headlines and topics and even divide their posts into two sections, so that one has to click twice. This interferes with as much with reading enjoyment as do adverts. To compromise one's audience or one's art for a pittance--no thanks.


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  3. What Southern Bloke said!

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  4. No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money. [Boswell, Life of Johnson]

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    1. Boswell makes for an odd moralist. He was not a stranger to the Historical House, and if his ghost appears, I will lock myself in the linen cupboard with a rosary and some holy water.

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  5. Naturally, only you can say for sure what direction you need to move into as a writer, but I for one really enjoyed your first-person voice. It is a tough voice to pull off, but you have a talent for it. It made reading this blog feel a bit like meeting an interesting acquaintance for coffee! I would wind up reading posts on topics I ordinarily wouldn't have found interesting just because your first-person commentary was so engaging.

    Anyway, that's just my two cents! (So no need to publish this comment if you'd rather not.)

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  6. Agree with Sponsa Christi! I love your first person voice!! Two questions. :)

    Will you still write here, or only on your other blog?

    Also, do you have any advice for someone who is thinking about blogging, re: letting it all hang out. From what I've read and seen, it seems like that's what people like to read. I wonder if it is possible to write a fairly popular blog without spilling one's guts all over the page? (I really hate that-and part of the reasons I've never got into blogging. And also part of the reason that I've always enjoyed your blog-because I felt that you really balanced that well.)

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  7. I will close up shop here soon and will blog only on my other blog. However, there I will be better about linking to my other online writings (e.g. Catholic World Report). I didn't always link to things I wrote elsewhere because I didn't want to annoy my general Catholic readership with my more controversial, more political ideas.

    The most important thing about building a readership is to post something new every day. Also keep in mind what audience you want, and what theme your blog will return to again and again, and try not to annoy them by going off theme. For example, if you are writing for a general Catholic audience, but you say something very critical about a recent pope, you will alienate half your audience.

    Interestingly, it is a good idea to stick with one blog if you are trying to build and build and build your readership. Becoming REALLY popular is a matter of luck and--I have to say--a colourful, noisy, writing style--often an angry one, although of course Father Z is an exception to that.

    Banning men from my Seraphic Singles combox made for the best combox discussions, but this may have been because of the themes involved.

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    1. Thank you so much!!!

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  8. Bring on the church and European politics/culture stuff. LOVE IT. Maybe because I think Canada's cultural landscape is probably similar to Australia's. I have often found myself reading your passages about Toronto/Canada and thinking, "Hmmm. Just like Melbourne/Australia."

    The best thing about your blogs is that you are actually a writer. You have mastery over style. Most bloggers do not have this craftsmanship. Most Catholic blogs are boring and sickeningly pious.

    I look forward to reading your new blog.

    Julia

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