A disillusioned lefty writes on the oft-tackled topic of how to blog.
I figured I too would do one of those ‘on blogging’ posts that become irresistible in prolonged periods of blockage. Seasoned readers of this sort of thing may wish to stop reading at the end of this sentence.
Rather than suggest how one should blog, I figured I’d just sketch out, for my own curiosity as much as anything else, why and how I blog.
Why do I blog? A lot of it has to do with college, the 4 years of which can be summed up thus: drink-drink-read-drink-read-drink-read-drink-read-drink-read-drink. During this time, the only other constants were smoking fags, Fifteen-to-One, Countdown, and quiz machines. In writing, I produced next to nothing, even though I was on a course where you were supposed to write at least 2 essays every week. I managed to get away with knocking out an average of 3 and a half essays a year. As far as I could tell, on the occasions when they actually knew who I was, the lecturers’ impeccably liberal attitude was, well, I’m sure he has his reasons. My director of studies, just before my final exams, said that it was very unusual for a student to go through an entire year without attending a single tutorial. At last I felt like I’d achieved something.
When I say that I knocked out an average of 3 and a half essays a year, that is not the full story. I would sit down and attempt things all the time, but a couple of things conspired against me. The first was that I had the attention span of a springer spaniel, and the second, fatally, was that every sentence I wrote came across like an estate agent’s critical commentary on Middlemarch. It was gruesome.
Rather than practise, I persistently made the rather unwise calculation, no doubt influenced by the previous night’s Carlsberg Export, that if I simply read enough, then one day I’d be able to sit down and scores of cogent paragraphs would magically gush forth from my pen. It’s a shame I didn’t share this calculation with anyone else, as a person with the slightest experience of the matter would have let me know that this would be like expecting that the mere act of watching golf on TV for 3 years would enable one to pick up a golf club and thump a ball 250 metres in the direction of one’s choosing.
Somehow, I managed to drag together enough received ideas and chunks of other people’s insight to pass my exams, but it felt as though everything I had written had constituted an act of fraud. None of the ideas I expressed were the product of my own thinking on the matters at hand, but were simply a mass of impersonations and imitations, shoe-horned into a rhetorical form that felt as alien to me as wearing lederhosen.
I don’t intend to imply here that I actually had any interesting thoughts on the matters at hand: in truth, I hadn’t spent a great deal of time thinking about any of them at all. Most of the time when I might have developed my thinking on these matters had been spent reading other things of scant relevance to the subjects I was supposed to be studying.
In the end, I had a mess of thoughts from reading and observing a whole pile of stuff, and I had developed a love for language, but this only made me more acutely aware of the fact that most of what I wrote was jejune tripe. I had neither the chops nor the confidence to develop my thoughts in any meaningful way, or express them in my own words.
If any reader has managed to make it this far down, he or she may be wondering how on earth any of the above accounts for the existence of a fairly conventional blog of sporadic half-thoughts and occasional commentary on news snippets. The best explanation I can find is this: I had spent a good few years engaging in a rather contorted way of thinking, and I had lost any sensation that you could simply write something for the fun of it.
It was only a couple of years ago, when I started commenting on other people’s sites, that I started to realise that it didn’t all have to be thesis-antithesis-synthesis, or beginning-muddle-end. This weblog provides me with the possibility for the spontaneous pleasure that comes from using and thinking about words, even if it produces barely anything of particular refinement or insight.
That’s not to say that it’s all fun, or easy. You know the scenes in Sex and The City where Carrie Bradshaw calmly and contentedly taps away at her PC, occasionally tilting her head from side to side, and fully formed sentences issue forth as though thinking and writing were one and the same? I used to believe that that was the way other people wrote. For all I know, there may be people like that, but my own experience is a lot more choppy and vexed. After the spacebar, backspace is my most used key. I am constantly deleting words, paragraphs and sentences, not out of some perfectionist impulse, but simply because a lot of what I write doesn’t make a whole pile of sense. Most of the time, I write this stuff from a fairly crowded office, where people can see my screen if they wish, so I have the browser screen minimised in front of an Excel spreadsheet, and I toggle back and forth between the two when I see people approaching in the corner of my eye. I am therefore severely afflicted by sententia interrupta.
I have never been convinced by the idea that a person blogs for oneself. OK, you might not be writing to meet someone else’s demands, but I’ve never met anyone who thinks his opinions are so exquisite that he prefers to keep them to himself. Or maybe I have, but he simply never told me. I write for whoever is inclined to read it. I like it when people have something to say about it, even if they say that it’s a load of boring crap, as one reader did recently.