why bother?

I’ve been mulling over the whys and wherefores of blogging (and hey, we all know that whatever’s on my mind will inevitably surface on here sooner or later, so now I’m writing about it…)

Back at the beginning of June, just after I’d started writing this blog, someone a friend was kind enough to say to me, in the playground, that they were enjoying reading what I’d posted.  Someone else an acquaintance (the English language desperately needs more words for categories of friendishness, no?) overheard and responded, “Oh, I thought about doing that. But nobody will read it anyway, so why bother?”

I had so many mixed emotions about this one throwaway remark (I’m sure she doesn’t remember saying it, but I can’t quite forget it.)  Mostly, I’ve filed it under People Who Criticise What You Do, Because They Are Afraid To Do It Themselves. Digression: my Northumberland walk is attracting a fair few of these too. Walk… by yourself? But why? What if? Aren’t you scared you’ll be eaten by BEARS…

Would I keep on writing if nobody was reading? Yes, I’d be writing, writing something or other, because I’ve always written, because it’s what I do: breathe, eat, sleep, write.  (Note to self: poetry is almost always a mistake. However compelling you find the discipline imposed by iambic pentameters, stick with the prose.) But I’m certain that both the quantity and quality of what I wrote would be different without readers.  I very rarely escape the awareness that I’m writing for an audience, even though I don’t know just who’s in that audience.  It means that I work harder on writing well, to get that prose to sing out with meanings, knowing that people are out there reading it.  And the responses, the comments and ensuing dialogues, spark off new trains of thought, more ideas to write about…

Words are my first love. Choosing the right words, and arranging them in the best way I can, matters to me. Occasionally, I fear, there’s a fight in my head between telling the tale exactly as it is, and the perfect phrase that’s sprung into my head- fully formed, but not perhaps entirely suited to what I’m writing.  The truth can lack alliteration and assonance; it can present starkly and repetitively, as worn out clichés. Writing about what’s really going on in my life, and in my head, whilst trying to satisfy my inner critic, can be exhausting, intellectually and emotionally. A few of those posts left me wrecked the next day. So why bother indeed?

Sometimes, blogging is a way of “saying” the things that are too difficult to say, face to face, or down the phone.  Bit of the old cry for help about that one, I guess, but there are worse ways of doing it, some of which I’ve experimented with over the years…

A blog means a fairly large number of people can be told quickly (I can’t imagine making dozens of phonecalls, or even emails, to say, “Help, I’ve been going mad up here, and now my marriage is disintegrating…” )

The blog format also allows people to choose if and when they read.  Some of what I’m writing isn’t much fun, and I’d hesitate to tell it to you if we met in the street (or more likely, the playground, given the nature of my life), and you asked how I was.  A great deal more of what I write is undeniably domestic and dull to those who are not charmed by my children, or enthralled by knitting and jam (WEIRD people!)

Mostly, I think, it’s about forcing myself to shape my swirling mass of thoughts into vaguely coherent sentences. Kind of DIY therapy.  I forced myself to keep going through six sessions of counselling earlier this year.  Did counselling help?  Yes, I will reluctantly concede that it did.  Did I like it?  No, I loathed every second of it.  Talking to a stranger about what’s going on in my head is so very Not Me.  I can’t explain why I’m happy to write it all down for a larger and possibly even stranger audience.

Not Knowing who is and isn’t reading is an interesting one. When I’m writing, I try to remember that this is a public space, and therefore absolutely anybody could be reading it*. However, I also know that relatively few people locally, who I see most often, are reading, or even know there is a blog (although Big Daughter does keep on outing me…)

A few friends feature quite a bit in this blog, because their story’s been so intertwined with mine over the last few months. Sometimes, they’re lurking on the fringes of posts, or the thread running through what I’m writing that week (even my metaphors are textile related…)  I try not to identify people by name, or by writing down too many details of their story, but they will recognise themselves, and anyone who knows them will probably know who I’m writing about too.

I only discovered the stats page on my blog recently, and I was intrigued by which posts people had read, and reread, and commented on. These are not always the posts I go back to, the ones I like the most, or think are “best”, the ones where I think I found the words to say exactly what I was feeling.

Big Daughter mocks me for this, and will ask, “How many people have read the blog today?” I’ve shown her a few of the posts I’ve written, but I don’t know whether she’s read others. Probably I don’t want to know.

I think I’ve finished navel gazing now, but I’ve just realised this post has no pictures.  It doesn’t even mention the pictures, or their importance alongside the words in the blog…

*It is possible I forget this slightly after too much gin, too little sleep, or when particularly angry and miserable.



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11 responses to “why bother?

  1. Heather

    Perhaps you write because you have to. I know writing about it helped me far more than the stupid woman who tried to teach me stress management. Sometimes it doesn’t matter whether anyone reads – what matters is that you write.

  2. Alison H

    I’ve always written a diary, and now I write on LJ as well. It’s strange sometimes, knowing that other people are probably reading what you’ve written, but it’s helpful as well.

    Sending best wishes, and looking forward to reading about Northumberland.

  3. Jackie

    I know some of the things that have affected me most emotionally are now immortalised in writing. Mostly prose (and dramatic prose at that) but with the odd jaunt into poetry. But I suppose for some of us (and yes, some of us in your audience are very strange! ;D) we find that our thoughts and feelings just flow better through a pen or keyboard.


  4. Jo

    AAARRRGGGHHHH, I’m hoping that comment about who would read a blog anyway wawsn’t from me :-/ If it was I would have been meaning who would read what I write, for me writing is a constant challenge of finding something interesting to put down on paper and make it legalable for others to understand. But I read everyone – they come though my email as well – a subscriber one would say. Don’t stop just keep going the emotion and fluency is great to read!!!

    • Not you at all! You are a great example of how it works. There’s no way I’d ever have started to tell you all this stuff, but you’ve read it, and been so supportive, and now I know I could have that conversation with you in real life.

      I’m confident the person who made the comment isn’t reading, as I don’t have her as a facebook friend and she didn’t enquire where the blog was, or what I wrote about, or anything… I think that was what I found so odd, because if I overheard someone talking about a blog, I would want to find out and have a look- maybe then it wouldn’t interest me, but that’s fine, I don’t expect everyone (anyone?) to be interested in what I write, just not to dismiss it out of hand!

  5. anon

    Playground comments are hard to accept Nicola, speaking from very recent experience but not worth dwelling on.. taken me a couple of weeks to get there but the knowledge that you have more friends out there than critics should and has to get you through xx

  6. katherine

    I look forward to reading your blog. The words and pictures are lovely. Soothing almost. Even though too many years have probably passed now for us to have the conversations honestly & face-to-face, it matters to me that I know from your words that you are (mostly!) OK and are finding a way through the weird tangled mess that passes for adult life.

  7. Lesley

    Hi Nicola, I’ve just spent the past hour reading through all the posts in this blog – you should definitely keep writing and I will be reading from now on.

  8. Liz

    Being eaten by bears would be an adventure. Sitting safely at home is not. Or something that would make more sense if I were less tired.

  9. Hannah

    Ok, second go at this as phone just ate my first. I read your blog with interest and enthusiasm. Without blowing smoke, I fw

  10. Hannah

    (As I was saying) I feel inspired when I read your blog; it makes me want to create too, it makes me want to go on an adventure, in a totally nonsmug way, it makes me appreciate thingsi have and maybe take for granted. Yeah nicola, your blog means a lot to me. I hope it provides a cathartic space for you.

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