Looking Back: My First Year as a Blogger

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Today, January 5th, 2010, marks one full year since I first began ZackFord Blogs.

A year ago, I was sitting (uncomfortably) in a snowed-in apartment in Iowa, recovering from some rather unpleasant (though not risky) surgery. (Ironically, I write today’s post as I recover from a head cold.) Tired of trying to amuse myself by replaying old video games, I decided it was time to undertake a new project. Still bitter over Proposition 8 and seething about the pedestal Obama was about to provide Rick Warren, I knew that I had many thoughts and issues I wanted to address, and so began this marvelous project.

Having previously flopped with an extremely personal blog back in the day, my goal has been to keep the focus more on issues than on my own life. Still, the line has been quite fine. Looking back over the past year, I can see my own ups and downs and growths, some of which directly relate to my engagement with this project.

For example, there was my foray into identifying with gender-neutral pronouns. I was so eager to defy the gender binary after some of my experiences at Creating Change that I went absurdly too far. While I still think it’s great to identify with gender-neutral pronouns, asking others to identify me with them just seemed counterproductive. Instead, I think my subtle integration of them into writing has been incredibly effective on its own in raising others’ awareness about the gender binary. That was a growth that I had to work my way through and argue with people about before I got to the place I am now, and some of that happened on this blog and other social networks. I’m a better person because others challenged me and forced me to keep thinking about things, and ultimately, I am a wiser advocate for it. That is ultimately what I created this blog for.

I started writing because the task of writing does wonders for the organization of thoughts. All of the ideas and questions and perspectives that I have get processed much better when I sit down and order them into a piece of writing. My hope has always been that in doing so, people can be responsive and dialogues can begin. Certainly, that has been the case on many occasions. Still, there are other times when I feel like I’m offering something fresh, original, and even controversial and I get no response. That alone can be disappointing, but it is that much more frustrating when I have fielded complaints about how pretentious my writing is.

Of course I think I’m right when I’m writing! It would be a pretty boring read if everything were vague and uncommitted. But part of my goal is to be detailed and articulate in my arguments so that even if readers do not like what they read, they can at least understand where I am coming from. I write because I want to get people thinking, but I love to get thinking too. It is when people offer counterarguments that I learn the most and grow the most. I hope that I can do more to encourage such feedback in my future years of blogging.

There are some who think that what I write about religion is still inexcusably offensive. In some ways, this worries me, because those who support religion are often my primary audience. My goal of dismantling religious privilege will only be successful if I can convince believers not to take (or enforce) their beliefs so seriously. At the same time, I struggle to stifle my laughter, because the mere fact that they take offense to my writing confirms what I’m writing. I take their feedback seriously, but probably not in the way they intend. I do not care to be any more sensitive to religion than I already am (especially compared to some bloggers). What I can learn from them is that my message is not getting through, which keeps me on my toes about how I address certain issues in the future.

An unexpected result of many of my posts is that I now find myself sort of “cataloging” many of my arguments. I’ve made quite a habit of referring back to previous posts that I have written. Partly this is simply to avoid rewriting something, but more importantly, it is to make sure I am growing and progressing in my own thoughts. Many of the posts I have written have been byproducts of my own exploration of my identity, particularly my atheism. What do I really mean when I say I don’t respect beliefs? How do I really feel about people praying for me? While posts on these topics may be perceived as self-entrenching expositions on my atheism, they truly are explorations and self-examinations. This blog is not just a platform for my rants and raves; it truly is a part of me that has grown as I have grown.

And truly, ZackFord Blogs is at a very different place than it was a year go. Or perhaps, it is better to say that it has found its footing. I think the voice and the intent of this blog has been consistent since I began it, but I definitely think the delivery has matured greatly. That, I suppose, is to be expected. Blogging is a skill like any other, and as any of my fellow musicians will tell you, practice makes a world of difference.

As I embark on year 2, the thing I want to remember the most at this time is the influences others have had on getting me this far in my blogging. Despite us having quite disparate philosophies in many regards, I still owe much to Reed Braden for giving me my start on his blog during the last two months of 2008. I am also motivated daily by Andy Towle, Joe Jervis, Pam Spaulding, Jeremy Hooper, Alvin McEwen, John Aravosis, Joe Sudbay, Bil Browning (and the Bilerico crew), David Mixner, Hemant Mehta, PZ Myers, “vjack,” Jeff Jackson, Eric Stoller, and all my other fellow bloggers out there. I am honored to be among such difference makers (and continue to be flattered when any of them read my little ol’ site). I also owe much gratitude to my friend Pete Berg who has done much to help make this site what it is today.

Lastly, thanks as always to my dedicated readers. I appreciate your interest and commitment to my content as well as your keen insight on how I can improve the site. I have a feeling that my first year was just a beginning and there is much more in store for us to explore together.

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