Despite appearances to the contrary on this blog, I haven’t actually stopped writing. I write all the time, in my head. I write a lot for work. I write a fair amount for study. I tweet a little and I write down the odd thought on scraps of paper in various notebooks from time to time. All that is pretty similar, apart from the tweeting, to the state of play when I started this blog over 10 years ago. I was a writer, mainly in my head.
One problem with accumulating extended periods of silence on the page, is that when wanting to start up with the writing again, there are too many places from which to start. Which makes me tend to stop before I’ve started.
The other problem is readers desert you. And, sure, why wouldn’t they!
I mean, who is going to hang around to read someone who no longer writes? That makes no sense at all.
Things have changed so much since I started writing this blog. The world has changed. I’ve changed. Other writers have changed too. Some of them no longer write blogs either. Others have shifted their online output onto Facebook and Twitter and Insta and GodKnowsWhataChat. Apart from Twitter, I have mainly kept my own counsel. Writers are told to build their platform, to maintain an online presence which is probably a good thing, but it’s not just writers who are doing that, is it? It’s just about everyone, including their dogs (and cats). I follow rescue goat kids in knitted outfits in Chile for chrissakes.
So, yeah, this platform building is everywhere. People broadcast to others all over the place at all hours of the day and night, and the rest of us lap it up. I love the internet still, I promise, but just like the deep underwater ocean, it’s become a very noisy place. Why add to that, I think? Why would anyone be interested in what I had to say about anything anyway. Now, if I’d typed that sentence as a status in Facebook (I wouldn’t, but if I had) what an earth would be the upshot? People leaping to reassure me, perhaps, that not at all they really have nothing better to do than scroll through my weepings and wailings about life, liking and hearting and shedding tears of online empathy on the way.
And who wants that?
I still have things to say and I am going to practice them a little on here and see how it goes, but in a way it would be good to return to the anonymity I started this blog with, when I wrote under a pseudonym and didn’t do platforms or presence or tweeting and Facebook was barely a thing. There’s nothing stopping me doing that of course, from slipping back under the radar and writing what I really want to. And maybe I will.
I’ve been ‘working’ with the team at RO Literary since April this year. I put working in inverted commas, because actually they seem to be the only ones who are putting in a professional shift – attending book fairs, workshops, and other writing events, quite aside from all the reading and editing and so on they do for their authors.
I, on the other hand, have been blundering around in the world of social media trying to get my author platform up and running, prior to going to market in the publishing world this autumn.
In the past I thought I had been pretty quick to jump onto the various emerging platforms:
- Facebook – check
- Twitter – check
- WordPress – hell yeah I’ve been on this shit since 2007
But no, as it turned out, my social media was shot to hell with various pseudonyms (Westmead Hawk being my personal favourite) and my blog was a catalogue of personal musings running to the length of *insert the title of favourite doorstop*.
This blog has 1968 published posts and 203 drafts (this being 1969) and surely runs into a word count in excess of 600,o00 words – far too unwieldy to navigate for a slick platform for a writer hoping to make the big time. Italics intended as irony, just in case you know me and are worried my head has suddenly become super-sized.
The truth is, I squirm at the thought of a platform, but I am a realist. I believe in the book wot I wrote. The fact is that is that I was entrusted with a story to tell and I owe it to those people who gave me the story to ensure it reaches the widest possible audience. Writing was only the half of it. The other part is getting my act together.
That’s where Sandra and Laura at RO Literary have been invaluable. Clear-sighted and professional, they tell me what I need to do, and offer to help and support where they can. Determined, in my usual way, to be as self-sufficient as I can, I buy the domain name I can afford and launch myself headlong into a world in which there is a whole new language that I do not understand, in which I attempt to link the new domain name to the relevant pages on this existing blog. So far, it’s not been going well.
When you buy a domain name, and either don’t want to or can’t afford to make the registration private, the first thing that will happen is that your inbox will get jammed up with spam offering website building services. The second thing that will happen is that you will find out the thing you want to do (transfer your new domain to your existing platform) is not possible for 60 days. It will take you a long time to work this out. Then you will forget when the 60 day period was up and go through the whole process of finding out how to transfer your now less new domain to your existing one, only to find out you can’t do it for 6 more days.
As part of the process, you might, as I did, do the wrong thing: namely map your existing domain to your not-so-new one. This means no-one can read anything you wrote over the last 9 years for a day or two, until you figure out how to fix your mistake. Fortunately, no money changed hands in erratum, although I came close.
As I said about 500 words ago, I used to think that I knew what I was doing more or less on social media. Today, I put my hands up: I don’t.
Will I connect my blog to my new domain jessicamrussell.com?
Will I figure out if Instagram has a ‘retweet’ facility as Twitter does?
Will I ever be brave enough to drop my Facebook pseudonym that I adopted on police advice?
Will my book ever be published? If RO Literary have anything to do with it – yes.
I am going to play my part as best I can, even if it’s a muddle for me in getting there, so watch this space and enjoy the ride. And if you were hoping for an explanation of the title of this post – sorry. I might be in the world of these new words for now, but I am never going to learn the lingo.
The following is finding its voice as a blog post because it can’t stay in my head a moment longer.
Once, I wanted to be journalist. Today, I am glad that never happened. Today, I have been sickened and hurt by the media in this country.
A terrible thing happened on a street in Woolwich, London yesterday afternoon. I am not going to repeat what happened because, thanks to the media deluge, you probably know. What concerns me first and foremost is that whilst the professional media sharks (apparently driven in an unthinking, animal way desperate to compete with social media) go into a frenzy of feeding the public with graphic images, speculation and eye-witness reports: a young man was murdered. That’s the first thing, the last thing and really, the everything about this story.
What in the world has happened to us. How have we allowed ourselves to be so drawn in by horror? A young man has been killed, as yet without a name, but somewhere his family and loved ones are not being spared a thing. No detail is too awful or horrific to share and pick over. A young man, who happened to be a soldier has been appropriated as symbol, first by his attackers and then perpetuated in the media. When he pulled on his Help for Heroes t-shirt yesterday he was just a young man, living his life. He was not living as a symbol of the state and to force that onto his memory within an hour of his death only feeds into the very ideology that seems to cause so much hate and suffering in the world.
It is said that the political message of the perpetrators makes the act one of terrorism. Terror. That is, to create terror in a community, in society. The most effective way to create the terror is if you can get the print media, following hard-on-the-heels of the knee-jerk reactions posted all over the social media networks, to scare and sicken people with their words and their pictures the following day. Blood on their hands is a graphic enough image in words; I will never understand the need for it on the front page. According to this piece by Roy Greenslade, only the Daily Express refrained. Be warned if you click through to the Greenslade post, you will see the blood. I am sure you have done so already. I was trying to avoid it, but it has been unavoidable and I had the image planted in my head overnight. It disturbed my sleep. I do not pray, but I hope that the young victim’s family have been protected. Roy Greenslade says something like, newspaper editors would have looked stupid if they had not published images that were already in the public domain. Is that their main concern? Whether they look stupid? Or is the truth of it, that no matter what the potential hurt, harm and damage, the market always rules; that if one editor is printing, the others follow suit because of sales. In the internet world, the image was old news by this morning anyway, but it was none the less shocking. The image is everywhere. I cannot even get into an email account without it being on the landing page. Newspaper editors did not reveal a truth to us in their papers today; neither have they informed us. All they have done is given a physical manifestation to the most graphic image of hate I have ever seen in my whole life.
Roy Greenslade had these papers with their front pages on his breakfast table this morning. It is no surprise his eldest grandson commented on it. The thought of a newspaper man eating breakfast over such an image… consuming the news product along with toast… words fail me. Perhaps they turned the page… folded it shut… Yesterday’s news. My children will not be taken near a news stand until the papers come, if not to their senses, to some common denominator of decent humanity, which, for all its positive traits, social media never can.
The men that murdered that young man yesterday, were filled with hatred, that much is self-evident. They are not my concern. The young man and his family are. The frightened people in the same street yesterday are. All I can say about the two men, is that with their actions they only represented themselves, their own beliefs. Even if they followed an ideology external to themselves, they took it upon themselves and acted upon it. They do not ‘belong’ to any thing, or any one, other than themselves. They defy categorisation, speculation and they should never have been given the front pages to strike fear and discord into the hearts of the wider community. What purpose those images may serve for unknown others with hate in their hearts does not bear thinking about.
At this point, it is worth mentioning another forgotten victim of hate crime. Earlier this month in Birminghan a seventy-five year old man, originally from Pakistan, who walked with a stick, was stabbed to death. That crime too was horrific. That crime also involved a knife and blood. I never read a thing about it at the time, let alone on the front page of a national newspaper. Yesterday’s victim came out of the barracks, the Birmingham victim came out of a mosque. Yesterday’s perpetrators were black, the one in Birmingham was white. Victims and their assailants come in all colours and creeds. That is not the issue. Hate is the issue. Everything else is just an excuse. We can only counter hate with love. What love did the newspaper editors show the world this morning in their own private race not to look ‘stupid’? When I pass a road accident, I look away. Today the newspapers were the drivers of the tour bus and they did a slow drive by on an unedifying, unilluminating but visceral story about a human tragedy.
People have mentioned to me that the blog is not writing much lately. Well the truth is, Ive been busy; busy with my messy life that frequently seems to involve more than one person should have to deal with. And when I look around at my contemporaries I see they are pretty much the same. They are leading their own frantic lives, trying to keep their heads above water, just. And I am lucky, because the people I know dont tend towards this insidious tendency: to make out that their lives are some sugar-coated, pink and fluffy version of how things are. They pretty much tell it like it is and I am grateful for that, because I value it.
But that is not the norm these days I know. The norm seems to be all about promoting our self image, in the manner of a celebrity but without a PR such as Max Clifford. Now we write our own headlines. Perhaps we will enjoy the moment more, feel the emotion more deeply if we share it widely with the hundreds of ‘friends’ online – post a picture, concoct a line. Some may say, well that is the pot calling the kettle black – you lay yourself bare on the blog. And maybe that is correct, but I like to think that if I sit down and write something and share it, it is something I have thought through in more than a minute. It is something I have reflected on and want to contribute and share. I hope it is not merely a I am scratching my arse status. And I am not dissing Facebook or Twitter. They have their place and I use them. Sometimes I like them. But what I do not like is the element of self promotion, when the only product to promote is oneself and oneselfs doings. I like sharing. I like sharing links and photos and thoughts, but I dont need to know what someone had for tea last night. I just dont.
The communal non-fiction, that transmute into collective fictions of our daily lives, that we compulsively Tweet and Facebook has become claustrophobic at best and oppressive at worst. Look, look, look at me the status updates cry. My life is cool. My life is photogenic. My life is at least as good (if not better…) than yours.
The best real-life, person to person advice I had last week was: Dont panic and carry on. I might have preferred the reverse: Panic and dont carry on, but where would that get me? It would make a Tweetier Tweet though, one that might cause a ripple of concern in the online sorority.
But whilst I am trying to work out what I object to (and the truth is Im still not sure) I will temporarily conclude with this.
Social Media Objection #1 Are these sites largely platforms for self-announcement? And are they becoming increasingly competitive, showy, and brash; a bit like online Keeping Up with the Joneses? Whilst everything has its place, lets not reduce the richness of life to what can be shared in a few lines on a social networking site.
*puts on tin hat*
*retreats to shed*