Guess what? Grad school is a lot of work. Oh you knew? I guess I did too, but I didn’t prepare for the lack of writing time and writing motivation I would have for this blog during my first semester. So I’ve been away a while. But I promise to try and make a plan the next time the semester starts so that I can keep posting here, as well as write in the more academic way that school requires.
I thought about writing a lot. I had guilt about neglecting this blog. Lots of guilt, at least in the beginning. But then I decided to give myself a break and go easy– it’s been a while since I’ve had to read and write academically, and last time I didn’t also have to also manage a full-time job, so the slack was warranted. Plus, I promised myself that with all the changes of 2016, I would be gracious with myself.
Every time I would think about writing and feel the exhaustion of that idea settle in, I would tell myself, just keep reading. In many ways, reading is the next best thing to writing, isn’t it? So I didn’t completely disconnect from the blogging world, I just took a step back from contributing to it.
Just keep reading.
Just keep reading. (Do you hear that phrase in Ellen DeGeneres’ voice when you read it? Me too!)
I kept reading the healing salve of Addie Zierman’s blog. I kept reading the beautiful prose of Sarah Bessey. I kept reading as Kelly shared her viewpoints and poetry at A Short Perspective, and as Jenn wrote through her deep reflections and monthly lessons at Choosing This Moment, and as Tsh shared practical advice on streamlining life at The Art of Simple (wise advice I need right now!) I kept reading as SheLovelys reached through space and time, building community and inviting me into it. I kept reading my favorite writer as he put tastes and smells into words at (Un)Common Grape. I kept reading.
I also read academic journals and books about globalization, activism, social media, communication, and research methods. I read about how the world has shrank, how contexts are collapsing, how we are and aren’t changing the world one tweet at a time. I read about freedom of speech and those who lack it. I read about Internet access and those who lack that. I read about the ways we represent ourselves online and offline, and the gaps in between. And I wrote about these things.
I wrote weekly forum posts for my peers to read and respond to. I wrote group project reports about social media marketing. I wrote papers for my professor about social change, the pros and cons of a globalized society, and the need for real media literacy to help young people develop a strong sense of identity in a mediated world.
There were moments– many of them in the car, where I think and reflect and play with words– when I wanted to write about faith and life and the ups and downs, when I wanted to come here and let the words arrange themselves on the page. But I let myself take the break, just as long as I kept reading.
I also made a little bit of time for books when possible. I read my way from Nigeria to America and back again in Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. I read about the violence and physicality of race in America in Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I read about a young girl who stood up to the Taliban in I Am Malala by Malala Yousafzai and Christina Lamb.
Just keep reading. And then start writing.
Last week, I was able to attend the Frederick Buchner Writer’s Conference at Princeton Theological Seminary. There were two sessions in particular that reminded me again and again why I write and why I read. Our words carry so much weight. It’s easy to forget when we toss 140 characters or 150 words up online without a second thought. But our words matter. They can heal and reconcile or wound and tear down. They can connect us, and reflect us, and reform us. What we say, in speech or print, matters. I am grateful to be able to read and to be able to read words that make me pause in awe. I am grateful to be able to write to you and I do not take that for granted. Thank you for reading with me here.