Do you know what you were doing ten years ago? Thanks to this blog all I have to do is pick a month and I can find out; it’s always worth keeping a blog and then you have something sensational to read on the train…
So here it is; this time ten years ago I was… on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square doing yoga and poetry. It was an amazing day, a positive tsunami of circumstances conspiring to create an event which involved a CND minibus with a dozen or so people scooting down to London where Bruce Kent andKate Hudson joined us and I had a brilliant time doing yoga and poetry. So check out all these posts from that time:
WordPress has just informed me that it’s eleven years ago today that I started this blog; which means it’s eleven years ago yesterday that I attended a workshop run by Hanif Kureishi and asked his advice on what aspiring authors should do to help the process along. ‘Start a blog,’ he said; and having conducted extensive research (well, I asked OH) I set up an account on WordPress and Bob was most definitely my uncle.
Eleven years, eh? You’d think I’d want to embark on some sort of retrospective; high points and nadirs, most popular posts, top comments, that sort of thing, but frankly I’ve no appetite for that. I would like, though, to think about what this blog has meant to me and what benefits it has brought to my life and writing.So here, for your delectation and entertainment, are my five best things about blogging.
Number One: Readers. As a writer (unless you are writing only for yourself) you need readers, otherwise you’re like an actor without an audience or a priest without a congregation. True, one of the best things about writing for me is that no-one can stop you doing it. I may be ignored by the whole world but as long as there’s breath in my body and sparks in my brain, I will carry on writing; and a blog has the potential to find you readers even if they don’t immediately hook up. Sometimes I get comments on posts I don’t even recognise because they’re so old. Once a post is out there, anyone can find it: I’ll never forget that early thrill of finishing a post and clicking ‘publish.’ At that time I’d hardly published anything in print, so that felt really good.
Number Two: Interaction. Most days I have some interaction with readers either ‘liking’ or following me, and I love getting comments. Reading and responding to comments can spark dialogues and often takes me to other blogs where I can like and comment and follow, and so it goes on. Even though OH is just a shout away, writing is essentially a solitary activity, so this interaction is valuable.
Number Three: Expression. For decades I wrote all my poems, ideas and stories in a series of A4 notebooks but now, if an idea is sufficiently developed, it can go on the blog. I used to suffer a lot from not having outlets and now I have one. It also encourages me to find new and more interesting ways to express myself.
Number Four: Development. A blog gives me practice in writing about all sorts of subjects: it’s primarily about a writer’s life but any topic which occurs to me can be the subject of a post. I’ve developed ideas about politics, I’ve described walking holidays, I’ve reviewed films, books and TV series; I’ve delved into philosophy and religion and I’ve transcribed dialogues between myself and OH for your delectation and amusement.
And finally, Cyril… Number Five: Routine. This may sound horribly worthy and dull, but it’s very important. Practice makes permanent, as they say; and as anyone knows who has suddenly retired from a 9-5 job, it’s hard to motivate yourself without structure. As it happens my working day has evolved over the years to mimic office hours. No fevered early-dawn scribblings or midday doldrums for me: I get to my desk at around 8.30 and work till lunch (12-1-ish). After lunch is usually a ‘dead’ time so I’ll do some gardening or walk to the shops; then it’s back to work between 2 and 3. Finishing time really depends on how it’s going: on a good day I’ll work till six but it’s usually around five as mornings are the most productive time. I don’t work evenings or weekends and I take Bank Holidays off, as I do the whole month of August. This doesn’t mean I don’t write anything – in some ways these are the most productive times – just that I don’t work at writing. There’s a big difference. But it can be hard to establish a routine, and in those early days, writing a daily blog post was an important discipline for me. Nowadays I don’t necessarily blog every day but I don’t like to leave it too long otherwise readers can drift away.
So there we are; eleven years of bloggy wisdom. Enjoy. Oh, and the picture is a rather gap-toothed version of me doing a victory dance after performing poems on the Fourth Plinth.
I had a little notification in the corner of my page this morning. ‘That’s odd,’ I thought, as I’m usually told of comments and followers via email and I had just checked my inbox. I clicked on it and it informed me that it was TEN YEARS AGO TODAY!!! that I started this blog. I won’t bore you with the details as regular readers have heard it all many times before, suffice it to say that Hanif Kureishi was partly responsible for setting me off on this path. I suppose I really ought to do something deep and retrospective, like picking out my favourite posts or summarising my journey or selecting the best comments, but the very idea fills me with a reluctance so deep that I can barely move my fingers across the keyboard; so I shall just say Happy Anniversary to lizardyoga’s weblog and a particular shout-out to those readers who have been with me since the beginning.
Thinking about it, the last decade has seen my transition from teacher/part time writer to full-time author and performing poet, which is quite a big deal. I was updating my CV the other week and it was quite startling how many things I’ve done, from the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square to Leicester Riverside Festival to Left Unity’s national conference and Quaker Yearly Meeting to Sing for Water at Leicester Riverside Festival. Publications include poems in Mslexia, blogging for the same and short stories in Everyday Fiction.
Maybe soon I’ll get it together and find some retrospective links. But right now I’m getting ready to go to Wales which includes checking the car tyres (am I the only one who hates doing this? I think I have a subconscious fear of blowing up one of the tyres.)
So if you’ve been a reader of this blog since May 2008, please drop me a comment and let me know how the last ten years have been for you.
In this photo you can see (left to right): someone from National CND, old man who looks like Michael Foot, Mark, Jan – (in red holding the banner) and – erm, some other people. Should have uploaded a different photo with all my friends in. Not to mention Bruce Kent. I’ll find another one later.
Present: Peter, Jan, Yvan, Claire. Also, back from Lifebeat – Holly! She brought with her a number of necklaces and bracelets that she’d made. I made pizza and salad and hoped that others would bring snacks. In fact everyone brought wine so we ended up with 2 bottles of rose, one of white, plus 2 wine boxes (one of which Steve had mauled in an attempt to wrestle it open) and half a bottle of red.
A good had was time by all.
the pizza went down well, and the plinth video generated a lot of interest. We watched another one of a woman in the middle of the night doing shadow puppets to an audience of one (a policeman). It is great to see what people come up with. And the best thing about this whole project is – it’s a celebrity-free zone!
We need this. We need a return to people being themselves, valuing what they are and what they have to offer. Being interested and interesting – and above all, not worrying about what they look like!
Long may it continue.
Gormley for President.
PS Oh, and Peter’s photos were much appreciated also – here are a couple – showing my supporters with their banners, and one with me doing a victory dance when I’d finished.
This is my absolute favourite photo of the Plinth – I’d just finished and was jumping up and down in elation!
Wrote an article about the Plinth for OM magazine, a yoga publication. Steve came round and we watched the video of me on the Plinth. I don’t seem to have made it into the week’s highlights, although that does say “Last week’s highlights” so maybe that was the week before (That was the week, that was – remember TW3?).
I am reading an Alan Bennett called The Uncommon Reader. It’s about the Queen discovering a mobile library outside the Palace and starting to read. As with all Alan Bennetts, every male in it is gay.
Trinity today. I shall wear my new skirt. Then this evening people are coming round to watch the video and eat pizza.
Drank a lot of wine last night. It was great! Oh, and Steve, having bought a wine box for the first time, complained about how hard it was to get the wine out. Turns out he’d dismantled the box and tried to get the wine out by wringing the bag!
We put him right.
PS Oh! And we have booked a week in East Sussex, near Pevensey Bay. Should be great!