When I started this blog just over two years ago, I confess to being completely naïve about it.
At the time I didn’t subscribe to any blogs and had barely even read any.
To be honest, I still don’t.
Back then, I was really pretty vague about what a blog was.
To be honest, I still am.
Of course, in typically-irritating Number6 fashion I dealt with this deplorable lack of experience and understanding with breezily energetic optimism, pledging recklessly to anyone who was interested, and many people who weren’t, that I would write 800 words a day for the whole summer holiday.
(Which I did, for the record. More or less, give or take.)
I can’t even rightly remember whose idea it as, except I am pretty certain it wasn’t mine (see above). At the time, I had just finished writing a novel and was feeling a bit deflated and mopey; I suspect that the worm of the idea was planted in my head by my nearest and dearest who had quite enjoyed the (relative) peace and quiet of my frenzy of writing activity, and possibly also wanted to continue to benefit from the crackingly good mood writing puts me in.
When I have just finished a blog, I get a little giddy and excited, bouncing around in a animated, Tiggerish fashion, letting little birdies alight on my finger and tweeting at them just like Snow White, but without the dwarves. I guess it might wear thin after a while, but it is probably fairly entertaining to watch.
I learned a huge amount that first summer, mainly about the skill and craft of writing, which has been incredibly helpful for my teaching. I also learned that there is much much more to blogging than just chucking some words at a screen, pressing the publish button and legging it to the pub.
It’s a whole industry, with workshops and seminars and conferences and books to read and lingo to learn and, for some, money to be made.
I haven’t done any of that, of course. ‘Buy How to Blog book’ has been on my To Do list for two years now, but I still haven’t got round to it.
If the reasons why I started this blog are a bit fuzzy, then the reasons why I stopped are absolutely crystal clear. As some of you have pointed out, my blogging has been somewhat intermittent since that first impetus; I have fudged the answer to the question that begged, with many half-truths. Yeah, I was finishing my Masters dissertation last year, and yes it takes an hour and it’s often hard to find it. (Although I do manage to find enough time to faff around on the internet every day, rain or shine, marking backlog or no.)
But that isn’t it, not quite. Once I finished that first challenge, it struck me how self-indulgent the whole process might seem, in the cold light of day. Once I started to read some of the other blogs out there, it became obvious that many of them seem to have some sort of actual purpose, like chronicling something unusual and noteworthy (life as a transsexual working on an oil-rig, for example or pogoing to the source of the Danube); or they might have some practical aim, like collecting gluten-free recipes or tips for yarn-bombing.
They all have something to say, something unusual and interesting and unique. Even the name suggests it, I now realise – the Log is something the Captain writes. The main man in charge of The Ship, recording its progress.
In this landscape, compared to these kind of blogs, what exactly am I blogging about?
Well, nothing in particular. Whatever crops up, whatever I find interesting. I am the Captain of nothing, certainly not a vessel with an engine or even a rudder.
I am mainly just shooting the breeze, about things that interest me. Which on the average day, is almost everything. My little blogging ideas notebook is usually full of a backlog of any number of potential subjects, clattering behind their traps like a line-up of jittery and sarcastic greyhounds.
In the days before the World Wide Web gave us all an outlet, there was at least some quality control about publishing. You submitted your piece and some editor somewhere, wearing one of those green transparent visors no doubt, spiked it or stamped it.
Nowadays, all you need is a piece of ludicrously easy-to-use software and hey presto – you’re a writer. Or, you know, possibly not. Most of the time, I don’t even know if it’s a hobby or a job. It would certainly feel much better if someone was paying me for the writing, though of course the idea of actually pitching my writing to someone, attracting advertising revenue (argh!), makes me squirm with embarrassment.
Some of the time, the very worst of times. I suspect that writing this blog is in fact that most excruciatingly unEnglish of things – showing off. That I am an over-tired toddler and I should really go to bed.
But while this blog doesn’t aim to change anything for the reader it’s certainly changed everything for the writer. Nothing short of this – it’s changed the way I look at the world. Writing helps me think more clearly, helps me get a better perspective on the world, make connections between all sorts of things.
Someone once described trying to get your writing to an audience on the internet was like floating origami boats up the Yangste River. But I guess you could say that doesn’t really matter – it’s the paradoxical equivalent of dance like no-one’s watching. Write like no-one’s reading – just keep folding and floating.
Many people I meet in The Real Life read the blog, and often start up conversations based on something I have said here. Sometimes agreeing with me, but most often offering another view of the subject. I have had some of the most incredibly interesting interactions with people with whom I would have otherwise only made small talk. Not that I have anything against small talk, but time is short, and given the choice, I like a bit of deep talk, and maybe some wide and broad talk, given the option.
So writing the blog has made my everyday interactions with the world and the people I know much much more interesting, and that is precious and I am extraordinarily grateful for it.
So thank you to whoever suggested I started this blog and I will try to unclench my English reticence for long enough to keep folding and floating, one origami boat at a time, for my own pleasure, until there is nothing left to write about.
Which, I can safely predict, will be never.