Blog or Book: Which is it to Be?

Yesterday I published my 1700th blog post here on iBenedictines. There were several hundred more on its predecessor Colophon. That means a great many words have been tapped out on my keyboard and launched into the ether. What, if anything, have they achieved? I have thought aloud, irritated, amused, teased, and, somewhere along the line, I hope, have provoked others into thinking. I certainly value the contribution made by those who have commented, as I trust my readers do, too. I hope I have never been nasty or unfair to anyone, though I admit to being quite firm about what is acceptable and what isn’t in the comments section. The readership of the blog has changed over the years. Some read me no longer, or at least do not comment anymore; others persevere with every post. Now, however,  I have to make a decision. Should I finally get down to that book I have been thinking about for years, or should I go on blogging? For once, it is an either/or choice because I don’t have the energy to do both. In the past I managed to write before others got up or after they had gone to bed, but I don’t think I can do that any longer. So, assuming I live long enough, it is a straight contest: blog versus book.

Blogging has the advantage of engaging directly with its audience. Responses usually come quickly and often take the subject in different directions from the one originally intended. Notably, it is a form of writing that makes no financial demands on the reader. The monastery pays for the blog and everything associated with it, including the blogger’s dinner. The downside to blogging is that it can lead to extensive correspondence or unintended rows. I still recall with horror being accused of homophobia because I once ventured the opinion that I thought most children did best if they were able to grow up with a mother and father. I didn’t actually receive a death-threat, but it came pretty close. On the whole, however, I’d say blogging is infinitely forgettable. What is written today might as well be ‘in wind and running water writ’. It is truly ephemeral.

A book, on the other hand, is a weightier prospect altogether. It makes a pitch, not for eternity exactly, but for as long as the publisher is prepared to keep it on his or her list. There may be correspondence, positive or negative, but unless one happens to be unusually fortunate, a book can prove almost as ephemeral as a blog. There is, however, always the possibility that it may endure for while; or that someone may read it, perhaps years hence, who would never bother with a blog. And there is always the hope that there may be some small remuneration, a royalty payment or two, to reward one’s labours and put a smile on the cellarer’s face. Writing a book requires more discipline than a blog and a slightly different style. I’m not one of those who think a blog can be conversational while a book must be ‘literary’, but one cannot be quite so self-indulgent in the matter of words or the way one uses them. An allusion that today is funny or topical may be neither tomorrow. In any case, ideas change, and so do we. A book does not reflect such changes: it expresses what we thought and were at such and such a time. It fixes us for ever.

So, decisions, decisions, decisions. Watch this space.


50 thoughts on “Blog or Book: Which is it to Be?”

  1. I love your blogging, so wait with baited breath for the decision.

    I find that I have learned much from your blog in the past few years, some very important points have been made, much information absorbed and some personal growth along the way.

    Whatever decision you come too, I wish you well and will pray for the right decision for your in your circumstances. Thank you for keeping me engages for so long.

  2. Dear Dame Catherine,
    If the book impulse is getting stronger, and going by my experience of having an academic husband who was driven by the urge to write and publish, no matter how hard he tried to sit on the thing, I suspect the book will win out. Your online community will miss you and your comforting/stimulating words but we must just be grateful for what you have given us…and look forward to reading the magnum opus! God bless you and your work, whichever way you decide.

  3. I’ll pray you make the right decision – while hoping it’s that you continue blogging! God Bless you, and thank you for all the stimulating thoughts and ideas. Amen.

  4. I would miss the blog and the comments immensely, but we all have to accept that one day they will cease. I wonder if a collection of blog posts could be published in book form. Obviously, some will need careful editing, but Brother Duncan’s should definitely be included, as well as the story of how you actually became a nun, your formation, roles and how you ended up at Howton Grange.

    I really hope that there is time for that project to come to fruition if that is what you decide to do, but you could always train Sister Lucy to post blogs from the past for various feast days and open them for new comments moderated by Brother Dyfrig if they have the time, of course.

    In the meantime, I’ll be praying.

  5. I always read your blog, and gain a great deal from it. I don’t usually comment, but think about what you have said, especially when I don’t agree, or it’s a point which I had not thought of.
    But a book is a richness in itself, but have you the time to complete it?

  6. Write the book – please! The blog is brilliant but like a newspaper, posts can be short lived. A book can be read, studied, discussed, even written about!

  7. I would hardly describe your use of words as indulgent! I love your turn of phrase. You not only make me think, you make me smile. That’s pure gift. Dare I ask what the book might be about?

  8. As my relationship with my church has been falling apart I have found your blog helpful in keeping me connected to the Church itself, but others (Richard Rohr, James Martin) also do that. I would hate to think your book mkght never be written!

  9. The Blogging has a positive immediate effect and such injections of good sound Christian values are very important in our current society.

    A good book will also have a positive effect, but I would expect a more limited immediate audience compared to your blogs, though over time it could reach many people.

    You have to weigh not only what is in your heart, but also what you think the world needs from you. That is your decision. Personally I think it needs emergency surgery along with constant prayer from everyone to back it up.

    Its is your dilemma but I would given all the circumstances opt atm for the good one could do right now, while having the option for all your blogs to be collected later and edited/published into its own book.

  10. I read every blog post – and it is the only one I read. Yours are always so thoughtful and thought-provoking, never meretricious or point-scoring. They have helped me think through many things. On the other hand they are ephemeral, and a book would be a wonderful legacy. Is the subject already clear in your mind? Perhaps, as some have suggested above, there could be links to old blog posts for feasts etc, or even a second book – The Collected Thoughts of Dame Catherine.
    Whatever you decide, I am sure your readership will be behind you.

  11. Dear Sister Catherine
    I value your daily blogging on current issues; quite a few blogs have hit the spot! As many have said before all the skills, insights, education,your use of English result in thought provoking blogs ( I guess also good for book writing-
    If you choose your words carefully for a blog, wow what would you do in writing a book ?, which has a completeness, and as you say is more disciplined.)

    John Green’s Comment’s could mean your previous words are not lost in the ether and through you or someone else become a book.

    Do you now need to write that book you have been thinking about for years?

    If Yes, can you continue tweeting, with how you are getting on?

    I pray that you can keep going as long as you can with your thoughts and insights in whatever format.

  12. I too would miss the blog which makes me think even if I sometimes disagree. It reaches more people than a book would too. But what would a book be about?

  13. I write as the retired librarian of a Quaker adult education college and follower of your blog for a number of years, without previously commenting. I would like to put in a plea for the book; while still working, I often heard the comment from a library user that a book, sometimes written many years ago, which “spoke exactly to their condition” seemed to leap off the shelf at them; the book finding the reader in a mysterious way. I’m not sure a blog can do that. Whatever your decision, God bless.

  14. Dear Dame Catherine,

    I read your post just as I thought about how to download and archive your blog… so yes, I do see the downside of the ephemeral nature of a blog, and I daresay a considerable number among your “target group” have not entirely turned away from the enjoyment of reading real books and long texts.

    Your blog has been a wonderful companion for me these past years, and very often it has been like the voice of a critical but very well-meaning friend who is more blessed with the gift of discernment than I am. It has given me a lot and I thank you for it.

    I can only imagine how much work goes into this, and there must be the slight pressure to come up with something worthwhile at regular intervals. Plus, I suspect the stress and frustration of dealing with responses from hostile and/or ignorant readers, trolls et al. Cyberspace is a hostile environment for those who dare to veer off the straight-and-narrow of the Zeitgeist and its obsession with quick-fix-feel-good recipes.
    And probably dealing with aspects of the “technical infrastructure” of life on the digital scene can be a pain, too.

    From the “production” side, writing a book might be a more satisfying experience for you: It is a more continuous process without having to hit the “send” button several times a week. It is a work on something that will physically sit on peoples’ bookshelves, to be handed down. It will allow you to write texts in more dimensions, linking chapters in a continuity of thought and argument.

    There might be time for a book. Incidentally, your reputation as “Digitalnun” might help to market it.

    I trust that the Holy Spirit will point you in the right direction. I am probably not alone in saying that I would continue to follow your blog just as I would buy your book (several copies, actually, to be given to friends).

    And I hope you will continue to allow Brothers Duncan and Dyfrig to post their musings on Facebook from time to time…

  15. Dear Dame Catherine,
    If God has encouraged you to write a book, then do it. I am sure if this is His will, you will be given the time to finish it. You definitely have much to offer and much to enlighten people about. In this day and age, we need all the words of encouragement we can get. Mother Angelica has written many books or have been written about her teachings. I still read them over and over because they have good wisdom and so do you have good wisdom to share. Your writing skill is wonderful and your teachings are excellent and much needed.

  16. Blog! And delegate book? While you are still here to oversee … Posterity might create a book but …

    So grateful for your blogs! I look eagerly in my inbox each morning for them. I have many books, most of them gather dust …

  17. I have followed Richard Rohr’s daily meditations for some time and have just bought his new book which comprises a year of daily meditations from 2014. Hardback, with a ribbon, I know I am going to dip into it time and again. Much as I would miss your daily blog, I would treasure a book of your writings where I can easily go back to favourite passages. Or even give to a friend .

  18. Thank you for your blog and for all you put into it. It would also be wonderful to read a book you have written. Sending you best wishes for whichever path you choose.

  19. I love your blog and would hope you could continue it as it touches so many daily while a book although of possible longer life may reach less souls and not have that daily lift the a spiritual blog has. Maybe later your saved blogs could be edited into a book format.

  20. You’re needed either way. I would feel more alone online without your blogs. A book, however, would give us your discussion more comprehensively. If you also published it as an audiobook (with you as narrator) then I could have your company as I go about my work.

  21. I love your blog, but I think that a book would reach more readers.

    A practical point: have you approached a publisher? It would be a sad thing to expend your energy on writing a book, and then not to be able to publish it.

  22. I really enjoy your blog. I think it reaches a wider audience. I’m not a big book reader so likely wouldn’t have benefited from your wisdom if you had only written a book. You could produce a compilation of your blogs to offer in hardcopy. Similarly you could write a book and blog sections of it to entice your readership. Thank you for your work. As a recent cancer survivor myself I also thank you for your example of strength and perseverance.

  23. It seems to me that you face a very difficult choice: One that makes me glad I’m not a nun! It seems to me that your heart is on the book, but you worry about which serves best. Are nuns allowed to put their own wishes first?! If you were a friend I’d advise you to follow your heart and focus on fulfilling your dreams – I’d suggest being quite selfish about it! We only live on this world once, and I don’t think we can ever quite know what will best fulfil our purpose on it.

  24. Can you set up your system to recirculate your old blogs, perhaps randomly so you don’t have to think about keeping the posts to the right day? We could then enjoy wondering what we would get each day. Then stop blogging and write your book. In any event, I think it is probably time for your book and I think we need it. My prayers and best wishes for you, whatever you decide to do and thank you for all that you have already achieved.

  25. Thank you for your thoughtful words here. I know you will hear his voice in your prayers. We are so grateful that you have shared your life and faith with us. I pray for wisdom, strength and endurance for this next part of your journey.

  26. If it’s either/or (blog/book) personally I would miss the blog, I check in to your twitter each day and have found so many thoughts to ponder. But if the book is calling to you, go for it! Intrigued about what it will cover. Whatever you decide, thank you for your online presence. It will (probably!) always be there in hyperspace

  27. Whatever and however you decide, I continue to pray for you and will be eternally grateful for stretching my mind, making me more aware and often how you articulate what goes on inside me. God bless you always.

  28. I love your blog, but I think it will be good for your soul to try a new challenge and write a book. We can always turn back to previous blogs for inspiration.

    And I know your book will be well worth waiting for.

    No matter what you choose to do… it will be right.

  29. Going to be selfish here. I love the idea of both. They are different entities and each have very strong merits. I love the blog and it is a great help/support/inspiration. Having agreed with everyone on that I love the idea of a deeper insight into the things you touch on in your online work. Your blog always leaves me wanting more – to ask for an explanation, or more detail. So a book would provide this sort of considered extra layer – oner assumes.

    Whichever you decide it will be a great joy for me to read your words. Thanks for all you do for us.

  30. Writing is a constant driving force in my life. I had to give up blogging in order to write books. It is a great distraction blogging but you do reach so many every time you blog. I will miss your blog and I have abandoned FB.

    Only you know which way the spirit will lead.

  31. I would love a book of your writing to keep and read and reread. The blog is great but a book always feels good to touch and hold and to keep it beside my bed would be so much nicer. And more restful than spending time online.

  32. The selfish me says keep blogging because I need to hear good sense spoken plainly.

    The virtuous me says follow your heart because it is always turned towards your God and will, therefore, not let you down.

  33. I do not usually comment, but regarding this decision I would like to let you know that for me your blog has been very insightful and helped me ponder issues I would not normally think about on my own very quickly, it has also helped me in the difficult situation regarding my mother who is in a somewhat similar situation as you are. And although I’m not a catholic, it has been a link to faith when I’m struggling and no longer going to church.

    I think a book will reach a different readership than a blog, and if you do write it I’m sure it will be a blessing to the readers. I am however thankful that this blog at least for a time exists, since I think the chance of a book reaching someon like me (a non-catholic living on mainland Europe) would be rather slim.

  34. Dear Digitalnun,
    Your blog may stop, and the lack of new posts will be regretted by many, but it won’t end. It will be here on the internet for a very long time, accessible to all of us to read and reread. Please write you book, for we who like books, delight in discovering unexpected reads on 2nd hand market stalls, hold on to the hard copies through every house move and appreciate the freedom of picking up a book for a brief read in the middle of the night, without the irritation of logging-on, worry about cost of connection or concern about poorer eyesight from constant screen time. God Bless.

  35. Thank you very much for all your comments, which have surprised, delighted and moved me in equal measure. I was just ‘thinking aloud’ and trying to be realistic about what I might manage in the future given the various demands on my time and the uncertainty of my health. The community has no intention of taking down the blog, and I am grateful for the support and encouragement of our Trustees and of our benefactors (donors) who make it financially possible. Those of you who read it on a laptop or desktop can easily access the search feature in the right-hand sidebar. If you tap in a word that interests you, you will find a selection of posts comes up in which that word is ‘tagged’ to make it easier to find. It is a bit harder if you are using the mobile version. I shall continue to think and pray but I shall try not to procrastinate too long. Thank you for your prayers for my discernment. Please keep them up!

    • Dear Sr Catherine , I also do not comment but find your blog a lovely spiritual companion and would miss it very much . May the Holy Spirit lead and guide you .

  36. I delayed my comments till now as I have been torn.

    I treasure your blog posts which both challenge and comfort me in so many different ways. Your online voice through your blog posts differs so markedly from the rest of the online noise in these very troubled times.

    Selfishly, I would want the posts to continue so I could continue to hear your voice. But more generously, I think your book would be a treasure to anticipate!

    Dilemma… How to vote?

    God bless

  37. As one whose life is fillled with Books, may I encourage you in writing one? For those who value you so much, there is an especial and lasting happiness in reading your reflections in a more permanent form.
    A marker in a book encourages a return to something pertinent, or challenging, or of more than passing comfort. It is ‘to hand’, reached for from a bookshelf, as opposed to being more elusively on a blog.
    There is serendipity in coming across a book from time to time – I put them among winter clothes to rediscover in the autumn – and as gifts to others who could not have discovered them as a blog.
    Perhaps these small thoughts may be an encouragement. Whatever you do decide, we shall be blessed, and grateful, in equal measure.

  38. Sister – have you considered approaching someone to edit your blogs and put them in a book format? Am I being selfish in hoping that it might then mean that we could continue to enjoy looking forward to your blogs while the book is being prepared?

    • The blog isn’t being taken down from the internet. You will still be able to do searches for previous posts as I explained in an earlier reply, or simply use the archive facility to locate one for a particular date..

  39. Have you considered scaling back your posts to once a week rather than stopping completely? That would free up time to write the book whilst also allowing some time to engage here. The book -writing might be slightly slower as a result but presumably there’s no urgent deadline looming? Continuing to engage through the blog has the potential to provide insights for the book – and of course it will help no end when it comes to marketing the finished script. Publishers will love the idea of selling a book by DigitalNun!

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