I was brought up on the saying, an apple a day keeps the doctor away. This was something my mother took very seriously; she subscribed to a magazine called Family Doctor and followed its strictures to the letter. Looking back I think she must have been a very insecure parent, needing external sources of authority to teach her what to do, and The Family Doctor Magazine was published by the BMA – you can’t get more authoritative than that, can you? Here’s an account of its beginning with stern strictures on adopting ‘fads’ such as vegetarianism. Oh dear.
I don’t think an apple a day is a bad maxim but I don’t always subscribe to the view that doctors know best. The medical profession is prone to human error as any other group of people; in my youth it was largely male and liable to ascribe any female complaint to ‘hysteria’ or the absence of children, and nowadays its findings are likely to be swayed by the influence of market forces. But all this is by the by: my central question today is, how often should a blogger post? Brian has been much occupied with this question; I have noted that during lockdown his posts have been less frequent and today he ponders the question of how often it would be right for him to post. I can’t answer that; but perhaps it would help to reflect on my own process.
I started this blog in order to help my writing. The gap between writing and publishing can often seem vast, but with a blog post it’s immediate: the thrill of hitting the ‘publish’ button is instant. At the start I had very few readers; I still don’t have that many but it’s growing, and I think regular posting is the key to that. You don’t have to write great long screeds every day – in fact it’s much better not to – blogging is like jogging; little and often is much more effective than lots seldom (that doesn’t sound quite right but I can’t think how else to express it.)
Secondly, I post about what interests me. If I’m not engaged in the subject, how can I expect to engage my readers? At first I limited the blog to all things literary, but little by little it broadened out and now covers politics, culture, philosophy, travel (in better times) and anything else that grabs my attention – as well as covering its brief which is to talk about a writer’s life.
In the beginning I worried about upsetting people. That doesn’t seem to have materialised, but perhaps I should have worried more about people upsetting me: I’ve had two or three readers either trolling or being very rude and rather than ‘giving them a chance’ I should have blocked them immediately. Since the last one a couple of years ago I’ve not had any more, so fingers crossed…
How often do I post? I committed myself to blogging every day and I nearly always find something to write about. This is a discipline like writing anything else; if you wait for inspiration to strike you can wait a long time, but if you start writing the ideas begin to flow. There are occasional days when I’m stuck, and then I just reblog an old post of mine (‘this time ten years ago…’) or someone else’s. I don’t blog at the weekend and I take breaks at Christmas and in August when I schedule some golden oldies for reblogging. Of course, what works for me may not work for anyone else, but I find regular posting with breaks is the way to go.
Blogging is part of my daily routine: like Brian I start the day bang on 7 o’clock with tea in bed where I write my diary and begin the Guardian crossword as well as hanging out with OH. After half an hour of meditation and yoga I get to my desk around 8.45 where I finish the crossword and then write a blog post. Then I turn to the day’s work; this can be poetry or prose or merely sitting and reflecting with a pen in my hand. I have a short break for tea around 10.30 when I read emails and check the news, then it’s back to work until around 12.30. Unless the weather is awful I’ll go for a walk before lunch, then back to work till around 4.30 or 5. Afternoons begin with a blast on the Guardian quick crossword and then it’s tidying up the morning’s work before an hour or so working on my voice and practising poems for performance. I’ll usually finish the day with 20 minutes on the piano keyboard, then go down and watch the news before dinner. Evenings are largely devoted to TV; we’ve finished It’s a Sin now (I’ll post about that soon) and the excellent David Attenborough series Perfect Planet has also come to an end. Last night we also caught up with The Sky at Night’s review of the year, which was very interesting. We made a resolution to watch it more often, only to discover that it’s not on now till April! I try not to watch TV solidly and get into a stupor, so I also read, play guitar and listen to music. I’m tucked up in bed by ten and before sleeping I write my diary, do a short meditation and read my bedtime book (at the moment it’s The Silver Chair.) And that’s my rock’n’roll life.