Back in early September, while thinking about this blog, I decided my regular-ish biweekly schedule of posting was not frequent enough. I resolved henceforth to put up a post—any post, nothing fancy, maybe even just a link plus a paragraph or two of setup or commentary—every weekday.
The next post I wrote after making this resolution was a week later, on September 15, and was about the Halle Berry TV series, Extant.
There hasn’t been another post until this one. September was the month in which, after a long dry spell, I had several projects fly in over the transom, and I’ve been busier than an [insert preferred folksy idiom] ever since. This blog and my other one, Fibonacci Spiral, fell by the wayside. I simply couldn’t find the time to work on them.
The projects that took me away were either financially rewarding or personal-goals-furthering, or both, so I can’t be regretful about that, but I am sorry it caused the interruption in content here at Transubstantiation, and I apologize. This blog, like all my writing, is also fulfilling.
The volume of the other work hasn’t slackened, but I think I’m learning how to manage it better, and with this post, I’m rededicating myself to regular, and more frequent, updates. I probably won’t manage to put something up five days a week (what the hell was I thinking?), but a couple of times a week should be within reach, and I’ll make my best effort. Thank you all for your patience.
So, for this mea culpa post, I thought I’d spend some time talking about my process of developing ideas to write about. Perhaps writing this will put me back in touch with the wellspring of creativity from which I used to draw with relative ease. Most of the material in this post is borrowed from my contribution to the “skeptical blogging” workshop several Skeptic Ink colleagues and I were part of at TAM 2014 back in July. Jessica Bluemke blogged about that workshop here.
When I began this blog, I was worried I wouldn’t be able to think of skeptical topics to write about on a regular basis. I’ve been a writer for most of my life, but I’m not a scientist or a philosopher. I don’t have the intellectual authority that automatically adheres to bloggers in those professions when they write about skepticism, and I don’t move in the academic circles that would keep me close to the latest news, ideas, and controversies that would fuel such writing. I’m not soaking in it. It’s not the water I swim in.
It’s always been easy to come up with topics for my other blog, because it’s about life as an LGBT person in 21st century, and I’m a transgender woman myself. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender topics hurl themselves at me all the time, every hour of the day, and I have things to say about them almost by default.
I soon realized I need not have worried. Once I’d committed to writing a blog about skepticism, topics started jumping out from all over the place. All it takes is to pay attention to the world and consume all the information I can, like I’m a panda and it’s bamboo. Posts suggest themselves, often when I’m not even looking for one.
I listen to maybe fifty different podcasts every week. They add up to dozens of hours, but I’m always doing something else while I have a podcast on, so I find the time to stay caught up. I play them during my daily runs, whenever I drive my car, and while doing household chores such as the dishes or the laundry.
There are many great skeptical podcasts, like the two Skeptic magazine flagships, Monster Talk and Skepticality. I listen, but I don’t get many post ideas from them; I try to write about topics no one’s covered before, so by definition that usually rules these out. I doubt I’ll ever have anything to write, for instance, about #GamerGate, about the outrage that seems to erupt every time Richard Dawkins gets within twelve feet of Twitter, or about Brian Dunning’s fraud conviction. There’s nothing I could say that hasn’t been said better by many other thinkers in the skeptical blogosphere, and I have little interest in trying. My podcast diet also includes science fiction, NPR news shows, politics, comedy, film criticism, and financial news. The skeptical mind can find fodder in any of these genres.
I was listening to NPR’s Books podcast once, and they ran a story about a writer who was trying to update the Disney princess” type of fairy tale to be more modern. That’s a great idea in theory, but in execution it’s a heartbreaker; I researched these “princess” authors and learned they’re anti-GMO activists. I turned the story into a 900 word post.
As another example, I went to have my car’s oil changed and sat in the shop’s waiting room while they did it. Their TV was on, so I watched it, commercials and all. An ad for a mattress company came on, in which the announcer claimed that because of all the dust, dead skin, sweat, and mites, a mattress doubles its weight every eight years. That didn’t sound right, and it isn’t, so I started researching it and got a post out of that. A very icky post.
The very day I participated in that workshop I checked into the South Point Casino for TAM, and was given a room on the 23rd floor, at the far end of the hall from the elevator lobby. That reminded me of the episode of CSI that described “Murder Central,” (which I mis-remembered as “the murder room), and that became several paragraphs in this post.
I’ve learned it’s a virtue not to have any limits or sacred cows. I look at other skeptical sources to see where they may have missed the boat. Skeptics are bad about assuming they have a monopoly on satire, and I’ve mined that assumption for a few posts.
I got another post when I walked to the mailbox one day and found something taped to it.
Just living my life and paying attention. That’s where this blog’s content comes from. I need to remember that and keep this fire burning more brightly.
Thank you all for your patience.