I have been a blogger now for almost exactly four years – started on June 19th 2012 – and, in that time, to be perfectly honest, have never really come to terms with, let alone flourished in, the more social sphere of the art.
I have always been shy, awkward, a bit strange, uneasy in large groups of people. I have long been the sort of person who thrives with a small group of intimates. As a writer, and as a person, I have a strongly solitary nature – and a strongly addictive one too. Not a good mix, let me tell you!
Many of my traits are, I think, borderline Spectrum: My difficulties with people; my strange ability to tell a person’s birth sign, even birth date, accurately – and to remember those of children I taught up to three decades ago; my obsessive and, at times compulsive, nature – and, in the context of blogging, the genuine problems I have relating to most other denizens of the Blogosphere.
My problem has always been the vast gulf between writing and social ability – and the need, in some way, to blend them flawlessly on here. I am neither a purist nor a snob. My friends offline come from many different places, and only a few of them are writers. In ‘real’ life, a person’s IQ and literary ability does not make an iota of difference to the depth of the relationship.
But on here, I have a dilemma. Many people do, I am sure. Does one follow people one likes, those who are a good laugh and might be kindred spirits? Or does one hone in on those one respects – and can learn from – as writers? I have never reconciled these two extremes.
My trouble is that I am not a convincing liar – and, since the Following Game on here is reciprocal at its best, I find I cannot make heart-felt comments upon posts which are trite and poorly written. Even if the fellow blogger is a pal.
Not everyone who blogs is, or even wants to be, a writer. That is fine. I do not have a problem with that at all. Writing, for whatever reason, should be open and free to all. But I do have a problem with the popularity versus good writing front, as I call it. We all know who they are – or at least some of them: Those who have honed their marketing skills to the finest point, who draw others in because they are top status, and yet, as often as not, whose writing is hackneyed and populist.
I have said this before: The hits system, and the Fresh Pressed, seem to reflect social success first and foremost, with writing ability almost an afterthought.
There are, of course, many who are both excellent writers and have a social ease I lack. I admire and respect such individuals. They have achieved a balance I have struggled all my life with.
But – and this, to me, is the crux of the matter – a writer should not be obliged to be a highly successful and sophisticated social animal as well as a wordsmith.
Over the past four years, I have seen all too many examples of people praising dull, badly written posts – and, even more worryingly, novels – in a clear attempt to please and to have their own works lionised in return.
I know. I have done it myself. Mea Culpa. My bad!
On here, I am a writer. Off here, I can be merry and social and empathetic and kind and an excellent listener and supportive and all the rest of it – with people I know and trust.
But, Ali the private person and Alienora the writer are two very different animals – and their meshing on here has always been fraught with tension, ultimately unconvincing and, in the following/followed sense, both short-lived and highly stressful.
I am driven to write. I am not driven to socialise in the same way, or to the same extent. Friends are crucial to me – but not if I have to falsely praise their chosen artistic skill in order for that friendship to continue.
The drawback to blogging is that we are all so dependent upon, and thus vulnerable to, the social side of the coin that failing to engage at that level can mean that we disappear without trace in the wider world’s eyes.
We depend upon others to help us get out there – but, sometimes, the cost is huge. Nice, kind, caring, helpful – I can be all those things in private. But, as a writer, such traits are often unhelpful and irrelevant. They are a distraction.
The Ali soul is naturally gentle, but the part of it that controls the writing does contain an element of steel. As it should.
But, and this brings me to the other enormous blogging drawback, I cannot give up this game, though I have tried on several occasions, because blogging is addictive. It is, if you think about it, a form of gambling – and I was a bugger for the scratch cards when they first came out!
I am a covert member of Bloggers Anonymous – unable to follow even the first of the Twelve Steps to wean myself off the incredible highs and lows of this drug!
My name is Alienora – and, gulp, sob, cringe – I am a Blogaholic!