Not an Odalisque

On Blogging

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It seems that everybody blogs nowadays, so I thought I’d treat myself to a public meander on the topic of blogging.

The internet allows us to express ourselves free from the authoritarian regime of publishers. I can hear an instant and unmediated report of what’s happening on the other side of the world, and I can proclaim myself so the world can see my brilliance! The problem is, I’ve only had fourteen views so far, and most of them have been me.

People don‘t become more interesting or receptive when they turn on a computer. As in any social situation, you usually get stuck with people who blather about themselves, or someone who wants to hear All About You. We avoid making conversation with strangers at bus stops and supermarkets, but here on the internet everyone has something to say. What are we all doing here? Here’s a random sample of four blogs from Blogger:

  • Malc and Kev are visiting the non-league grounds of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire, and sharing details of every football match they see. With photos.
  • ‘The Bacon Eating Jewish Vegetarian’ is sharing recipes. Judging by the pictures, my oat cookies are better than hers, but Rachel Allen might sue me if I put her recipe online (which would at least indicate that I have some readers)
  • Gregory from the US claims to be writing about design, but instead he rambles about Romantic ideals of the artist. I don’t mind so much when Wordsworth does it, but then, he could write.
  • The Howard Family has a son. He does all the things toddlers usually do, but he’s theirs, so it’s exciting– to them.

I can understand why these people are interested in football, food, design and children, but, with the exception of Gregory the Narcissist, I honestly have no idea why they want to inflict their ramblings on me. Eat your cookies, tell your mates about the match, bore the other mothers at the playground with what little Tommy did last night, but what makes you think anyone else wants to know about it?

The above list, is, to be fair, the dross in the crucible of blogging. Let us turn to some more successful blogs.

Julie Powell decided to cook her way through Julia Child’s ‘Mastering the Art of French Cooking’ in one year. The book and the film are out. The film is of the ‘Women’s Institute’ genre, a rags-to-riches tale of the success of the blog, complete with an amusing scene in which the protagonist tries to stuff a chicken. It is all rather circular, the story of the story, in a way. I’m happy for Julia, but ultimately, a girl with a degree in creative writing, and one failed manuscript, did some writing and got it published by putting her first draft online instead of in an envelope. How exciting.

Anya Peters began blogging when she was living in a car, writing about what it was like to be homeless. Her work was interesting and well written. She was eventually offered a book deal, with an advance, and told to tell the tale of her troubled childhood. ’Abandoned’ is a perfect example of misery lit, down to the pastel shades and crying child on the cover. The one secret she had kept, through all the months of blogging, was her childhood. What choice did she have but to give it up when a publisher appeared with a book deal that would change everything for her? I couldn’t buy the book, I felt grubby even touching it.

Both of these successful bloggers have the same advantage: excellent writing ability. Something interesting to write about helps, too. Blogs need an angle. A mosaic of your life is going to be either schizophrenic or mundane, on the page, but ‘I have to cook 536 recipes in 365 days’ has a level of tension in it that can be made interesting. Before I get carried away thinking about the angle for my blog (‘Adventures in Internet Dating’? ‘Tales from the Fetish Community‘? ‘Will I Ever Sucessfully Make Candied Peel and Get on With my Christmas Cake’? I’ve given up on ‘How to be an Irish Domestic Goddess’), I have to remind myself that I don’t know what we’re trying to do here. If I need to be connected to someone, I can call a friend. If I want to be famous, I can write a novel and send it to agents.

I think the appeal of blogging is the big, empty space. I don’t know who might read this, and who might glance and a line and move on. There are so many of you out there, and at such a distance, that individual responses don’t matter. That’s not true of a friend or a literary publisher, they exist in the real world, and can make or break my dreams in the real world. That, of course, is why the Julie and Anya rags-to-riches stories work so well: they did something in no-place, and got their rewards in some place. The problems with the reality of the rewards, though, are the weirdly self-referential nature of Julie‘s story and the exploitable situation of Anya. So maybe we should keep away from the fairy-tales and stick to the real world.

I am writing this because I want to be a writer. Writers write, it is part of the definition. And you never know what might happen.


Written by Not an Odalisque

October 17, 2009 at 11:29 pm

Posted in blogging

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