Did I miss the memo?

Snow White and the Huntsman, Universal Pictures
Snow White and the Huntsman, Universal Pictures

A novel is long enough for all your writing weaknesses to come out of the shadows but it takes an outside eye to see them. I am now much better informed about my pet redundant words, grammar sins and my penchant for padding, thanks to one particularly ruthless and brilliant editor friend.

For instance there was a short scene in my novel where the main character put on make-up before going out for the evening. Those lines have now been cut.

I mention make-up because I was struck by a throwaway statement in an article I read earlier this week about narcissism and the ice-bucket challenge. The article on the BBC Future website gives an interesting take on the role narcissism and performance play in modern altruism.

The writer Chris Baraniuk refers back to another social media craze this summer where women posted photos of themselves – shock, horror – without make-up, to raise funds for cancer research.

Baraniuk observes that “make-up remains de rigueur for women”, a statement which stopped me in my tracks. Could this really be true? And if so, how did I miss the memo? Was it only sent to English women, or Londoners perhaps?

This got me thinking about what make-up says about women. Is not wearing make-up a sign of liberation or laziness? I know of women who need to ‘put on their face’ before they venture into the outside world. But I’m inclined to think they are not the majority.

My grandmother used to keep lipstick by the front door and always applied a dash of pink to her lips before going out, even when going out meant trundling to the local shops with her walker at the age of 93. I’m more of a make-up-for-special-occasions gal myself.

But to get back to the main theme of the article, it did make me wonder what place bloggers have in this “culture of rampant narcissism in social media”.

Blogging is self-publishing in its simplest and most direct form. You don’t have to pitch your idea to anyone and wait for their approval. If you have something to say, an idea to share, if a tree fell down and you want it to be on the record – you just hit publish. And there is a nice sense of fulfilment with that. It’s instant and it’s all yours.

But, bearing in mind that there are two million blogposts published every day, most bloggers are dropping very small pebbles in a very large pond. Something tells me this social media niche might not be rewarding enough for narcissists.

Here’s a narcissism test for anyone who’s worried. 😉

Two blooms for a penny

Four months ago I finished the first draft of my first novel. Finally I had kept my perennial New Year’s resolution – not just to write something but to finish something. This meant putting aside two to three writing sessions a week, taking my idea and pursuing it to the air-punching end. Now being a good aspiring writer I had read up on what should happen next and I dutifully left my manuscript to settle. I knew I was supposed to get some distance and tackle it again with fresh eyes after a break. But breaking my writing stride like that was quite difficult. There was suddenly a void. Like a jogger used to running regularly, I was itching to put on my trainers again and get out there. I missed the writing process and the material itself. I started reaching for the manuscript and tinkering around with a red pen. It was way too soon.

Then a colleague of mine went on a journalism assignment to India. She set up a blog for her trip and hey presto we could all follow what she was doing. And though I’d never been drawn to blogging before, I realised that this was the next logical step for me and definitely worth a try. I was amazed by how easy it was to set up on WordPress and how soon everything fell into place. My first post Unrequited Spite was also my first short story ever to be read by the outside world. A small number of bloggers “liked” it – people I’d never heard of – and I felt encouraged.

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Blogging could be seen as the modern day equivalent of rushing up to people on a busy street with print outs of your work and thrusting the pamphlets into their hands. I remember people doing this in Dublin when I was young. But of course not all people have that zeal. Some, like myself, are more at ease standing in a quiet side street, patiently waiting for the right passer-by to come along, occasionally calling out ‘two blooms for a penny’.

Since I started blogging I have discovered a host of interesting people, some similar to me, others whose lives are a million miles removed from mine. It’s been an eye opener. I’m very grateful to regular visitors like the inspiring 5kidswithdisabilities and the adventurous lesleycarter for their interest and encouragement. In terms of visitors, two recent posts which were picked up by a site for the Irish diaspora http://www.worldirish.com brought a big spike in my viewing statistics. It was nice to reach a wider audience without having to shout at the top of my lungs.

The time has now come for me to put some serious work into the novel again and apply some of the editing advice I received, especially the valuable input from fellow WordPress writer beanmimo. I’m also going to focus a bit more on submitting for publication. But I still think there’s a place for this blog. There’s a debate about whether writers should bother with blogging. From a numbers point of view it might not be the best use of resources but like many other pastimes, the bottom line is do it if you enjoy it. For me the freedom of expression is the main attraction. Anyone else tempted to start? And for those already blogging – what keeps you posting?