Today marks the first anniversary of HistoryJournal.org. Since I began this blog as a continuation of my former blog, Trojan Walls, I have written 38 posts on topics ranging from history in popular culture to the liturgy during Eastern Orthodox Holy Week. When I first began blogging (alas! what an ugly word) about history, I tended to write long and esoteric posts about academic topics. Well, come to think of it, not much has changed, but I think I have learned some things this past year about how to write better for the web.
Writing a history blog has been challenging for me because the academic approach that I am used to contrasts with the more informal style of blogging. How can one be pretentious and chummy at the same time? (Joke). Another difficulty has been understanding the “genre” of blog posts. If I read a history book and want to review it on this blog, should I write an Amazon.com-style review, an academic review, or something entirely different? Who would want to read any of this stuff anyway? These are some of the questions I have encountered (and am still try to resolve) while trying to blog about history.
I have been coming around to the conclusion that the cure for many of these problems is to just write more often. The more I write, the faster a rhythm and style will evolve for what I want to communicate (as long as I keep important questions in mind, like, “how can I make this interesting for the reader?”).
I have also tried to write in a more colloquial style and about history-related topics that are not necessarily “academically significant”. Lately, I have let my imagination have free reign (such as when I go to a bookstore and browse “on autopilot”) and have found that, if allowed to roam freely, it takes me on a journey. The historical imagination thrives on good stories told well. In fact, it seeks to construct its own story by following the threads of others. This journey is what first made me fall in love with history when I was very young. Why, even now, write about anything else?
The tagline for my blog this past year has been, “A blog about history, religion, politics and philosophy by a very amateur historian”. Today, a year later, I have changed it to, “A blog about the journey taken by the historical imagination of a very amateur historian”. I don’t know if I’m becoming any better of an historian, but at least – I hope – I’m following the right path.