Aaarrgghh!! Boom! Move, squirrel! Why does my computer hate me? Splat! OOWWW!! I said MOVE, squirrel! WHY – WON’T – YOU – WORK? WTF? Bloody wasps! Woo Hoo, money! Clang… Grind! Oh… No money again. Concentrate, brain!
Yes… it has indeed been one of those weeks that can only be explained using lots of exclamation marks, and making absolutely certain that you use the word “squirrel” at least twice. There wasn’t actually a squirrel, I just like words that begin with “squ” so I used the phrase “move, squirrel” in place of AARRARRARSDU??V@#??!!*#NOG!!, to describe an indescribable feeling which I shall later try to illustrate instead. The squirrel thing doesn’t make a lot more sense, but it is at least easier to read. I think everything else is more or less accurate, and in chronological order.
So, it’s been one of those weeks when nothing seemed possible, and checking my blog stats this afternoon hasn’t really helped my mood. I have been blogging for 27 weeks now, and there were 3 days of this week with absolutely NO views at all. That makes it worse than week 1! What makes it even more depressing is realising that WordPress logged you out without you noticing, and two of those visits are your own. I can only conclude that my writing must have gone downhill; and it was already gazing up at the summit through a powerful telescope, let’s be honest. At any rate, it is a perception unlikely to be greatly altered by the spectacular display of comic book scribbling in this particular post.
Ultimately, all writers tend to think their writing is shit. Now, OK… in my case it may be true, but I’m starting to ask myself how much I really care. I used to worry about aspects of my writing which I thought let me down; the way I overuse punctuation until my writing looks like Morse code, is a very good example. But, y’know… every writer has a style. Hemingway’s avoidance of adjectives often makes his stories look as though they were written by a Sat Nav, but they’re still good reading. Cormac McCarthy sometimes avoids punctuation for half a page or more; perhaps as a clever way of ensuring his work is never read aloud in public (Seriously… try reading the first pages of “The Crossing” aloud, without feeling light-headed) but again, it’s good reading.
OK… before you say it: I know I’m not Hemingway. My use of suspension points makes my writing look like a page of William Shatner dialogue, and I’m long-winded in a way that makes balloons nervous. But, some of us aren’t trying to be Hemingway. I have no great literary aspirations. It
doesn’t matter to me that I will never be a Dickens or a Twain, a Conrad or a Salinger. So what if a facebook conversation with me is enough to make Time-Lords and Sequoias say things like “listen mate… I’m not getting any younger. Can we wrap this up?” I am a storyteller, pure and simple. I have on my bookshelf, Strunk &White’s classic little reference book: “The Elements of Style”. I used to refer to it from time to time when I began to doubt myself, but, as you can probably see for yourself, I haven’t opened it for quite some time because I’m comfortable with my own style. I say what I say in the way that I say it.
Why am I ranting about this subject? In truth, this post was inspired by this blogger, who has written 2 posts in the last week about “Why we write”. There is a tendency amongst writers to perpetual panic that you are not good enough and never will be. Well, I have answered as a writer, now I shall answer as a reader:
Some years ago, during a family discussion about why we read, I said that I loved books. My sister gave a patronising tilt of the head and responded “Ahh… You see, I love words.” Very clever, I thought. Better to save those words in future and simply pat my head and give me a banana. But, she seemed very pleased with herself, and why not? My answer was wrong. Her’s though, was only half right. You see I do love books, I collect books because they are beautiful things, and I still write with a pen (remember those) more often than not, because I love paper. But the reason I read is not that simple either. I don’t read simply because I love words. I read Shakespeare because I love words. I read Herman Melville because I love words. I read Stephen King because I love stories; specifically character driven stories. I read Douglas Adams and Mark Haddon because I love humorous stories. Hamlet is one of the greatest characters in English Literature, but the language is the main reason Shakespeare endures. Stephen King, Wilbur Smith or Michael Crichton may not be the accepted face of “literature”, but they are superb storytellers. They are experts at making a reader turn the page, and the same goes for a good blogger. We read blogs for different reasons than we read novels, in the same way we read a newspaper for a different reason than we read poetry. Personally, I read blogs that make me laugh for the most part, because humour is the main reason I do most things these days. I love laughter like most other people love sex, and in my case the two are not mutually exclusive.
Recognition for your work too, is a very different animal than it was 20 years ago. In an age of Blogs, Online Video and Reality TV, the public have more power than ever to decide what is in their own best interests. Gone (or at least starting to pack) are the days when someone sitting behind a desk in LA or London got to decide on behalf of the rest of us whether a book, TV show or script was good enough for the world to see. Anyone with internet access can now publish their work and let the public vote with their feet – or fingers if you like. Ryan Higa makes YouTube video logs from his bedroom, and if I was sitting behind a desk in LA, deciding whether the public wanted to see him talk to a camera, wearing a dress of plain paper and sticky tape, I would probably have said: No; he’s occasionally funny, but he couldn’t attract decent viewing figures. Well, 4,255,000 subscribers obviously disagree.
Wake up and smell the subscriptions, bloggers. Nobody is ever going to mention Allie Brosh in the same breath as Geoffrey Chaucer, but I’d rather read Hyperbole and a Half than The Canterbury Tales any day of the week, and if that makes me less of an intellectual then I welcome the insult.
Now… to that picture I talked about making earlier: To be honest, this picture isn’t 100% representative of the feeling I was referring to when I started the blog. I started to make a picture where Satan had turned the tortoise upside down, but once I put the tortoise in there, it made me think of Aesop’s fable, and I simply had to do this instead.
It doesn’t have much to do with the post, but it does come close to the sort of week I’ve had, and hopefully it will make you laugh more than the writing did.