In convivial company last evening I discussed writing, including this blog, with someone who is a far more-widely published and well-respected writer than I, and was very glad to hear some of the kind things he had to say about the type of blog pieces that I come up with on frosty mornings such as this one. Now that we have a long and equally frosty three-day weekend approaching – thanks to Monday being a Federal holiday here in the U.S. – I will hopefully have some time to reflect on his words, and deal with several maintenance issues on this site as well as on the other two domains I maintain. As I have written previously, there are a number of goals I have set out for myself for this year, have engaged the commitment of a well-read blogger to help me keep focused on those goals through periodic meetings and reviews of where things are going, and I am excited to see how things will turn out.
Yet one thing that I took away from last evening’s conversation was that I need to get some sense of exactly where The Courtier ought to be headed. The point – and I assure you there is one – of this particular blog is to try to keep as much as possible to the spirit of Count Castiglione, who advised the gentlemen of his day to develop a curiosity about, and the ability to engage in discussion in, as many topics of interest as possible, without merely being a dilettante. His ideal was that fair assessment of your own abilities or lack thereof in particular areas ought to be looked at head-on, and then the courtier should work on improving those areas where he could improve, and engage in further building on those talents he already possessed.
If you read these pages on a regular basis you know that I often write about the arts (painting, architecture, film, and so on), Western culture and history, and Catholic things, for these are the areas which particularly interest me; they are not, however, the only subjects treated here. So it is sometimes hard for me to tell, given the diversity of the subject matter I treat on this blog, why people are interested in reading my writing. For example, last evening I was told that a piece I had written about how to deal with difficult friendships via social media was good, whereas the day before I had received an email from someone telling me how much they enjoyed a piece I had written about the doors at St. Stephen Martyr parish here in Washington. These are rather disparate areas of inquiry, I think you would agree.
While I always welcome feedback on my writing, I am particularly hoping that over this long weekend some of my readers will take the time to either leave comments on this post, or to write me privately using the contact information available on this site or using the contact form at http://wbdnewton.com to let me know what you like, what you don’t like, what I should add, or what I should take away, to make your visits here more pleasurable and useful. The more frank you are, the more it will help me in trying to make this a place which you look forward to visiting on a daily or weekly basis.
I cannot of course hope to be all things to all people – this site will never engage in in-depth political analysis or sports reporting, for example – nor would I want to even attempt such a thing. I know my strengths and weaknesses, more or less, and so the issue is one of fine-tuning rather than a total renovation of what is already here. Nor can I promise for certain that leaving suggestions, comments, and criticism for my consideration will necessarily result in changes which you personally would like to see, if I or others happen to strongly disagree with you.
However without that feedback, good or bad though it may be, I cannot even consider whether anything ought to be changed in the first place. This is not a subscription magazine, or an income-earning venture for me, where if profits drop then I have a measurable, tangible way of knowing I may be doing something wrong. Rather, this is something I enjoy to do when I have the time to do it, and I am humbled that so many of you like to read my thoughts on matters great and small, and share your own views and experiences with me.
For that to continue, and for things to improve, sharing your point of view with me over the next day or two would be a gift of your time, for which I would be very grateful, as this blog heads toward its 4th year of existence.
Detail of “The Geographer” by Johannes Vermeer (c. 1668-1669)
Städelsches Kunstinstitut, Frankfurt