Month: July 2015

Blog Writing

The problem with starting a new blog or, more accurately, continuing to write articles that you began posting to son No.2’s little podcast type blog, and have now switched to your own decidedly green, awesomely pretty and awesomely free blog; that comes with a sunflower thing (in my case) which, rather annoyingly, appears to have a mind of its own, taking centre stage however far down the article you scroll – is the difficulty encountered when trying to think up new stuff to write about.

(That opening paragraph is one way of filling up dead space.)

Admittedly this is not such a major problem when your blog is the “blog that no-one reads”, which is the new subtitle I’m thinking of going with.  The current one mentions the word ‘corner’, which I’ve since discovered is a much overused word out there in the world of the internet blogger, or the blogosphere, the term used many moons ago for those who live under the blogging dome.

You would think that bunging a few words down on paper……. wait that’s very old school…….that banging out a few words on the keyboard and sending them out into the internet ether would be a doddle – but it isn’t; more specifically, it isn’t if you’re me.  This is because you would find yourself (if you were me that is) reading over something you wrote a second earlier and thinking:  “what kind of a moron thought that was a good idea?   Ok, looks like I did apparently, so I’d better hit the delete button and spend a tortuous 5 minutes trying to think of a better one (idea).”   And on and on it goes, until it’s suddenly lunch time and the washing up from the night before is now staring you sullenly in the face.

There are approximately 164 million blogs contained within the ready to burst blogosphere, a good many of which give you tips on how to create a successful blog.  Since these blogs get a lot of hits; or traffic, in blog-speak – like we’re all trundling around the internet highway in cute little cars (mine’s a little red mini) parking up every so often at our favourite place (which is rarely Mr or Mrs’s boring old blog)  –  it would seem that Tip No.1 should actually be, to always include a post on how to get blog hits.

Strangely this isn’t Tip No.1, which is almost always CONTENT.

wordpress post

Post rip-roaringly entertaining content the successful blogger will shout at you from his* rarefied position at the top of the blogosphere.  And make sure stuff like grammar and spelling is present and correct, because no-one likes to read rubbishy writing do they?   Oh but they do Mr Expert Blogger, you will mutter (if you’re me).

One of the astoundingly, massively successful UK blogs belongs to Zoella, a lovely and engaging 24 year old who writes/vlogs about fashion, beauty and, occasionally, mental health issues, of the panic attack/anxiety kind.  Zoella’s post from Christmas 2014 begins:

“I can’t believe that it is actually December!”

Despite the fact that December comes around every year, without fail, Zoella appears to have been completely taken by surprise that December decided to show up again.  Zoella is an inspiration (and a good one too) to millions of young teen girls, thousands of whom are blogging right now in homage to her style, but nobody over the age of roughly 16 would ever accuse Zoella (aka Miss Zoe Sugg) of writing stunning CONTENT, or have even heard of her actually (and she’s got like 7 million followers or something), so it was remarkable indeed when Miss Sugg published a hugely successful first novel in 2014 called ‘Girl Online’, which instantly made the bestseller lists thanks to her rabidly loyal teen following.   Online furore soon followed, however, when it was revealed that the book had been ghostwritten by a blogging author and editorial consultant – one Siobhan Curham.

And so Tip No.1 bites the dust.  Turns out fantastic CONTENT will get you absolutely nowhere, unless you’re young and attractive (which cuts out most of the rest of the blogosphere) and you get somebody who can write to do the writing for you.

I now have admin access to Jetpack on my WordPress (the blogger’s favourite) blog.  Should I ever need pulling down a peg or two (which I never do, having a limitless capacity to pull myself down a couple of pegs), or be snapped out of the illusion that life is actually going quite well for a change, I need only log in to the ‘stats’ page of my cherished blog and new favourite hobby. Here I will be met by the barren desert that is the bar chart recording my daily post views.  As the wind whistles around this empty virtual cavern and the cobwebs build up in those infamous internet corners, I find myself recalling the fact that most bloggers give up after 3 pathetic months.

“Don’t give up”, will be Mr Expert Blogger’s rallying cry. “Write for your friends and your mother! “  will be Tip No. 2.  This sounds lovely in theory until you decide to hit your friends (your mother is already on board) with the earth shattering news (to you) that you have been writing blog posts for quite some time and would they be at all interested in reading them?  And this is where Tip No. 2  flounders.

Your friends will reply that they’re much too busy to devote the 5 minutes necessary to checking out your hugely unimportant blog, with the implication that only people who ‘stay at home’ have the time for such frivolous past times. ( That’s the nice thing about writing a blog actually, it’s perfect for those of us who don’t like getting out much.)  You will note however, in a tiny corner of your mind where you generally go to sulk, that all this busy-ness doesn’t stop your friends spending inordinate amounts of time on Facebook and in trawling the net for cute animal videos.

Having realised that your friends, and most of your family, have zero interest in what you have to say (and why should they for bloggin’ sake) – you cling on to the last hope, tip-wise, for your average, out in the cold blogger:   Social Media.

social-media-signs

Social Media – what a godsend.  A potential, captive audience just floating about on Facebook, Tumblr and Twitter.  Except I only have 20 friends on Facebook, which is already looking like far too many, judging by the state of my newsfeed. (How do the popular people with a gazillion friends cope?)  Lovely way to keep up with family, my friend said when she urged me to sign up a year ago, which would be true if my family ever posted anything, which they don’t.  Instead I rattle through posts that appear from people I’ve never heard of, or have the slightest interest in, because one of my friends ‘liked’ something or made a comment.  And it’s looking like Facebook users aren’t getting any hits either, judging by the plethora of pessimistic posts challenging the reader to reply, just to prove that he/she is actually your friend.  I feel this behaviour justifies an exclamation point – What!  Or WTF!!  as my eldest would say.

No, Social Media is as barren a desert as my wonderful Jetpack Stats page – and I’m not on Twitter.

So, why write a blog?   Particularly when you’ve come to blogging so very late in the game.  Because you like writing, that’s why.  Because you’ve spent your whole life putting pen to paper in one way, shape or form; and it turns out the writing habit is a difficult one to break.

It also turns out that blog writing is kind of like Zen and the Art of Blog Writing Maintenance.  From time to time I’m to be found staring at a tattered lampshade in the corner, or at my slippered feet, or simply out the window in an effort to bring post writing inspiration to mind.  This staring off into the distance can go on for quite some time, usually resulting in nothing more than the desire to get a nice cup of tea and maybe a biscuit.  But it also induces a kind of transcendental, blog-induced meditation, which must be good for the soul don’t you think?

Let’s leave the matter of blog writing in the rather harsh hands of one Colin.LA, who posted his definition of the blogosphere to the Urban Dictionary in 2006:

“Imagine a million lunatics wandering the streets mumbling to themselves.  Write it all down and put it on the web.  Congratulations, you’ve just created the blogosphere.”

It made me laugh.

 

* fyi to anyone who’s bothered by that sort of thing – the generic ‘his’ is used only as a means to avoid typing his/her all the time

 

Why I won’t be answering the Call of the Wild

During my meanderings around the internet ether the other day I came across the name George Monbiot.  He’s a leading environmentalist.  Mr Monbiot published an article late 2014 on BBC.com, in which he extols the virtues of getting back to Nature (capital N)  http://www.bbc.com/earth/bespoke/story/20141203-back-to-nature/index.html

Mr Monbiot believes we are now all too linear in outlook when it comes to life, the universe and everything.  This one-way attitude means we teach young children (who are not linear) to walk, for example, in straight lines on the pavement, when all they want to do is wander about all over the place, as an animal does in the wild.  We should all behave like those young children when it comes to Nature, he argues; perhaps forgetting that not sticking to the pavement usually results in a probable car-related death.

Let’s go back in time a bit.  Your average life expectancy in the Palaeolithic period was 35.4 years for men and 30 years for women.  Time travel to the Middle Ages and average life expectancy had actually dropped to 31.3 years (men).  Rush headlong into the Regency period and it’s 40 years, rising to 48 if you happened to be a Victorian.   In 2015 we’re at 85 years for men and 87 for women.   How did this extension in life expectancy come about?   Well, unlike Mr Monbiot, mankind decided, one particularly gloomy and rather drizzly day, that Nature isn’t all it’s cracked up to be – and got the hell out.

The environmentalists, naturists, ecologists, gaiaists (Earth worshippers) all advocate a return to Nature, citing the fact that civilisation has trapped us within a Matrix-like  existence that is completely separate from the exciting, life-enhancing and rather spiritual world that is Nature – untamed.  ‘Civilisation is BORING’, is the strident claim of Mr Monbiot.  He advocates a thrilling and unplanned meeting with a wild bison as just the thing, should you ever visit Poland and go on an otherwise boring (i.e. safe) woodland trek.  Better still is to hurl yourself into the Welsh sea upon a 9 foot swell, perched on nothing but a tiny kayak, and then find yourself stranded out there whilst a shark fin circles in a predatory fashion.   These wild experiences, Monbiot promises, will fill us with exaltation and an unspecified primordial yearning (presumably for death.)

But that’s the human race for you isn’t it?  Never satisfied.   Just as we get to the stage where we don’t have to wave goodbye to planet earth prematurely, the Nature lovers decide that all the hard won benefits of civilisation – the little things like antibiotics, vaccination, farming, nice warm houses instead of cold, damp caves, are an affront to the planet – that mankind is a kind of systemic virus that needs to be eradicated – ASAP.

The problem with all that nature loving mumbo-jumbo is that they leave out one important fact….yes, we need to care like mad about the planet, but the planet doesn’t give a damn about us.

Right now there’s a giant volcano, masquerading as an American national park, just waiting to blow us all to kingdom come.  The oceans, every so often, like to throw the occasional tsunami at us.  The volcanoes in Iceland like nothing better than to spew up tons of volcanic ash and ruin that transatlantic holiday.   Floods, wildfires, avalanches and earthquakes – the earth has some great shock and awe weaponry in its human-hating arsenal, and that’s without adding the humans, who hate the other humans, into the mix.

Remember childhood walks in the country where a stinging nettle rash and a case of third degree sun burn featured heavily?  Trips to the seaside fraught with the danger of jellyfish/sea urchin/Portuguese man-of-war stings, not to mention accidentally imbibing several litres of filthy ocean.  And then there’s the outdoor picnics, in fields filled with killer wasps and acres of animal excrement.

What’s the first thing adventurer Bear Grylls does when he finds himself out there with mother nature – extricate himself as quickly as possible, that’s what.  Bear knows that your average natural environment is where the wild things are – and they don’t care whether you’re a meat eater or a vegan, they’ll take a bite out of you just the same; if the freezing cold/boiling hot temperatures don’t get you first that is.

Your average suburban garden would as soon kill you as look at you.  The Legionella longbeachae bacteria likes hanging around in soil and compost before relocating to its new home – your lungs.  Ditto the water borne Legionella pneumonophilia (Legionnaire’s disease.)  A myriad spores, bacteria and fungi are just waiting for you to breathe them in and wreak havoc on your respiratory system.  Tetanus can’t wait to jump into that open wound.  Those rats urinating all over your herbaceous border are teeming with Weil’s disease and the sap and hairs in your pretty hanging baskets can cause blistering, rashes and nasty burns.

Never mind lions, tigers and bears, Oh My!  –  it’s your average household pet you should be looking out for.  Their weapons of choice being rabies, toxoplasmosis, tapeworm, ringworm, hookworm, roundworm – they’ve pretty much cornered the market where evil worms are concerned.

Charles Darwin hit the nail on the head when he observed the “clumsy, wasteful, blundering low, and horribly cruel works of nature.”  Mr Monbiot is welcome to go back to Nature – I quite like living in the civilised world.