Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Choices.

Blogs are dropping away fast lately. Letters from a Tory penned his final missive a few weeks back, Henry North London vanished altogether and others have shut down too. Some left with a goodbye, others simply stopped.

Now, Constantly Furious is calling it a day. His reason is that it's getting too much like work. Unpaid work, at that. As he says, when you find yourself reading the news not for news, but for blog post material, and you feel obliged to do it every day, then it's not fun any more. It's an obsession.

Man Widdicombe has real-life issues that might cause him to leave the blog world. I hope those problems can be resolved but if they are business related, it won't be easy. We're all on a knife-edge now. When it comes to business contacts, we small businessmen are expendable in favour of major clients and service providers. I know, if the companies I work for had to choose, they'd keep their contacts with the big labs and drop me like a shot. I can undercut the big boys because I have no staff and no admin to pay for but even so, they have permanent and large resources.

I am not in a secure position and I know it - so I'm extraordinarily careful not to screw it up. Then again, if the guys up the chain make cuts, I know I'll be high up the list and I can't control that.

So I have another career building. Fiction writing. Lots of short stories out there, a couple of novels ready to sell - but that's not a quick transition. Publishing is not a speedy business. That's why I've already started, long before the transition becomes remotely necessary. But I digress.

Several of those in the sidebar have shut down for personal reasons from time to time. Sometimes to concentrate on just surviving the mess this country is in, sometimes because of real-world issues related to their blogging activities and sometimes because they just don't want to do it any more. Some come back. Others don't. Some come back in a different skin. Some just... stop.

When Labour were busy setting up their 'LabourLast' blogging platform, they did something no blogger ever does. They costed it. They assigned a budget. They demanded to be paid for their blogging time. They did this with other centrally-controlled blogs too.

Blogging costs nothing but a little time, but it's time you aren't paid for. I have enough invoices out at the moment that my tension meter is 'low' but it's not always like that. Sometimes I run my finances very close to the wire, sometimes I'm owed wads of back-invoices and with one company I no longer do business with, I frequently had to threaten to set a rabid lawyer on them in order to get their administration to pass payment on work I'd done months previously.

When I first started I did a little work for a company that never did pay up. The amount wasn't worth chasing, I simply ignored further contact from that company because they asked for more work without mentioning the payment they'd contracted me for. Fool me once, that's the only chance you get. Now I'll do a small job for a new company to test their payment policy. Take the results, ignore me, and that is all you get. For a first time, I write the report when I'm paid. For subsequent times, I send the report with the invoice. Don't like it, find someone else with my prices who is happy to work weekends and into the night if necessary. Good luck with that.

I'm not paid at all for blogging. Not even by the tobacco industry - although if they want to pay me, I'll accept it and put their logos on the blog. It's not going to happen. ASH accuse everyone who opposes the smoking ban of being in the pay of Big Tobacco. If everyone who opposed the ban were in the pay of Big Tobacco, the tobacco companies would have a bank account redder than Labour's. But hey, tobacco companies, I'm open for business. Want a writer? How about a ghostwriter for someone who has no traceable connection to you? ASH don't play fair, I see no need to.

I write all the time. I write reports. I write articles. Just sent one to an online magazine I've been writing for since 2003. I operate two other blogs and moderate on a writer's site. All with different names and personalities. One of those fictional personalities once wrote a non-fiction book for a laugh. Just a little one. I put it on Lulu.com and forgot about it until the first royalties came in. Only five dollars (I'd set it at about 30 cents per book because it was only there for a laugh) but it annoyed the hell out of me. Someone I made up has sold more books than me! Even better, a commenter on that persona's blog mentioned that someone on Ebay was selling pirated copies of the book. I actually had to complain to Ebay - as that fictional character - to stop sales of a pirated non-fiction book written by someone who doesn't exist!

Dammit, I invented someone who's better at writing than I am. And you think your life is weird.

Writing doesn't take much of my time because I've become very fast at it. I don't mind writing taking up time because I enjoy it. I don't like statistics but I have a program that takes care of the hard stuff as long as I get the numbers in the right order, and it's a necessary evil in my work. Once it's done, working out what it all means is great fun. As is doing the experiment in the first place and writing the report afterwards. I'm lucky, I know. I do a job I absolutely love doing. That's because I went self-employed and only do what I want to do. I don't need a Lexus, a mansion or a yacht, just enough to cover the bills (plus, at the moment, some extra cash for a greenhouse) so I'm not driven by money. I doubt anyone in any of the main political parties will ever grasp what that's like. Sometimes, you know, I just stop and watch the world go by. Most of it seems to be in a hell of a hurry but with no specific direction in mind.

Okay, sometimes a lot of deadlines arrive at once and it gets intense (6 am finish on Monday morning - ouch) but it's still fun. When work is slow I can write fiction, and that is a great relaxation from real work because I can just make it all up. I've written imaginary tales of terror that have far more credibility than anything ASH have ever produced. One, called 'Telephone Pest', actually had a lot of complaints from people who were scared to answer the phone in case there was nobody there, and they'd die. I wrote that six months before the big real-life scare in some African country along the same lines. I like to think it was connected. It probably wasn't but I still like to think so.

So I won't be fading away for real life issues or for writing fatigue because writing is what I do. I do it because I like it. Sometimes I won't have time to fill a lot of space here but other times, like tonight when all deadlines are done, I'll write something that you might or might not agree with, might or might not care about, but the truth is, I'm not doing it for you. I'm doing it for me. I'm doing it to bleed the excess verbiage from my head before it bursts. Blogging, for me, is like leech treatment for high blood pressure. It gets rid of the excess and lets the remainder flow more easily.

I can understand why those whose first passion is not words can get tired, bored, drained by the pressure of entertaining blog readers. I can understand how it can feel like work because it is work. It's not relaxation. That's a chair and table on the patio, a bottle of the Ardbeg and a glass. Guess what I'm doing in my head at that time? I'm making up stories. I'm writing. For me, that's work but not labour. I can make money at it so it's work but it's not something I have to do whether I like it or not so it's not labour. I think D. H. Lawrence wrote a poem about this difference between work and labour. Prescient, it seems. Maybe it was another poet. It was on the back of the Mott the Hoople 'Mott' album cover I think, but I don't have that any more. It had 'Hymn for the Dudes' and 'The Ballad of Mott the Hoople' so I'll have to get a CD.

I can see why real life can get in the way of writing on a blog. For me, real life is writing and even so, sometimes the blog has to take a back seat. For others, real life is something different and keeping up a blog can become a chore. Even an obsession. Constantly Furious wrote of the pressure of setting up automatic blog posts while on holiday. I don't do that. If I'm away and have internet access, I'll use it. If I don't have access, I am mercifully silent. I think you all appreciate those days when you can say 'Oh, thank God, he's shut up for a while'.

For some, writing is, or can become, a chore. Obo enjoys driving. I hate driving. I'd much rather be on a bus, looking out of the side windows at the world, than be in control of a chunk of speeding steel and have to concentrate on the road ahead. It's partly a relative size thing. I feel safe in a ferry but scared in a rowing boat. If I'm halfway down the bus and it hits something, that has to be better than being at the front. Others like football, which I find dull, many enjoy EastEnders and the like, which I find infuriatingly pointless. Some people feel that way about writing - it's something that needs to be done but they don't always feel like doing it. Everyone is different. Try telling the NHS that and see how far you get.

Those bloggers might come back to blogging, they might not. It's an individual thing. Like smoking. Or drinking. Or salt/fat/fast food preferences. Some of us will write until we die, some will take it up and drop it later, some will never bother. We are all different.

And that, at long last, is the point. I am not you and you are not me. There is no standard human, no manual for human life, no standard operating procedure. No targets can be set for the living of a life because every one is different. Every one of us lives as we see fit, or should. Every one of us takes delight in some things and despises other things. We all take up hobbies only to find they aren't that interesting after all, and drop them. Some stick, some fall by the wayside. What I adore, you might hate and vice versa.

So let those bloggers go if that is what their preferences are. If they miss blogging, they'll come back. If they don't, they won't. Should we legislate to force blogging on those who don't want to, or to ban blogging for those who don't like it? We've done it with just about everything else and it hasn't stopped yet. Crossbows and dog ownership are in the sights. Ban them if you want. The pencil is still mightier than the sword and Tesco will sell me 30 for a pound. Banning weapons is irrelevant and doesn't work anyway. Guns and knives are banned, therefore there is no gun and knife crime, right? No heroin or cocaine either. Legislation is of no relevance without proper enforcement.

There is massive enforcement of the smoking ban and no effective enforcement of the gun ban. Children can get guns easier than they can get cigarettes. What does that tell you of our current government and its priorities? But that's a different post.

For now, I ask you to consider not what you have in common with everyone else, but where you differ. Then ask yourself why it matters so much that your neighbor likes beer and you like lager. It doesn't really affect you, does it? It doesn't affect you if your neighbour smokes or drinks or eats lard sandwiches or likes every morsel of food with five morsels of salt. They are different, yes.

So are you.

Blog or don't blog. Smoke or don't smoke. Eat fat or don't. Add salt or don't. Drink or be teatotal.

It's your choice. All of it. Your government want to take all choice from you. Not just the guy next door. You too.

Do you really want this?

18 comments:

Corrugated Soundbite said...

Re work: I tried the freelance thing not too long ago (software development) and had the piss taken out of me more than once. I still get emails asking if I can "add a widget" or alter a few database columns with no mention of payment. Jobs that'd take an hour, but seemingly without any kind of compensation for the 3 years I spent learning how to do it all (and learning it all in my spare time, I might add).

I'm packing that game up altogether. I've always enjoyed making things, so if the crash comes and we end up with a localised, trade-based economy, I'll be waiting with my (by then) newly developed carpentry skills.

Do you have anything that could be packaged into a smaller PDF ebook for a small but additional income stream? I'm strongly considering it. There's still a market out there. It's just not here. I'm not a writer per se but I do killer diagrams. Hence my decision to earn a bit of side income with the whole ebook thing whilst the opportunity lasts.

Oh, and sadly, I'm still blogging. Pity about the others though.

TheFatBigot said...

I suspect a lot of political bloggers only started in order to vent their spleen over the infuriating incompetence of Dr James Gordon Brown and his odious henchmen.

When you add those who felt the need to tell a few home truths about the problems associated with borrowing more money than you can afford to repay, you get a big splurge of new bloggers in just a couple of years.

For all the faults we might find with the coalition, they are not Brown and they are not quite as profligate as their pedecessors. Much of the reason for the rise of certain blogs has now departed.

That is not to say that they will remain silent when new problems emerge, but at least for a few months (I suspect up to two years, time will tell) they will be waiting and seeing.

It's always a shame when good and entertaining writers put down their pens, more often than not they take them up again because writing is a drug. It gives self-satisfaction, it releases a tale one feels the need to tell and it is hugely thrilling to know that others enjoy it too.

If they remain silent we must just do a Bob Hope and sing "thanks for the memory".

almighty said...

the slant you guys put on the news is always an interesting read. but when i try relating that to people who do not read but are interested i find that they mainly dont care and seem happy to let life slip by as if on a tv screen.
but please keep blogging as it breaks up the monotony of work :)

JuliaM said...

"I can understand how it can feel like work because it is work. It's not relaxation."

Oh, I don't know. I always find it rather cathartic.

I imagine it prevents me from going on a kill-spree :D

Graeme said...

You'll note that I've been a bit quiet for a while (perhaps the pieces no longer fit? :P) - I'm not so much lacking in inspiration as motivation. I think there were so many things I read/saw that made me furious that I have a dose of anger fatigue! That & the day-to-day getting in the way.

I should probably set up a separate blog for this sort of stuff, as there's a little too much personal stuff on that one - but it's held as friends-only, for the most part.

At some point I'll post some more, but for now I'm having a rest, and hoping that we actually get a summer, and that I can get outside to enjoy some of it.

Amusingly, given that much of my recent ranting was about politics & corruption therein, the word verification for this is "cunsts".

Graeme said...

Having said all that, I've just seen this, which has just boiled my piss.

There may be a rant on this later (and yes, I have noticed that they're starting on the drinkers now, having nobbled the smokers)

Scan said...

I agree with TheFatBigot; I think everyone's just so relieved to be shot of the tyranny that's besieged us for 13 years that they're having a well deserved rest.

I used to write constantly, although not no a public blog, but since the election I've not really had anything that's boiled my piss and led me to a cathartic rant at utter bastards.

I'm sure in a couple of years the types of blogs you enjoy reading will emerge in a different guise, venting their spleen over the same shit as the last 13 years.

Just think of it as one of those "back in 10 minutes" signs on shop doors.

Dioclese said...

I've noticed that since the election was over, the blogging activity has died down and I suppose that was inevitable.

I write because things drive me up the wall and it does me good to let off steam - suppose I'm a sort of closet CF really, although he does it better than me.

You can't really let it take over your life. I have a big trip to the other side of the world planned for later in the year and I have no intention of logging on from God knows where just to update the blog.

There's plenty coming up to get furious about - the budget for a start. I've already drafted a couple of posts on VAT and CGT.(Sorry - used to be an accountant)

I'll do my best to keep flying the flag (no pun intended) because apart from anything else it relieves my bloud pressure (even though it drives my wife nuts so I have to do it after she's gone to bed!). Blogging at least gives an outlet for the things that they won't print in the papers.

Illegitimi non carborundum = Don't let the bastards grind you down.

Dioclese said...

P.S. Feel free to add me to your blog roll. You're on mine ;-)

Anonymous said...

I wonder if I'm in the majority or minority in working all my life at something I really did not like.
Now, approaching pension age (not that there will be any money in the pot) I still wonder what I'd like to be when I grow up.
Good luck with the writing. One of my passions is reading and believe me with the millions of books available there's plenty of room left (mainly because so many of them are crap).

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Amusing Bunni said...

L-I; I blog the same way you do. When I have something to write I write it, in real time. I don't advance date posts. Sometimes I do 2 posts a week, sometimes more. It depends on the news.

When it becomes a chore, a person should step back.
People who are compelled to do 1 or even more posts A DAY are on a treadmill. I also don't monatize my blog. For the tiny bit of money it would make, it would be annoying.

I do politics, but I intersperse it with funny (hopefully) stuff, video's and animal related themes.
People get bored if it's politics all the time, they can pull up Drudge report or something for that.

I think I"ll keep my blog going for a long time, even if I'm silent for stretches. I like to read other's blogs and comment.

Good luck to you in your fiction writing.
You're a great writer, so things should go well.

David Davis said...

Keep buggering on old man. I read you every day.

Leg-iron said...

I think the comments are pretty much right. Since the Brown Gorgon left centre stage, there have not been the daily doses of insanity to rage about.

It's like trying to produce a follow-up to the Carry On series with none of the original cast. The final Carry On Legislating film's cast list have gone.

Hattie Jacques no longer plays deputy Prime Monster. Sylvia Sim and Sid James no longer play the Home Secretary and the porn-film husband. Bernard Bresslaw no longer plays Education Secretary, Charles Hawtrey is no longer Foreign Secretary, and Kenneth Williams in no longer the One Lord to Rule them All.

The new lot aren't so much fun. Yet.

Just give them time to settle in.

Leg-iron said...

Megaan - in another incarnation, I get a lot of comments like that, worded just like that. You have a good resource developing in your blog. You don't need to spam it.

Just comment, and we'll find you.

Anonymous said...

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Keep up the good work.

rinky stingpiece said...

As has been alluded to...

It seems pretty obvious to me that the majority of the UK blogosphere phenomenon was a response to the 13 years of hell of New Labour coinciding with the Information Revolution.

It also seems pretty obvious to me that now that Labour is down, out, and not looking like returning for a long time (despite their number of MPs), that the UK blogosphere has come to a natural endpoint in its narrative.

...the cigarette moment, if you will.

Obviously the economic legacy of the New Labour regime is also taking it's toll for some as well.
I think the main thing sustaining the remnants is the uncertainty that the beast may rise again.

I predict that the coming months will see a drastic thinning of the "right wing" blogosphere for these sorts of reasons: people having less to rail against; and more to deal with in meatspace.

It's a Darwinian moment: a mass extinction. Those few that survive, will be ones whose content is founded on specialist expertise and does not rely on a diet of stickin' it to the man.

Added to that, some new, up until now sidelined, but better adapted "species" of blogs will rise up to fill the void left by extinct dinosaurs of the anti-New-Labour paradigm.

It's not a criticism; just an observation. Change is inevitable; and this is a tectonic shift. So you just have to decide whether there is a space in the "ecosystem" that you can inhabit. Several of you appear to be retiring after a good innings, content with the end of New Labour as a result for your labours.

I've sewn the seed of a blog myself; and it is a different species of blog to those that have plodded the internet over the last decade. Whether I'll nurture it and allow it to run wild, remains to be seen. I don't think blogs can carry on as they were; the time has come for a step change and evolution of the ranty blog into something new.

rinky stingpiece said...

(sorry "sown" not "sewn" arrgh! [...reaches for blunderbuss])

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