Terri Guillemets once said: “If I fall asleep with a pen in my hand, don’t remove it – I might be writing in my dreams.” A beautiful quote indeed, which anyone who loves writing can appreciate. Of course, pens don’t have the capacity to cook a man’s balls in the same way that a white hot laptop can. So if you ever see me asleep and dribbling on myself, with a laptop whirring away on my lap (running in Microsoft’s ‘sterility mode’), please put it on standby. And maybe stroke my hair a while.
I’ve always enjoyed writing, ever since I was a little kid. Don’t believe me? Then you’ve obviously never read my finest works from Class 2 and 3: The Century Machine, The Giant Octopus and Typhoonigator . They’ll change your life.
Fast-forward ten and a bit years, and I still had the writing bug when I was a miserable 18-year-old civil servant. In fact, I once gave my colleagues Christmas cards that contained poetry and short stories instead of a “Merry Christmas” message. I wrote the short stories in fragments across various cards, so the excerpts only made sense if people found the missing parts of their story. It meant that my colleagues had to mingle with each other to work it all out. It also meant that everyone in the office got to read my stuff. It was meant to be ‘interesting’ and a bit different. Who knows, it might even have been something they remembered (for the rest of the afternoon, at least).
Of course, if I could travel back in time to 1992, I’d have to kick my 18-year-old self in the balls for being such a pretentious tit. In fact, the sheer force of the blow would probably tear my sack and a hole in the space-time continuum, as my two bodies meld together into a screaming mass of gloopy, misshapen matter. (And before any of the scientists among you baulk at the plausibility of that last sentence, just be aware that I’ve seen Timecop around five times now.)
But the point is this: whether it was my Christmas cards to colleagues, my wordy public notices to my hall mates at university (explained briefly in my Flashback post), or the angst-ridden journal entries I hammered out on my Canon Starwriter many moons ago, writing has just always been the thing I love to do. I’m by no means a great writer. But I’m marginally better than your average pleb. So it’s something I spend a lot of my spare time doing.
When I first decided to start a blog, I couldn’t wait to start writing. The thrill of people reading my stuff – strangers who weren’t biologically predisposed to love everything I do – was both scary and exciting all at the same time. The only problem with writing a blog is that my expectations were, and still are, unrealistically high. And I also wasn’t expecting blogging to make me as miserable as it occasionally does. But that’s what happens when you become obsessed with your blog’s stats – visitor numbers, length of visit, returning readers, number of sandwiches eaten during visit, popular posts, percentage of naked visits etc.
For instance, aside from a three month spike in visits from most of the world’s child pornographers and paedophiles – after I naively captioned a photo of Jodie Foster in Taxi Driver as “pre-teen prostitute Iris Steensma” – visitor numbers to my blog haven’t increased one jot in 14 months. (To put an end to the tide of human filth washing up on my blog, I later replaced Jodie Foster with a photo of Charles the six-week-old red squirrel, which killed my visitor numbers even further.)
Furthermore, all of the posts I really enjoyed writing (and thought people would enjoy reading) have the lowest number of hits. According to my blog stats, barely anyone has read the complaint letter I never sent to Tesco, or my open letter to robocalling finance companies, or my post about Monopoly rage. Bizarrely, the second most popular post on my blog is a quick one I wrote about going to the Job Centre on a Saturday.
Of course, it’s entirely possible that the posts I’ve mentioned above just aren’t very good. But it’s still disappointing after burning the midnight oil, furiously tapping away on my keyboard. Especially when I end up looking like a kitten’s been snap-punching me in the eyes repeatedly for 12 hours. And I’m so sleep deprived, I start to convince myself that maybe there was a kitten.
Another problem I have with blogging is that I spend a lot of time living inside my head. It’s a great place to be most of the time. There’s an adult ball pool (by which I mean it’s larger than a junior-sized facility – it’s not eight foot deep in Ben Wa balls), Laura Tobin brings me drinks and personal weather updates, and Kerry Katona and Katie Price are kept in cages, where passersby can bombard them with the hard knobbly bits from either end of their lunchtime baguettes (and the paparazzi are banned from covering it).
You see? It can be a wonderful place to be. But living in my head also has its downsides. Because the enduring word on the labyrinthian streets of my old noggin is that “blogging might lead to something great”. That’s right. According to my head, there’s a possibility that, one day, I might accidentally (and I stress accidentally ) write something amazing. And when I do, someone’s going to e-mail me and say: “Hey! We loved that amazing thing you wrote. You’re just the kind of bloggy writer person that we’ve been looking for.” (Later that day, I cure cancer and have to take out a restraining order against Laura Tobin. She just won’t leave me alone. It’s getting embarrassing.)
But here’s the thing – I’m 36 years old in September, and even my head is starting to acclimatise to a reality where time seems to be running out for me to achieve anything notable in my life. Blogging is starting to feel a bit like failure. I feel like the kind of bloke who takes go-carting really seriously because the dream of being a Formula 1 driver never quite got off the ground.
Having said all this, it’s probably too early to mothball this blog and disappear [even further] into obscurity. And for all my moaning, I do still enjoy writing it. But maybe I’ve got to start enjoying it a little bit more. And maybe I should just concentrate on the few loyal readers I do have, instead of obsessing over the great numbers of readers I’ll never have.
And maybe I should stop worrying that my life won’t come to anything, and think instead about the day when I can regale my children with tales of how “daddy used to write a blog”. Their fascination and proudness will be palpable. And then when they’re all grown up, I can suffer the double indignity of being told that, actually, they think my writing is shit, and that they’re done with constantly wiping down the seat on the Stannah Stairlift.
Why do I blog? I do it because I’m needy and insecure and have low confidence. But I also do it because I still love writing. And all this belongs to me.