X&HTeam-mate Rob May asked me one of those questions last night.
I replied with a flippant fob-off, but my blood ran cold. It was too closely related to one of The Big Two Questions That All Writers Hate. One of which is “Where do you get your ideas from?” (stock answer for that one – “there used to be a guy operating out of a lock up under the rail bridge by St James St station in Walthamstow, but now I just do what everyone else does and get them online, ideas4u.ru). The big one is “Why do you write?” And there is never an answer to that one that won’t make you sound like a self-absorbed arsehole. “I knew when I was a child.” “I had to find somewhere to put all the stories.” “It’s a calling.”
The swine of it is, all of these are true to a greater or lesser extent. I’ve written since I was a scrawny, speccy runt. I was always good at it, and I always enjoyed it. Even now, drifting into the fugue state where a tale just seems to present itself and all I have to do is write it down is one of my greatest pleasures. I must have been put on this earth to tell these stories. It’s my mission in life.
See. Told you. Cain’t hep masel. Self-absorbed arsehole.
Of course, understanding the grunt work that comes out of polishing and repolishing my words until they shine is another story, There is a world of difference between the first draft that can be banged out in a six-week period if you’re disciplined (braces for howls of outrage from the Nanowrimo crowd) and making something that people would actually want to read. A story without plot holes, clunky dialogue, cookie-cutter characters, screeds of needless exposition and the hundred thousand little details that can derail a tale if you don’t get them right. Changing eye colour is a good one. Or everyone having the same eye colour. I’ve had heroines that change their age from page to page. The basic misunderstanding of Newtonian physics that sends the engine of your plot off-track and into the trees. I’m writing this on a train, you can see where the metaphors are coming from.
None of which answers Rob’s question. Bear with me.
The thing with writing is that it’s a monstrous, time-eating task that will gobble years like a sugar-starved tween presented with a handful of Haribo. Blogging is very much the opposite. It’s a quick, sharp hit, an espresso instead of a venti moccochoccolattechino with extra whipped cream and sprinkles and three flakes. It’s first draft, front-lobe spillage. It’s 4-track demo, rough sketch, workshop level output. It’s also pragmatic. I can clear out brain cruft that needs to go somewhere, I can work up ideas, try things out. It’s a place to react, to rage, to vent, to roar. It’s the mouth of the gushing hose. Twitter’s great for a lot of things, but it doesn’t let me bend the language in the way that I like. I can’t roll out a run-on sentence in 140 characters. And I LOVE run-on sentences. Blogging is as close to I get to an honest, true immediate response to the world and everyone in it. (As close as I get? Well, take a look at the title of the blog you’re reading…) Broadcasting at the click of a trackpad.
And of course, it’s an exercise in vanity. How could it be otherwise? I’m labouring under the assumption that there are people out there that want to read my views on the AV referendum, on horror, on comics, on beer, on food, on every little thing that pops into my tiny head and gets me to fire up Marsedit. Writers are egoists. They have to be. How else could you blare your opinions at the world if you didn’t think they were worth the world’s attention? Why do it if you didn’t think someone was listening? The blogger that doesn’t check their stats after every post isn’t really a blogger at all.
Rob, I’m sorry, I’m still not sure that i’ve answered the question. X&HT is a huge part of my writing life. It’s a home, a platform, potentially a shop window, a shelter, a stage. It’s me, in some ways, and a weird simulacrum of me in others. It’s a distraction and a workspace. It’s me and the cartoon rabbit-eared, fluff-tailed version of me all at one. It’s an excuse, Rob. It’s a half-truth.
Why do I blog, Rob? Because I can. Because I must. Because.