I am an admitted History geek, particularly that of the Roman Empire, and even more specifically, the Empire within mainland Europe during the time of Arminius. Once, during a World History I class at one of the junior colleges I have attended, I corrected the professor’s exam on Roman History while I was taking that exam. I even brought the textbook up to her desk during the exam to point out the error, as well as advocate for the correct answer which was shown to be incorrect on her key. Initially, I pissed her off doing this, but she admitted later that semester that she was impressed with my bringing the textbook up to back up my position. When I wrote my Master’s thesis for my first Master’s degree, my references section was nearly fifty references long, including some references that were outdated according to the requirements laid out for the assignment. I included an addendum for my references, explaining in detail why I felt it necessary to include references on Information Security that harkened past the six-year cut-off point. Yes, referential material matters to me.
When I go to the bookstore and pick up a History book, or even a book on Paganism, the first thing I flip to is the Contents list. I scan this to see what the book has to offer in terms of material, but the second place I head to is the section on references. The first thing I look for is cyclical references, where the author refers to materials that they have already written. One big offender in this category for me is conspiracy theorist and evangelical author Texe Marrs from Austin. His material consistently references other works he has written, which is a red flag warning to me. Once I see constant cyclical reference, that author tends to get placed into the “ignore” pile.
Within the Pagan community, there are lots of good books with strong referential material, and even bloggers who showcase consistent, scholarly approaches to their writings. And I am always in completely awe of their ability to write at such a level. I am, even more so, in completely awe of the research abilities that they possess, not to mention the utter completeness of how they approach their topics. And to be honest, its a bit intimidating.
I write a blog – this one. Its mostly my personal thoughts on topics. I do some research – aka reading – on the topics I think about. However, when it comes to my own personal experiences, particularly within my Spirituality, there’s only one reference that works for describing all of that: me. I work for a college, I chair an Institutional Review Board. I see a lot of scholarly work come through that process. Occasionally, I get to see the end results, along with all the referential aspects associated with it. A lot of the time, the material that was utilized as data points to be analyzed within those studies comes directly from me, after proper sanitization of the data points. I do not write on the academic levels that I have seen there. I definitely do not write on the academic level of many of the Pagan authors and bloggers I have read. I admire the ability of people to approach and establish themselves in this reported manner. Yeah, I am a bit intimidated, and a bit jealous as well.
However, I am reminded of a conversation I had quite a few years ago with John Beckett. We were discussing how he managed to write so profusely for his blog, Under the Ancient Oaks. He noted that writing, much like anything else, comes about from continually doing it. He publishes his blog posts on – as he noted – a self-prescribed scheduled pace. Not only was he working on that schedule, but he also set aside writing to edit at a later time. Adding to that, he noted that he also keeps a personal journal that he writes in daily. Shortly after our conversation, I started a personal journal as well, following the well-known magickal precept: steal from the best.
Has my writing gotten any better? I would like to hope so. However, I really cannot tell. See, I am the one writing it. And when you deal with it every single day, any progress that gets made is never really seen. The progress is most likely incremental. A little at a time over a lengthy period. Small progress is almost indistinguishable. However, for someone that does not see – or in this case, read – what I am writing on a daily basis, I am confident that they will see the progress quite clearly. In fact, to be able to find a measure of progress, I went back and looked at some of my earlier writings in this blog. Ok, through that lense, I can definitely see a difference.
I am still in awe of the referential wizards that are out there in the community. I would hope that I could eventually write at that kind of level. Perhaps; however, that is not where I am intended to go. I write this blog, not in the hopes of being a Pagan academician, but to show others that there are Pagans out there that are just like them. People with some of the same hopes; some the same frailties; some of the same concerns. And to show the world at large, that Pagans are no different than they are. My blog is not necessarily a how-to guide for anything. My writing comes more from a perspective of how-I-do things. Perhaps, I need to look at the possibility of providing a better frame of reference of where I started with concepts.