Sunday, 15 November 2009

Who Wants to Read About Me?

Why be a blogging writer? Is it all a time-wasting exercise in navel-gazing?

Another writer said to me this week, (or rather emailed, since we don't do anything as old-fashioned as actually talking any more) that she didn't know where to start with a blog and that she preferred to write about other people. This is a fair point and sent me scurrying to find a passage from my first (unpublished) novel. The scene is between an aspiring young writer and his succesful but deeply troubled mentor:

Alex took a slug of whisky and his tone slid into melancholy. "When an author is at their lowest ebb, when they reach the depths of their creative redundancy, they turn to the only subject they truly understand."


"You're joking, aren't you?" Alex swilled the alcohol around his tongue. "You don't get into writing to understand yourself. You do it to be someone else." He slammed the glass down on the table. "The blocked author hides his shame and misery by writing about writing."

Re-reading this, it struck me as a pretty major statement of intent. So why am I here right now, talking about writing? The mealy-mouthed answer is to declare myself just another product of our age. We are, as a society, obsessed with talking rather than listening, trapped in a value system that rewards our ability to self-promote. I observed a conversation at work a few months back, where one colleague was talking to another about how ill she had been over the weekend. "But you must have known about it," she protested, "didn't you see my Facebook status?" The blank look she received in exchange was pure poetry - perhaps we're not all fully paid-up members of the "me me me" club yet.

A collusion with and simultaneous dislike of the modern age is for me a major creative force. I love to shop, but hate consumerism. I even hate the word "aspirational" - a snake-headed hiss of conformity. But as a working author, especially one writing for teenagers, I will need to blog, to be on Facebook, even to Twitter. The task is how to work best within the system, where to subvert and where to follow the party line. And if my feelings are hopelessly conflicted, well, maybe I understand more about being a teenager than I care to admit.


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