Monday, 13 April 2009

On Blogging ...

There seems to have been a great deal of agonising and soul searching about blogging on Twitter in the past week or so.

I’ve noticed Twitter friends who feel that they want to start writing a blog but who are having crises of confidence. I’ve been writing every few days or at least once in every two weeks and I can’t give these friends any assurance that once they start writing their confidence will magically return. Mine certainly hasn’t and I’d hazard a guess that writers far more seasoned at their craft than I am, also agonise and worry about what they’re going to tell their unseen public in their next instalment.

My blog niggles at me. I’ve always been an observant person and particularly so when around my co-humans. I started making notes on what I observe within only a very few weeks of starting my blog. I know it seems to be a very writer-ish thing to do and I have to agree that my scribblings are a help but it still slightly goes against the grain and I don’t feel really comfortable about doing it. I’m not sure why but making notes seems to be so intrusive. I’m writing about what I’ve seen a person do or heard them say – or perhaps only a brief description of an expression on their face and what I’ve noted may or may not reach the “published” blog page – but I’m doing it all without their express permission. And that seems so wrong – but I keep on doing it.

Some of the very funniest tweets on Twitter are by @stevyncolgan whose observations about his fellow rail passengers on his way into work are a sheer side-splitting joy to read. His blog is The Unbearable Oddness of Stevyn. His descriptions are just the tiniest bit cruel which makes them even more amusing. Is that the same sort of observation I make but - as yet - don't publish? Am I alone in sparing a thought to those whom I observe?

Some of the friends who agonised have actually taken the plunge. They were so worried prior to their first posts and they really need not have been so ... each and every one I’ve read has been both interesting and well-written.

I wonder if the fear of putting our thoughts, opinions and allowing people to glimpse into our way of thinking into the public domain are the elements that are so frightening? Even if I write about “things” rather than “people”, those are still my thoughts that I’m expressing for public consumption. They are a little bit of “me” and I find that scary. Even scarier than submitting articles to magazines or tinkering away at the book I’ve been trying to write for the past several months. Why scarier? Because as soon as a finger hits that “Publish” key, a bit of “me” is out there and open to comment – immediately. And yet I welcome that comment. For the most part it’s been encouraging and that which hasn’t been so positive has been useful and I’ve attempted to learn from it.

I still don’t question my motives too much about why I’m writing. I write because I write - because that’s all I’ve ever really wanted to do. And I more than likely hit the “publish” key because I may just be a bit egotistical. Although I wouldn’t say it was solely my ego that makes me want to be "read". That’s just the easiest reason to express.

I subscribe to and read quite a few well-established blogs and I find that I’m learning “stuff” at the same time as being entertained. I’m learning about space which I was never really even interested in (too much of a “boy thang” for me) but the blogger is @nick_space who is Professor of Experimental Physics – Space Research and who is a wonderful, witty and informal teacher. His blogs, Spaced Out (Again) are gripping – and not always just about space, either! A self-deprecating barrister, @Mennard, describes, so beautifully, afternoons in Court and embarrassing dinner parties with neighbour’s brazen wives. His blog, The Story of Mennard, is chockful of descriptive writing so gentle ... and so very wicked. @sambrook tweeted recently words to the effect that blogging doesn’t pay the mortgage. No, it doesn’t – but – in his case - it should because his blog, Sacred Facts, mainly about News and the Media, comprises some of the most well-crafted writing I’ve come across and he’s good at spelling and grammar too! I’ve recently started to read Victoria Coren’s blog – so naturally written ... well, not only does she write for The Observer, she’s also the daughter of the late, lamented Alan Coren. She can write!

Reading some of the more well-established blogs is almost like being a part of a masterclass. Almost ... it IS a good feeling but it still doesn’t take away the fear that this novice blogger goes through ... nearly all the time – because as soon as the “Publish” key is pressed on a completed blog, my thoughts turn to the next.

And I shall keep on writing and keep on pressing that key ... basking in the kind comments and hopefully learning from others.

Would I encourage anyone else who’s thinking of writing a blog to go ahead? Of course I would. Everyone’s got SOMETHING to say – and what you have to say might just be of interest to someone else.

And, anyway, why should I suffer alone?


  1. A very well-written and though-provoking post as usual, Karen. I too have often wondered why I have a compulsion to blog. I started mine back in 2006 initially to create a kind of 'showcase' for my writing as I'd just landed an agent and was anticipating a book contract in 2007. I figured that if anyone bought the book, they might just be tempted to google me and voila! they'd see a range of writing. The plan was that I'd then be drowned in a sea of offers to write articles, features etc.

    It hasn't quite happened that way.

    Yes, there have been articles and tes, my book got published. But the blog took on a very different role. I found myself using it as a forum for discussion with an extended and invisible group of new chums. And just as I would discuss last night's TV, my views on politicians, swap jokes and funny pics etc. in an office environment with co-workers, I was now doing the same with my co-bloggers.

    I genuinely enjoy hearing from other people and, as the direct result of having the blog, I've now met several people in 'meatspace' and they've become good friends. So it's all good really.

    I realise that this post is about blogging but I must just mention Twitter (you started it) which is a marvelous little shortcut for blogging. Yes, I enjoy those savage little descriptions I write of fellow commuters. Everyone loves to bitch a little bit. But instead of doing it in whispered sniggers with a fellow traveller, I'm sharing it with the 300 or so bemused loons who for some reason follow my tweets. It's healthy, it's normal, it's fun. It's like we're in a secret virtual gang.

    I agree that everyone has something interesting to say and I feel honoured that people let me in to witness some small portions of their lives. It's fascinating, like being allowed to read another person's diary. Long may such media exist ... and to Hell with the dinosaur tabloids.

  2. I am now deeply depressed and feeling inadequate having followed all your lovely pretty links and read some amazing blogs. My own now seems so very insignificant and shallow. Ho hum - it won't detract from the sense of achievement I gain from each post - and the enjoyment at reading each of your installments! Long may you rule Karen!
    L x

  3. excellent post, also excellent comment above.
    blogging is egotistical, thats why i like reading blogs. its also why i am so uncormfortable when i hit publish.
    its a pleasure, most the time, to read further the thoughts of a few people i now hold quite dear, even if ive only seen their best mug shot, and not even heard their voice.
    reading this latest ramble left me wishing there was a key on the pad that symbolises that hand movement where you ring the thumb and forefinger, with remaining digits pointing all skyward and dainty. ping! bingo! it hits the spot.xx

  4. Really enjoyed your post and blog. I agree re worrying about what to write about: As a fellow novice blogger I go back to mine after reading proper ones and wonder if going on about the telly and soup and dog poo is really quite the right idea!

    I think you're right - everyone has something to say even if it is about soup so worth giving it a go. Be assured though, you don't suffer alone!

  5. Is a blog not personal though? Should one not spill one's thoughts? Or will we all turn into Julie Myerson, selfishly spilling all for a few £££?

  6. Being mentioned in the same paragraph as Alan Coren has me hyperventilating. Stiff drink required to calm me down.

    Writing IS personal and that leads to a fear of criticism. I saw the Ubertwitter give a performance once where he read some of his own text. He was visibly shaking. The 2nd half of the "show" was a discussion of Oscar Wilde. SF (short for Small Fry, of course) was suddenly relaxed and witty. 'Nuff said.

    In no particular order, I could list

    - being told that their writings are trivial
    - being told that their text is poorly written
    - being totally ignored
    - having someone take real offense (even if none were intended; although I admit some would actually relish this)
    - being too revealing

    as some of those fears. The problem is that you dont know whether any of these fears are justified until you try it. But what is great about blogging is that there is no editor sitting there judging you according to HIS rules and killing your enthusiasm at first base. It is also wonderful how generous people can be in their support. The result is that there is some really good work out there (and you probably cannot write anything unless you observe - there's no way out).

    So I agree fully, Karen. People should try. And you are absolutely right. Everyone has something to say. And we shouldnt forget that there can't be anything more trivial than displaying your bed in an art gallery and look where it got her.

  7. It's very reassuring to know that other people go through the hoops when they blog too ... and, of course, very gratifying to know that this post was so well-received.

    I'm VERY grateful for your comments ... and your advice!

    Many thanks!

  8. Karen - I'd say just blog away, and write about what interests you. If it interests others as well, that's a bonus.

    I started blogging around a fortnight before I retired from the service of Her Majesty last year. I've always been interested in history - particuloarly the quirkier aspects thereof - and I saw blogging as a way of keeping my mind active and interested in stuff, as well as nailing some of my thoughts and discoveries to the (virtual) page. It's surprising what sometimes surfaces and ends up as a post.

    What one shouldn't do, in my humble opinion, is worry if you can't think of anything to say for a few days. Eventually something will come to you. Either you'll see something whilst out and about, read a thought-provoking book or article, or just decide to have a rant!

    Oh, and good luck with the book. Do tell us what it's about. I hope to get mine published one day and I'm working on a novel as we speak. All I need are some characters, a plot, and a murderer...

  9. When I started my blog, it was purely a way to record my personal development for my counselling course. Then it started to evolve into a more social monster and people started reading it, which freaked me out a wee bit.

    I don't compare myself with anyone else, because no one else is me and that's what my blog is about. Who would want to be me anyways, heh.

    I obviously didn't think or ponder or worry too much about blogging when I started because I had no idea that anyone would in fact read it. Maybe if I had, I wouldn't of done it.

    I think I am happy with the fact that I am not a writer and just a blogger with no real talent, except in waffling.

  10. Well being a man of few words - not. There's little I can add to the foregoing comments save to say Karen, that I enjoy reading your blog and as a result of this one I've been introduced to another source of space knowledge. Among several other subjects it holds a great fascination for me.
    Finally, I'm still a blogger yet to hit the publish button so you've given me further encouragement.
    Great job :-)

  11. Hope you "get brave" soon, Bernard! I'd be very interested to read what you have to write. Just "do it" ... and join the rest of us who tremble afterwards!

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  13. Karen - what a great post and comments! See I knew you'd make a great blogger hun and I'm glad you took the plunge. You have that right balance of reason and hilarious observational humour. It's like going round your mate's house to have a cuppa and a natter and a bit of a giggle - if only Catatonia on Sea were a bit closer to God's own County eh?!
    I must confess to never feeling nervous about hitting the publish button on my blog as I never think about the people that are reading it so much...if they agree with me - fine, if they want to comment - great, if they disagree - well they're wrong and should be shot! lol! The main thing about my blog for me is that I use it as a cheap source of therapy I think...I either rant and rave or totally show the love to friends on there but in short I don't really care too much what others think - I'm not here to change their minds on anything - I just wanted my own personal corner of the Internet Hyde Park on which to place my soapbox corner I guess!
    Having written my blog for a number of years now I think the things I've learnt are you should not treat it as a static item, feel free to change it as you go along...I changed the writing style in mine recently - doing it in the format of letters and whilst I like doing it this way I do find it hugely challenging to write good pieces this way. I now have to *think* about my blog a lot more - but that difficulty just keeps me hungry for more as a blogger - I still love blogging and I hope you will too in the coming years Karen! I'm certainly enjoying your posts hun. Keep it up and if you can't keep it up there's always Viagra! ;-) Fx