I’m not a natural born writer. By that I mean to say that I’m not somebody who has always had a burning desire or deep-seated need to get all kinds of thoughts onto paper (or the internet) before my head burst. But the more I’ve come to think about it, my head has always been filled with all manner of stuff. I had stories floating around in there when I was in fifth grade, only I acted them out with action figures (anybody remember He-Man?). I drew maps of the worlds these characters inhabited, backstories for their current deeds, the whole bit. I created alternate realities throughout high school and college, even if it was using Madden Football to create players and teams and leagues that nobody ever knew about but me. And maybe other things that I can’t recall right now. But never did I feel the need to write a story. In fact, my attempts at writing stories–or even worse, poetry–came only when required by school. And they were terrible. So, I’ve never considered myself to be a writer.
These days, though, I see myself–or rather want to see myself–as a writer. I know that I write stuff all the time: email messages primarily, but also letters of recommendation, reports for work, that kind of thing. I have also written a few scholarly papers in my time, for conferences and for publication. Throw in several book reviews, and it looks like I’ve written plenty for public consumption, for somebody who’s not really a writer. That’s not good enough anymore. For the last ten years, I’ve needed to be a better and more dedicated writer than I have been.
I used to stay up at night, losing sleep to all the thoughts and ideas running through my head. Not ideas about fantastical characters in faraway lands, unless that’s what you consider the people who lived in and governed the Carolingian Spanish March in the ninth century. I had ideas about how to structure the introduction to a book on the Spanish March, what to put in each of the chapters. I even got out of bed on a couple of occasions to write down what I considered at the time to be real gems, sentences that expressed where I was coming from or that I figured would be a really cool way to grab a reader’s interest. Many, many times I would get up and walk around in the middle of the night, get a drink of water or whatever, trying to deal with these ideas. I got caught in an infinite loop, I now realize, because I never gave those thoughts and ideas an outlet. They remained trapped in my mind, and I remained stuck in a rut, making no progress.
That’s why this blog exists. For too long, I have made excuses about not writing. I stand by many of them, because I love teaching and advising and so spend more time than serious scholars would say (um, have said) I should. I’m on too many committees. I put my family first, vowing not to be that guy who acknowledges the family he had to basically abandon in order to work on the book. That left not much time for research and writing. A couple of years ago, or maybe three or four, I realized that I would have to change up priorities in order to work on the book. I ended up leaving family for several weeks to go to Barcelona so that I could research in the archive. But during the school year, there have been enough other things to keep research and writing on the back burner. More like the side table. In the neighbors’ house. Across the street.
And so I came to the decision to start a blog. It’s more for me: to give me an outlet so ideas don’t get jammed up in my head, to give me a space to vent them before I start “really” writing, to give me a reason for continuing to make progress of some kind. But the good thing about blogs I’ve read and subscribed to is that others can see what’s up and offer feedback. That’s even better than doing it just for me! With that said, don’t expect to see funny stories of things that happened on campus. I do not intend to chronicle conferences. If a personal anecdote is the way to get a post started, then so be it, but this is a space for pre-drafting, for responding to things I read, and for working out the convoluted morass of my mind. Thanks for making it this far through my initial rambling rant. Here we go!