Moving unexpectedly to a bungalow has resulted in my “letting go” of at least some of the effects that have mouldered in storage for a couple of years. One such casualty was the box of notes made during journalism training 17 years ago. It was surprisingly easy; if I don’t know it now, I reasoned with myself, I never will.
It was humbling, though, to see some of the distinctly average marks I got back in the day, and the biting criticism. For example: “This interviewee sounds really interesting – so why is the intro all about you?” This made me chuckle, as I’d said pretty much the same thing, to more than one person, that very week. The funny thing was that as I read the interview, I rather liked it and didn’t want to change it. Physician, heal thyself.
There are always two people in an interview – subject, and journalist. It’s the interaction and chemistry (or lack of) between the two that makes each one unique. Otherwise, why would anyone be interviewed more than once? On the few occasions I allow interviewees to read a draft before publication, it’s on condition that they restrict themselves to factual corrections only, because it’s my take on them.
This is what makes writing pleasurable. I may have adapted my style over the years, to bear the end reader in mind; but it’s still important to me that I should derive some enjoyment from writing. It would make for rather dull reading if I didn’t.
I also found outlines of my first column attempts, written on a year out in France for my local paper back home. In some respects, they were pretty lame, showing scant respect for word count, defamation or reader interest. They weren’t that far removed from books like Merde Alors, which I avoid like the plague on the grounds that the title alone makes fun of people I like.
I recall a student who was insistent that he wanted to write opinion pieces, and nothing else. His tutor, and I, had to enlighten him that most columnists have to start at the bottom and earn the right to have their opinion valued. Most of our CT columnists have a function, as experts in something that our readers will find interesting – wine, beer, fitness, sailing, farming. Only one, Backalong, is really “life according to” – Pete has got that one sewn up, and a fine job he does too. (You can buy an anthology of his past columns, by the way: it’s called Notes From A Cornish Shed).
Then there’s the blog. The great thing about a blog is that it really is all about you – at least, it is if you want it to be. In the latest issue of Cornwall Today, food blogger saffronbunny profiles several Cornwall bloggers, and gives expert tips on how to start your own, should that be your New Year resolution.
Award-winning blogs are often informative or commercial; mine is “the world according to Kirstie.” And why not? It’s my space. If you don’t like it, you can choose not to come here. I can take it. My blog might not win any awards or trend on Twitter, or make any contributions to world peace. But it’s the one place I can be myself, write what I think, for the benefit of anyone who wants to read it (hello, Mum).
This view was thrown back at me rather more bluntly when I recently took a fellow blogger to task for making what I thought were valid comments, but using unnecessarily foul language. “It’s my blog – I can say what I like,” she retorted. True indeed. And she had won an award.
Truth be told, I don’t read many blogs myself, if any at all. I don’t have much time to. Nor do I write mine as often as I’d like; I’ve got lots of ideas, but life kind of gets in the way, darn it. I don’t believe in half-measures; my blogs are like “mini-features” (or not-so-mini) that have been crafted and honed. I wrote more when I was on maternity leave, and tend to indulge these days when my partner is away for the night (as is the case right now) and therefore not around to moan: “You’re always working.”
Does my blog count as work? Kind of. I started it because I was told that the editor should have one. It has been a mix of personal and professional, stuff that I’ve been up to around the county, reflections on the act of putting together a magazine. It’s an add-on, like social media – one more thing to fit into a busy schedule, fun but occasionally onerous. I took no notes on this in 1997, which in the face of today’s technology might as well have been in prehistoric times.
My blog reminds me of how much I enjoy my life, whether with my family or through my work. It also makes me enjoy my life – I have to have something to write about, after all. But it should offer readers something, or else why would they come? Who cares what I think? If you’re reading, tell me why. I’d love to know what you like, what you don’t like and what you’d like to see more of. I’d like to make this as satisfying for you as it is for me; and besides, I’d like to win that award.