‘Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.’ ― Anaïs Nin
A few years ago I started a novel with interweaving narratives of different women around the theme of reinvention. One of the characters wrote blog posts dispensing advice on the subject. Even after I finished the book, I continued writing entries in the voice of the blogger. I considered starting a real blog with these; the idea was tempting – a forum for sisterly advice.
After an endless inner dialogue going back and forth, I never quite drummed up the conviction to start a blog with this. The topics felt too personal, too revealing, with fiction being an easier channel for frankness more often than my own voice. I didn’t consider doing it under a pseudonym – I even dislike it when people don’t use their own photos on social media profiles – why hide?
I’ve been a diary writer since the age of 13. While I’ve thrown away everything written before I was 20 – all that teenage angst was too much to shoulder – I have been consistent about writing almost daily to myself for nearly 30 years. (That is what keeping a journal is – writing for an audience of one.) But my writing there could be messy and long-winded, its purpose to process my mental repository of random musings, venting and replays.
A friend in publishing said if I wanted to be a writer today, I had to have a blog. I rejected this fundamentally – my favourite authors are not bloggers, nor did they start out as one. However, the idea of having a blog still intrigued me, sisterly advice forum or not. I saw it as something separate from the writing I was already doing. A blog would be an evolving project, not a completed piece of fiction or a dumping ground for my brain.
I liked that I could blog about anything. At the same time, I didn’t have any one theme that I wanted to explore. The blogs I read are specific in their focus, whether that’s books, minimalism or travelling around the world.
I am curious about so many things. All my life I have been a voracious reader and a film lover. My professional background is primarily in film production, although I have also worked in book editing and proofreading. I listen to a wide range of podcasts, inhaling analyses, information and ideas. I save excerpts and quotes that give me food for thought. I love sharing what I know about natural skincare or working out. I am also constantly scrutinising human behaviour, forever captivated by why we do what we do. I didn’t know what any of these had in common.
It was a few weeks before I was moving out of London that I went to visit my friend Graham at his art studio in Shoreditch. I came home and wrote about it in my diary. It was then that I decided: I will blog about everything that moves me. The framework that felt the most natural was ‘telling stories’, and I made it my tagline.
I am not someone who jumps onto the Next Big Thing on the first, second or even third wave. I’m equally cautious about technology; I research a great deal before trying something new. I didn’t know what setting up and maintaining a blog would entail. For once, however, instead of trying to figure it all out beforehand, I decided to simply jump in.
I registered my domain name, downloaded WordPress and tinkered for an hour with the layout. I took the passage about Graham from my diary, expanded it and it became my first post. I told myself I could stop if blogging turned from fun to tedious. It could evolve to become something I can’t imagine now and that too would be all right. Despite being the type of person my friends charitably label as ‘thorough’ and ‘discerning’, I really did let go, and let it be.
And, much to my surprise, it’s taken on a life of its own. It’s still early days yet – not even a year – and I won’t try to define it before probably a few more years down the line, if I’m still active on it then. Yet it’s become so much a part of what I do now that to stop would leave a blog-shaped hole in my life.
A number of people have recently asked me about my experience. I always say that it’s definitely been worth my energy. No, it doesn’t generate any income, and it can suck up a crazy amount of time (depending on how particular we are) but it’s such fun, really such joy.
I am not someone who believes in making myself into a brand. I’m actually rather disdainful of this idea (I spent a year working in advertising; that will kill any notion of how cool branding is). I don’t want to be defined by any one thing. I don’t want to write only one kind of book. I don’t even want to limit my output to writing. At the same time, this blog is very much me. As with writing a book that I want to read, I’m doing my best to create a blog to which I’d like to subscribe: a collection of articulated thoughts, inspirational stories and practical advice.
I post about once a week, as that’s the rate I like reading other people. I skip a week rather than post for the sake of posting. Some posts are written in a few hours, while others I start as soon as the last one goes live. Most are in between. I write, then edit, edit, edit, and hone, hone, hone.
Even though I have been writing regularly for decades, this practice has refined my skills. It’s prompted me to think through concepts more cogently. Training myself to be disciplined and lucid, especially in the absence of an editor checking my work or reminding me of deadlines, reinforces my drive and desire to write.
I’m still not terribly savvy on the techie side of it (I toss and turn at night over child themes). Certainly for the first few months, every day was like climbing a mountain. Even now, I’m climbing hills. Thanks to some how-to books, I’ve covered the basics on widgets, plugins and permalinks. I also remind myself to periodically check in with Google Analytics, which tells me things like the majority of my readers are in the US (hello, America!).
The rewards of writing this blog have been unexpected and far-reaching, even in this short time. My favourite London publishers have sent books for me to review (something I haven’t yet done). I’ve been asked to contribute to newspapers. I’ve been offered jobs. I’ve made real-life friends through it, one of whom I can’t imagine not having around, yet we wouldn’t have struck up our easy friendship if we hadn’t first met here.
Perhaps, most of all, in our ever-increasing cogs-in-a-wheel world, this site is something I’ve done myself. And that sense of personal accomplishment – minor though it is in the bigger scheme of things – is gratifying.
Sometimes I look at the ever-expanding piles of books I want to read or the films I want to watch, and I feel a little overwhelmed. Starting a blog may feel similar. Not just in terms of what’s already on our plates but also of creating yet one more thing vying for the attention of over-extended, weary souls everywhere. There are millions of blogs already. Is there room for more? Yes, there is. If you’re considering starting a blog, please jump in. It’s lovely here.
‘Throw your dreams into space like a kite, and you do not know what it will bring back, a new life, a new friend, a new love, a new country.’ ― Anaïs Nin
A Nigerian woman goes to study in the US and starts a blog, ‘Raceteenth or Various Observations About American Blacks (Those Formerly Known as Negroes) by a Non-American Black’. Read Americanah, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie for an expansive probe into identity, home and life in Nigeria.
Enter the loopy world of writer Charlie Kaufman and director Spike Jonze, and watch Adaptation, about twin screenwriters struggling to adapt a book. It stars the ever watchable Meryl Streep, Tilda Swinton and Chris Cooper, with Nicholas Cage as the twins – one of whom is called Charlie Kaufman.
‘Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look?’ Originally released only as a single, listen to the Beatles sing Paperback Writer on the 1962-1966 Red Album compilation.