Thursday, January 30, 2014

Adventures in New Media

My spot in the Twitterverse. Brave new worlds.
Well, we have celebrated the fact that the blog is now three years old.

This is also (more or less) the third anniversary of my overall big splash into the world of New Media.

Actually, "tiny ripple" is more like it. But it was big for me. I had spent my whole life in teaching and print media. I did a lot of hard work that people don't have to do anymore (that whole subject deserves a post of its own).

Media have changed very much in my time.

I learned how to sign my name at the age of four (that would be 1967, uh huh). Sometime over the course of the past few years, I have forgotten how to sign my name. Now that everything is digital, it seems like the only time I have to sign my name is on a birthday card (and, depending on who it's for, sometimes I have to remind myself that my first name isn't "Daddy").

My editing career started with working on the high school newspaper. By the way, dear millennial friends, have you ever wondered why "cut" and "paste" are called cut and paste? Scissors and glue, man. I've cut. I've pasted. And I'm proud of it. I've seen a "Press" actually press ink onto paper. It was beautiful. I'm not saying I want to go back to doing it that way. But considering how rinky-dink it all was, we did amazing things.

Anyway, we thought that "word processing" was the revolution. And it did bring fundamental changes to writing and publishing. But interactive media have really changed the scene. As it has turned out, I've been following the changes more attentively than might have been the case under other circumstances.

Getting sick changed my way of working. Was it the Lyme disease that triggered another long ride on the neurobiological roller coaster inside my brain? I don't know, but it was some ride.

Through all the ups and downs I read history voraciously (and a good amount of literature too) . I pretty much took a break from the theology/philosophy routine, but otherwise I read and read and read. And I managed to write a (non-academic) book of my own and get it published. I also piddled around on the Internet, but not much.

Three years ago, I had just begun to emerge from another bad episode of my "rheumatism"* thanks in part to some new medications.
[*Footnote: Lately I've taken to using the old fashioned term rheumatism to just cover the whole wammy of my illness and all its various symptoms (including "the brain fever," i.e. all the various kinds of "mental rheumatism" that flare up). "Rheumatism" is a (deliberately) vague term that sometimes (but not always) indicates "inflammation." Certainly, my chronic condition involves things that are literally or at least metaphorically inflammatory (even the mental symptoms "flare up," or maybe I should say "flare down" but in any case they get swollen and they hurt). More importantly, however, rheumatism signifies an overall physically-based affliction that goes up and down, that comes and goes, more or less. But you never get rid of it entirely. Still, you do what you have to do to control it, and if every so often you have to disappear for a bit, people understand: "it's his rheumatism." I'm just trying to simplify discourse. I'm not hiding anything: the more technical clinical and diagnostic presentation of my medical conditions and their shorthand initials are in my book and often enough on this blog. But trying to identify what exactly is going on in every flare-up is like trying to nail jello to a wall. My doctors know enough to help me for now, and there is some serious business, but we're managing it. Meanwhile, I'll make my references general and folksy. People don't want to hear about it all the time, and I don't want to write about it all the time. Is that okay?]
It was a very hard period of my life. At times it was awful, really. God was working deeply during those years, but I don't yet understand much of what he was doing (probably I don't even need to know... not now, anyway).

Early 2011: the days of the wild
hermit and his crazy long beard!
But in 2011, I started to feel better with some consistency. Meanwhile, people had been reading my book and it was really helping them. Not only friends and acquaintances but also people I had never met were contacting me to express their gratitude.

I began to get the sense that God was calling me to do something to promote the book more. My vanity was not the defining motivation for this (which is not to say that I don't have plenty of vanity, haha... but there was something else that was more important). I felt that this light belonged on a lamp stand, and that I had to take some responsibility for that.

But how? I was feeling better, but I was hardly in any shape for a book tour. So I looked at the Internet, at blogging and "social media," in the hope that I might find some ways of networking and promoting the book. And it certainly has proven useful in that regard.

But I also discovered something that, after many years of publishing and writing, was a completely new experience: a way of interacting with my readers and getting to know them, and a medium that brings together writing and conversation in a way that is filled with new possibilities, even if it is also filled with danger.

In fact, I had found the possibility to interact with all sorts of people, all over the world, using the written word and other forms of creative expression. I found also the possibility to continue, or resume, conversations already begun.

Thus began my Adventures in New Media, which have taken me in directions I never could have imagined. I've made mistakes and I've wasted time, but I'm learning and I'm praying that God's grace will sustain me and lead me in his ways.