Thursday, 4 October 2007

Egosurfer? Moi?

A few days ago The Guardian blog was debating the rise of the literary blog - with some cruel quotes in it, such as Rachel Cooke's opinion that bloggers are 'latter-day Pooters' - and not for the first time I started thinking about why I blog. I started because one of my creative writing students suggested I did and it seemed an easier option than trying to create a website, which is something still on my To Do list. I must admit I was quite tentative at first but it wasn't long before I found myself really enjoying it.

At the time I was coming to the end of my third year of teaching a twenty week evening class course on novel-writing. Afterwards, I made the difficult decision not to offer a course this year, although I am still involved in the University's summer school programme. I did this quite simply because it was taking up too much of my time and attention, and there was a level of bureaucracy involved which was disproportionate, I felt, to the nature of the course as an evening class.

The decision wasn't easy, because I had actually enjoyed the teaching itself and for three years had been lucky enough to have had lively, interesting and talented people attending. Apart from the teaching of techniques and so on, I did feel it was important to share news of competitions, recent writing articles and what was going on in the publishing world, so I was always keeping an eye out for snippets and anecdotes and news items which we could discuss. Then the class ended and I found myself missing that kind of interaction - the blog, therefore, is a way of maintaining contact with my ex-students and my writing friends. Writing, after all, can be a lonely business - it's always good to feel part of a community.

The next reason is the reason one has for any kind of writing - it's communication of thought, idea, opinion, feeling. It's finding your voice, making your mark. It's saying 'Here I am'. It is, as someone said, egosurfing (the term for Googling your own name - hands up all those of you who've done it. Yes, you at the back - that includes you). It's expression of your own individuality in the hope that someone out there will hear and respond. Of course, now that blogging is so incredibly popular, you're calling out your name in a huge stadium of competing voices ('I'm Spartacus!' 'No, I'm Spartacus!') - how can you be heard? Well, initially you're heard by one or two, and if you're lucky, they tell one or two others who listen in, and so on and so on.

This brings me to the relation of the blog to publishing - and yes, there are 'blooks' - the blogs which mainstream publishers have bought, such as those by Belle de Jour and Wife in the North. Can't say I'm holding my breath to be discovered like that - there are simply too many lit blogs out there. Still, what's positive is the sense of growing a readership, some of whom post comments, of building a minor literary community, and knowing that, should I publish again anytime soon, there will be people out there who'll be rooting for me. Also, given the enormous time-delays one faces when waiting for responses from agents and editors, where the torments of Tantalus are as nothing compared to the endless on-tenterhooks state of wondering if today will be the day when ... - well, I'd say that for me the biggest pleasure of all in this blogging lark is to be able to say whatever I like at whatever length I please in whatever style I choose - and to have it published INSTANTLY! Joy!

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