Tag Archives: blogs

Serendipity

You know what’s weird? Waking up on a Monday morning with something on your mind, and logging into Facebook to say ‘hello’ to the world, and seeing a post from a person you follow which is about exactly the thing you were thinking about.

That's mad, Ted! Image: quotefully.com

That’s mad, Ted!
Image: quotefully.com

it’s not like this person and I know one another (she’s a celebrity) or that we’re even in the same cultural milieu or general surroundings (we’re, unfortunately, not); it’s just one of those things. In this world of ours, one that’s all about connectivity and ‘sharing’ (a vilely abused word, these days), but wherein the actual human connection can, unfortunately, be easily lost, it’s startling to be reminded that, sometimes, other people’s minds are in exactly the same place yours is in.

And, isn’t that a wonderful thing?

Sadly, the place my mind was in this morning wasn’t exactly a happy place – this article, to which said celebrity provided a link on Facebook and about which she waxed lyrical on her personal page – will tell you all you need to know about my thought processes. I’m thinking about this topic – that of the reality of bereavement, mourning and grief in a world wherein social media is king – mainly because, in the last few years, several of my Facebook and (God love me) Myspace contacts have passed away, but their online presences remain. If a person is lost suddenly, can those left behind (or, should they) find a way to mark their social media outlets with the message that their creator has died? We are the first generation who is faced with the sorrow of seeing a deceased loved one’s name pop up in our newsfeeds every year on their birthday, reminding us to send a card or exhorting us to write a greeting on their Wall, or whatever it is. We are the first generation living with a phenomenon like ‘funeral selfies‘ – the very idea of it makes something break, deep down inside me – and it’s a reminder, once again, that the internet is such a powerful thing. It’s powerful enough to change the way we think, feel, and act. It will be the thing which reshapes human nature, in my opinion.

Or, perhaps, it will be the thing which ushers forth the narcissism that has always been a part of human nature, but which has never before had such an opportunity to become central to how we think about ourselves. I’m not sure which I find more strange – the idea that the internet is making us more self-obsessed, or simply giving us an outlet for the self-obsession that’s already at the heart of our existence.

John William Waterhouse, 'Echo and Narcissus', 1903 Image: en.wikipedia.org

John William Waterhouse, ‘Echo and Narcissus’, 1903
Image: en.wikipedia.org

I do realise that I’m writing a blog, here, and that I’m making use of the internet to put forth my ideas and my thoughts and it’s all about me, me, me… And perhaps that’s the saddest part of the whole thing. The culture in which we live is, like all cultures, all-encompassing. You’re part of it, for good or ill, and making the best of it is all you can do. It does occur to me sometimes that this blog will, probably, outlast me; if I were to die unexpectedly, this blog would remain. Nobody would be able to log in and disable it. It would be like an abandoned, creaking, obsolete space station, slowly pinwheeling its lonely way across the vastness of eternity, forever (or, until it hits a meteorite or burns up in an atmosphere or, you know. Whatever.)

That freaks me out a bit.

It also makes me want to write the best blog I’m capable of – if it’s going to be my memorial, then let’s make it sparkle, goshdarnit!

Actually, no. The ‘freaking out’ thing outweighs everything else.

I’m pretty sure that there’s an element of this self-memorialisation in all art, too. It’s not that we feel we’re such incandescent geniuses that the world needs our art to steer it into the future, but it’s more about feeling like we’ve made a difference, that something we’ve written or made or painted or sung has added to the pot of human culture. Even if nobody remembers our name, our art will live on after we do. It’s getting harder and harder for each individual note to be spotted in the clamouring mish-mash that is our humanity, but that makes the urge to contribute even more pressing; the more difficult it is to be heard, the louder we shout. But what if all that’s being created and contributed is ‘art’ which is ever more inward-looking, all about the self, focused entirely on an individual and their view of the world? We’ll have millions of tiny vortexes, all tightly bound to their own whorling hearts, none of them looking out and seeing what’s there, seeing how we can help, how we can – each of us – make the world a little clearer and easier to bear for everyone.

All art is about the self, but – I feel – it has traditionally spoken to the commonality of shared humanness, too. Nowadays, most of the creative content I see, particularly online, has a larger focus on the ‘self’ of its creator and less focus on the connectedness of its creator to their fellows. Social media allows us to make ourselves into art installations. But what’s the point of creating millions of beautiful, individual pieces of art – which are, in so many ways, our lives – if none of them are truly in conversation with anything else?

‘Sharing’ is not the same as ‘communing’; putting forth our art, our words, our social media posts, our blogs, our music is all rendered a bit pointless if we don’t listen to the contributions of others, and recognise their validity.

And yet, there are days you wake up and someone on the far side of the world is thinking exactly the same thing as you, and they’ve expressed it publicly, and you feel a connection. And – if you’re clever – you use that connection to drive forth your own art, and your own humanness, and you realise that you’re living in an age of miracles, and that all will be well.

Image: ivillage.com

Image: ivillage.com

My First Blogiversary

Today is my blog’s first birthday!

Happy blogiversary to me! Image: fiftieswedding.com

Happy blogiversary to me!
Image: fiftieswedding.com

My first blog post was only a couple of sentences long, and I remember how terrified I was as I wrote and posted it. It felt like my head had become a theme park and I was offering free entry, with popcorn and super-sized sugary drinks on demand. As it turned out, of course, nobody but the WordPress bot actually ever read my first post, but my feelings didn’t care about that.

I can’t believe I’ve been writing my blog for a year. In one way, it’s become such a part of my everyday routine that it feels like I’ve been blogging forever, but in another way I’m mystified as to where the last year has gone.

So, what have I learned in a year?

Writing a daily blog is a lot harder than I thought it would be. I love it, and it gets me going in the morning like no cup of coffee ever could (particularly since I’m doing my best to give up caffeine, for real this time), but I’m not going to lie. Several times during the past year I’ve been reduced to tears at the thought of writing a new post, and I’ve had to really draw on all my reserves of strength, inspiration and improvisation to deliver the goods – but then, that’s a good thing. Isn’t it?

Conquering fear is fantastic. I really was afraid of writing a blog. I would have started one years ago, except I was terrified to do it. Starting this one felt a lot like jumping into the void and – against all expectation – learning how to fly, very quickly. It has given me so much satisfaction to look back over my year’s worth of blog posts, remembering how scared I was when I started out, and how I’ve overcome that fear.

I’m a lot less weird than I always thought I was. It’s great to know that other people think the same way I do about things as varied as books and mental health issues, or authors and writing techniques, or family and life. Having said that, it’s slightly bittersweet to think that perhaps all your little quirks aren’t as unique as you’d like to think. So it goes.

People are wonderful. If I’d thought I’d ‘meet’ so many wonderful folks through the medium of this blog, I really would have started to write it years ago. I’ve been buoyed up by positivity, support, friendship and fellow-feeling more times than I can remember over the past year, and I am so grateful to all my wonderful followers for that. It has been incredible to make contact with so many other bloggers, writers, thinkers, artists, and fellow human beings over the past twelve months. I started this blog thinking that (perhaps) my mother would read it once in a while, when she had nothing better to do; now I have over 200 followers and nearly 14,000 hits. My mind still can’t process that, really.

I really, really love writing. It would have been a bit of a ‘whoops’ moment if I hadn’t discovered this during the course of writing the blog, wouldn’t it? Luckily, though, that’s exactly what I found. Writing brings me more satisfaction than anything else I’ve ever done, and I’m privileged to live in a world where I have the opportunity to ‘publish’ my words in this way. Being completely honest, I had hoped to have achieved more, in terms of writing, over the past year than I actually have. However I think, all in all, I haven’t done too badly.

And the best part about having a blog? I can relive every moment of my journey, in ‘real time.’

Writing ‘Clockwatching…’ has been the best thing I could’ve done for my writing. This blog has compelled me to be disciplined, and strict with my routine. It has given me a sharp appreciation for deadlines. It has allowed me to see that I can provide ‘copy’ at short notice, not only once but repeatedly. It has shown me that I am capable of wringing inspiration out of my brain even when it feels drier than a camel’s backside. It has allowed me to take part in competitions and writing groups which have been a huge source of inspiration and feedback. It has opened my eyes to the sheer amount of writing blogs in existence, and I have benefited from every blog I’ve read and followed. It has made me realise, so clearly, that writers are all struggling toward the same goal and that we are all pulling for the same team, and that the success of one writer brings the rest of us up, just a fraction.

Go Team Go! Image: zazzle.com

Go Team Go!
Image: zazzle.com

This past year has, in so many ways, been the most satisfying and successful one of my life. I am hopeful, as I enter my second year of blogging, that this feeling of accomplishment will travel with me, and that I’ll soon have something concrete – in terms of my writing career – to show for all the work I’ve put in. No matter what the future holds, I wanted to say something to all of you who’ve been following my blog and who’ve told me that reading it has become part of your daily life: Thank You.

To all my wonderful friends, both ‘real life’ and ‘virtual’, who have supported me every step of the way, I am so grateful for your help and encouragement. To everyone who has read this blog, thank you. To everyone who has taken the time to comment and critique and help me on my way, thank you. To everyone who has contacted me to let me know how much they enjoy reading this blog, thank you. To my family (particularly my husband), thank you, and I love you.

Here’s to a second glorious year!

 

Image: bizetiquettes.com

Image: bizetiquettes.com

 

I’ll Get By, With a Little Help…*

Ah, friends. They’re great, aren’t they? Indispensable, one might say. No matter what’s going on in your life, good or bad, if you have solid and dependable friends, you just know things will be fine. You can rely on them to be interested in your life, to get in touch, to want to hang out, to care, goshdarnit. Friends are the best.

Unless you keep a blog, that is.

One of my best friends dropped out to visit me yesterday, and we had a lovely time. We spent hours laughing, talking, drinking tea, and sharing our life’s burdens. Everything was going wonderfully until she admitted that she’s addicted to my blog. A good thing, you might think? Perhaps not, gentle reader. Perhaps not. ‘That’s why I don’t ring you any more,’ she joked. ‘If I want to know what you’re doing, I just have a read of the blog and it gets me right up to date again.’

Well. Did you ever hear the like of that?

One is not amused. Image: patheos.com

One is not amused.
Image: patheos.com

I never anticipated this particular drawback to keeping a blog, I must admit. It’s easier to just summon up my words on a computer screen than it is to go to the trouble of making an actual telephone call – that’s undeniably true. So, in a way I can’t blame my friends for relying on the blog to keep themselves informed. However, it would be nice if they’d ring or text once in a while, just to say ‘Hey. How’re you doing?’ Is that really too much to ask, in this technology-saturated age in which we’re living?

Image: allposters.com

Image: allposters.com

Anyway. The only upside to the whole thing was that we started to talk about things we might not normally discuss, like politics, perception of women in society, music, and so on. The fact that she already knew all the minutiae of my life meant that we were free to get stuck into the deep stuff, so that was a bonus. But it sort of felt like a cup of tea without that extra squeeze of the teabag, or a piece of toast that’s only half-buttered; something wasn’t quite right. The foundations were missing. Don’t get me wrong – it was fun, and brilliant, like all my conversations with this particular friend. But – I don’t know. It just felt weird.

Among the things we did discuss though, this friend and I, was the ageless topic of ‘Where Are They Now?’ We named as many girls from our old class at school as we could think of, and tried to work out if we knew whether they were married, if they had children, what had become of them, and where they were now. We realised that while we’d done an excellent job of staying in touch with one another, and our own tight little group of mates, we’d lost touch with a lot of people, too. We amused ourselves by sharing anecdotes and memories from school, dredging up a lot of stuff I thought I’d forgotten. And – of course – as is almost inevitable these days, one of these dredging missions dragged up a story idea. If we’d been too busy talking about me, and what I’d been doing, we may never have managed to start sharing our school memories, and – logically enough – today, I would be idea-less. I have the blog to thank for that, and I am truly grateful.

It’s sometimes strange to think that there are people all over the world reading the words that I write here. Sometimes  – as happened recently – a relative will tell me that they follow the blog, and that they read it whenever they can, and I’ll immediately start to feel flattered but also slightly embarrassed. I’ll wonder if they liked what they read. I’ll wonder if they think what I write is worth reading, or if they just cast their eyes over it out of a sense of duty or family loyalty. It’s easy to sit here and type out into the void, but when I think about all the eyes that take in the words I throw out, it makes my head spin a bit. (Admittedly, that might be due to still being rather unwell. I’m not completely back to myself yet!)

The blog, of course, would be nothing without its readers. Whether you know me in real life and read these musings because you feel you should, or whether you wouldn’t know me from a hole in the wall in real life and read the blog because you like it, I’m thankful. And to all my real-life friends – thanks for the support and the encouragement, and rest assured I’m not hoping you’ll get in touch just so I can rummage through our conversations looking for things to write stories about.

Well, maybe a little bit.

Anyway. I’m off to start working on the idea my friend sparked off in my head yesterday. Let’s hope it goes places!

 

*Just in case it wasn’t immediately obvious, this entire blog post is intended to be tongue-in-cheek, and no insult, injury, upset or offence is intended. If you’re a friend of mine in real life, rest assured I love you.