Thursday, 31 July 2008

About the blog

I know I said I'd write about my launch party next but it's all been a bit crazy here and there's been no time to think in any kind of organised way so instead here's a post I've been half-working on for a while. I thought maybe today was its day...

Starting this blog wasn't my idea, you know – like all good ideas it was my hi-tech Beloved's. 'You should have a blog', he said some years back, 'everyone's got one'. That argument has never worked with me (and if you looked in my wardrobe you'd know that already..) so I ignored him and did something else. Then eventually I found myself looking at a blog here and there and got round to saying to him 'you know, that thing you said about having a blog...' I think he made a 'oh, shock, horror, was I right?' face. I see that face a lot.

By this time blogs were fairly pass̩ so I felt it was OK to proceed (or something...anti-fashion or fashion...which is the bigger illusion? Discuss). Also I had been thinking that maybe, finally, it was time to communicate with other writers and that this might be a way to do it. As I may have said before I don't do writers' groups, creative writing courses, hanging out with writers Рit's just never appealed to me and the times I have tried...oh gee (as Hope would say), it hasn't really been my cup of tea. Still it was something that I kept thinking about and I wondered if maybe this might be a way to give hanging with my writer homies another go Рwithout the train journeys and the babysitting and the sitting through hours of (some) tedium. My offline, so-real-I-can-touch-them-sometimes friends these days include pretty much everyone but writers...I've got several artists, quite a few people in vague hard-to-define occupations, lots of musicians, a masseuse, a longterm Phd student (History), an environmental protection officer, various people in administrative jobs they do or don't like, a very musical cleaner, a couple of I.T. experts, a youth work manager, a couple of people retired from some type of teaching, a couple of people who would love to retire from some type of teaching, a civil servant or two Рall these (lucky me) but no writers so I just had a nagging feeling that it was time to give writers another try.

Now here I am and I can't believe I've been writing this blog and reading others since April 2007 (but it's there in the archive so it must be true). It's been a strange experience so far but good overall...I think. I have read some interesting essays and articles and diary pieces online, I've picked up all kinds of information, made some invisible friends and found out that writers can be just as annoying and know-it-all in blogs as they can anywhere else but that I must learn to cope with that (and face up to the fact that I am just as guilty as anyone, no, it can't be true...well, now and again...).

So what do you think of the show so far? For me, the best of this blogging experience to date has been:

The interchange between interesting human beings РColin Will, Hope, Jim Murdoch, Sorlil, Hugh 'Shug' Macmillan, other people now and again. I think blogging has to be an interactive thing or it's just another of life's disappointments, another missed opportunity for maximum communication. And if all you're going to write all the time is that you're too busy to write then please...go and do the other things and stop annoying people with you're 'I'm so busy's. (Clich̩-that's-true alert Рdo something properly or don't do it at all...).
Humour – Is there anything more important in life? I've enjoyed the online humour of Ken Armstrong, Jim Murdoch (again), Shug (again), my old friend Sean Smith at Expletive Undeleted...that's all men...where are the funny girls? There's a couple on MySpace I like – they're quite rude though...
Great writing - I read a lot of good writing on and in blogs...young Fiendish in Ireland, for example, she's pretty amazing at times.
Interesting lives – I am one of those people (and writers) who thinks that everyone's life is interesting in some way. Of course, that said, not everyone can make the details of that life into an interesting blog! One of my favourite fascinating life blogs is Lemn Sissay's. His online diary is a wild wander through performances, projects, perceptions and people. He's one of the first poets I heard read poems live and I still love his passion for the word (written, spoken and in all its forms) and his passion for people and life (despite/because of some the crap life has passed his way). His spelling's pretty crazy at times so that will put some readers off...I am quite anal about my own spelling but I can bear Lemn's for many reasons but mainly because there's so much to get from what he writes that it would be a shame to miss it all because of a wrong 'their' here and their. I also love reading about Colin Will's travels and varied activities. Like Lemn, Colin sees through the wide eyes of a child but writes with the wisdom of a well-travelled thinking man.
Honey, just teach me something – if only all teachers were as good as some of the bloggers I read. I've learned a lot from the likes of Dave King, Jim Murdoch and Ms Baroque/Katy Evans Bush (though I disagree with the latter quite a bit too – see accessibility, song lyrics and political correctness. We have very different hobby horses, she and I...different ends of the toyshop at times). Still, all of these bloggers appeal to me when they pass on information and ideas with knowledge and enthusiasm. I'm not the most erudite literary blogger (it's just not my natural area of strength!) but I'm all for learning as many new things a day as possible.

As well as all that there has been:

Something completely different - I read blogs by some writers and/or poets who sometimes think so differently to me that it can be... awkward at times. About once a week I hear Don Paterson's voice in my head (disturbing, I know...) saying 'I fucking hate blogs' (remember that quote from a while back?)..and I want to agree. Then I switch back on, read something else that's fascinating, end up back at the blog that wound me up last time and find myself reading again...even if they don't read me (because I'm too... what? Too lowly? Too unheard of? Too slack? Too annoying? Or maybe I'm just too lowly for them to be seen commenting chez that possible? Anything's possible...). Whatever... it's healthy, I think, to read about other people's points of view and not just stick to what my friend Verona refers to as PLU (people like us). I am a disgusting optimist on the subject of whether humans really can all get on together (even if, at the same time, I am well aware that it is the mother of all lost causes). Sometimes reading and getting involved with some of these blogs has had me...well, OK...close to tears ('why do people have to be like this!')...but, you know, on certain days I cry very, very easily. And sometimes I get an idea or even a whole poem out of the process. And in the's only blogging. No-one gets hurt. Not really. Not for long. It's not like real arguments with friends or family where your very soul is ripped out by the carefully-judged attack!

So on I go...on we we go, here we chanting intermission. I'm not sure how long I'll be doing this but I'm really pleased about some of the people I've 'met' and some of the things I've learned and had to think about. So it hasn't been all pain and no gain has it, my friends?


hope said...

When someone who knew I wrote [mostly for fun] egged me on to start a blog, my reply was, "Why? Does the world really need another opinion? Especially mine?"

Truth was, I needed a place to air my opinion without getting interrupted in mid-sentence. :)

I'm on my second blog actually... in the first one I hit one of those crossroads in life where nothing is fair and I was the only one playing by the rules. My entries were starting to depress me, ever the optimist [by the way Rachel, that's incurable] so I deleted it. Then I missed it.

Trying again led me to you wonderful people whom I've never laid eyes on but whose words I visit daily. Shug even has the same format as my first blog, so it was like coming to sit on a familiar front porch. I was truly enthralled to hear him read his poetry on another site, which led to his blog...then Rachel's, who led me to Ken and on and on and on.

Keep going girl. It's nice to know that what we find mundane in daily life is interesting to someone else. And it keeps us all human when the world has other plans. Plus blogging is cheaper than a shrink. ;)

Marion McCready said...

nice post! as for the funny girls - well that's you, most of your posts make me laugh or at least raise a smile! being rather isolated from other writers and writing events the internet is my link to the poetry world and finding a blogging community of writers has helped me no end. it's a strange thing 'making friends' online', I've even lost touch with online friends then 'met' them online years later, the funny thing was they really did feel like old pals!

Rachel Fox said...

Thanks Hope. Yes the optimism is here to stay...and so's the pessimism. I alternate between the two on a regular basis. As for shrinks...never met one I liked (though I'm always optimistic I might). Met some nice counsellors though...and some terrible ones...

And Sorlil...I know what you mean about people feeling like friends. It's weird and it shouldn't feel like that but it does. In Jim's recent post about sensitive poets (or not...) people were writing about how you can (or can't) hear tone in posts and comments. I really can...completely. My visual sense may not be up to much but my 'knowing what people are thinking/saying/meaning' sense has always been one of my strongest areas/curses! Sometimes it's annoying and I wish I could turn it off but when it helps me recognise potential new friends (on or off line) then I don't mind it so much. Friends (along with humour and music) are up in my top ten 'can't live without stuff'.

Colin Will said...

My main concern when I started blogging was that I'd never kept a diary or written up a journal before. Ever. So why would a blog be different? Dunno, but it feels different, and it now seems natural. If I've got something to say, I'll blog it. If not, I keep quiet. No pressure.

I've met so many nice people through blogging, real people as well as virtual ones, and they're not all long-time friends (although some are). And I like reading opinions that are very different to my own - that makes me think.

As far as writing groups go, I was a member of Edinburgh's School of Poets for many years, and I started the Dunbar Writers group when I moved here. I've seen the demand for peer group criticism and support from fellow writers, and if my experience helps the less experienced, I'm happy.

Jim Murdoch said...

Three names checks. No bad. No bad at aw.

I was just writing about this to someone else today – where and when I've forgotten – and I was saying how I started my blog as a means to promote my writing. And in that respect it is serving me well, well enough. The interaction with others came as a bit of a surprise to me. I expected the odd comment – I saw them on other sites – but not the deluge some of my posts have resulted in. At time I find that a bit of a burden. I try – I do try – and say something constructive to each commenter but I'm really not a very sociable guy. I can do it. I can turn it on whenever needed but the misanthrope in me has a good grip.

Self-promotions aside what I have to admit is that blogging is good for me. It forces me to think and, because I hold myself to high standards, it stops me from becoming sloppy in my thoughts. It doesn't matter how groggy I get or tired or depressed I have to get my act together and produce a thoughtful blog every 3½ days and I have to respond to each comment made. If I do nothing else – and I rarely do nothing else – that I have to do. As you said: No pain, no gain.

Rachel Fox said...

Colin - I've written diaries on and off (more on than off) since I was about 11. I've thought of burning them all once or twice (some of the content is a bit...lively and varied...) but I never do. Now and again I read bits back and it's so bizarre to see things from different ages and angles. Did I really like that person? Did I really write that sentence?

I know some people get a lot from writing groups but so far they have not been for me. Mainly I love just getting on with writing on my own. I see a lot of people and friends in other ways and writing is one of the things that I do quietly and on my own - that's why this blogging was something new and different for me. I think what I like about blogging (as opposed to a group) is that it lets you choose the writers you communicate with rather than just having to deal with whoever happens to be in your local area. Plus if you fall out or disagree it doesn't have to get so personal (I hate fallouts...they really upset me!). With this you can just switch off the PC. At least I've heard that's possible.

I did try a writers' group once (twice in fact) but some of the 'guys who know everything' just put me off (and there were a couple of those). I'm sure they were decent people really (somewhere deep inside...) but I just didn't have the time or the inclination to hang around and find out at that point in my life. I went back home and wrote about the experience (poem called 'Writers' groups are not the place for everyone' - writing section on website) and then I got on with everything else (writing and all).

And Jim, yes I would have to say that this blogging has made me think about what I write and why and a lot of that is down to you and the writers who visit your place. A lot of people think they are intellectuals but only some of them, for me, really open their minds and think. All the blogs I like best are about thinking hard...seeing the whole picture, hearing the whole sound, trying to understand and write about the whole experience. We're all trying in different ways. Ho ho.

Dave King said...

Like you, I don't do writers' groups and such-like, but I did begin to feel the need for contact with other writers, which is why I started my blog. I was not at all sure I would go on with it, but thought I'd give it a whirl and see.

Rachel Fox said...

I'm glad you did, Dave, as your blog is really interesting and varied.

I've been thinking about what you wrote in that last comment too, Colin. You said 'I like reading opinions that are very different to my own - that makes me think.' I think maybe you are a saint! I really TRY to think that way but I find it REALLY HARD not to get irate and crazy when, for example, I read people being dismissive of others for (what seem to me like) badly thought-out reasons. Likewise snobbery or bitchiness about different types of poetry (from any direction) makes my blood BOIL!! Why can't poets just write and let write a little more (and that doesn't mean no criticism it just means not expecting everyone else to think or write or be like oneself - poetry doesn't belong to any one faction)? We've been talking on Jim's blog about poets and sensitivity and I don't think I'm particularly sensitive about my own writing (like it or don't like it, read it or don't read it...heavens, there's plenty of other poems to read in the world) but I do hate small-mindedness dressed up as intellectual debate.

See, Colin...I tried to remain calm...didn't work! I'm off to do some deep breathing...and listen to some music probably!


Anonymous said...

Thank you for the kind comments about Expletive Undeleted, Rachel. I feel pressure to be amusing now ..

Like Jim, I never really understood how important interacting with other bloggers and commenters was until I actually started blogging myself - and even then, it took me a while to get my head around the whole thing, as you know.

I still try not to get too involved though. I found myself on a blog the other day (led there by a post about the similarities between Chicago and Manchester, randomly enough)and ended up in a comment/email conversation with someone who tells me he writes about 'taboo' subjects like gangs, guns and Jews. I'm still trying to work out where he's coming from.

And my point is? I'm not sure.

The original idea was to write about stuff that nobody was willing to pay me to write about. The original writing I do for my blog is something I enjoy doing, just for its own sake. I can take days and days to write a 750word piece that I've been commissioned to write but I can dash off 2000 words about some daft old record in a couple of hours.

It's my edit, something that isn't mangled by commissioning ediots, subs, designers etc. It's very much like the punk rock fanzines I used to do - except the writing is better and the layout is nowhere near as chaotic. Although there's probably more swearing.

I'm still not sure what it is we're all involved with or how I fit into it - but it's fun trying to work it out.


Anonymous said...

And is it really Ana on that Dove advert? Hurrah!

Rachel Fox said...

Smith - yes, I think I did hear her track was getting used on an ad. I haven't heard from her for ages. Bloody pop stars.

Art Durkee said...

I started my own blog as a way to compile scattered essays. It's become a bit more than that, but the back of my brain is still tickled to think that anybody but me reads those things. Someday I'd like to have the time (and the help of a patient editor) to sort through it all, find the common threads, and reorganize it into a book. As it is, it's repetitious, since like many I spiral around the same themes again and again.

Keeping a blog for me is different than keeping a journal. I've never kept a daily diary, but I've kept a journal for decades. My Road Journal on my main website has become my main journal, with the blog mostly sporting finished pieces. There is some overlap, of course. But you won't be reading my most inward personal thoughts anywhere but in the poems or in the Road Journal, if there. I allow the RJ to express what I'm feeling, but even that's a bit edited for public attention.

I've done writer's critique groups, and very good ones, with good people in them, for a long time. I've recently given them up, when I realized I was at a point where I'm not getting crit that's useful to me anymore. I'm just going to follow the inner compass for awhile. If in the end I get led astray, that's still a learning experience. Writer's groups do have some merits, but it really does depend on the right people being involved. Far too many groups go downhill because of the personalities rather than the writing.