This is my last weekly blog for 2014 so I’d just like to wish everyone reading it a Happy New Year when it comes and let’s hope 2015’s a little kinder to the world than 2014’s been. Next year I’m taking a year off. I’ve enough reviews and articles stockpiled (plus a couple I’ve committed to write at the start of the year) to enable me to post one a month for the whole of 2015 and then we’ll see. The rest of the time I’m going to upload my poems, a couple a week probably so you will be kept entertained. Of course I’m not actually taking a year off; it’ll be more of a busman’s holiday. I’ve other stuff I have to do that’s more important and I’ll reassess the situation in a year’s time depending on how successful this experiment is.
So what’s this other stuff, Jim?
Glad you asked. The short answer is: Write. I, of course, write all the time, hundreds of thousands of words. But I mostly don’t write what I want to write. I write what I think I ought to be writing, blogs mostly and comments on blogs (and if you’re familiar with my comments you’ll realise they’re occasionally longer than the blogs I’m commenting on). I like writing. The thing is I don’t write much fiction these days. I don’t have the need. I don’t need to because that urge is being satisfied elsewhere. I’m cheating on my own writing. Off writing other things when I should be putting my effort into my own novels and poems. And that’s not on. Of those few of my friends who still blog most upload something once a week and it probably takes them an hour to rattle off the five- or six-hundred-word post. I can’t do that. I’m not that kind of chatty writer. I simply can’t. But as long as I keep up the schedule I have—which I’ve cut back on and cut back on over the last seven years (there was a point when I was posting a couple of three-and-a-half-thousand-word articles every week)—I’ll never have the space I need to do what matters most to me. Enough is enough.
This is true too: the fun’s gone out of it for me. Blogging (and reading blogs) is becoming less and less popular. I spend maybe three days writing an article and often no one—or his brother, hardly anyone—comments and that’s soul destroying. Readers never mattered to be before I came online. When did they become so damn important? I started blogging because that’s what those who maintained they knew about things said, at the time, you ought to do if you were a writer: set up a static website (check) and a blog (check), post on a regular basis (check) and you will build an audience (which is a euphemism for ‘fan base’ I suppose) who will buy your books and tell all their friends to buy your books. Well that never really happened. Naïve to imagine it would. I developed a few relationships, one or two of which blossomed into bona fide friendships, but that was it. Not that I’m complaining—friends are good. They make good beta readers too.
A lot of writers have moved onto other platforms, so-called microblogging sites like Twitter and, of course, everyone’s favourite, Facebook. I don’t, however, think there’s much useful that can be said in 140 characters or less apart from, “Get up! The bed’s on fire.” And Facebook’s not much better, worse at times since there’s no guarantee that even your friends will get to see what you’ve had to say. Words need space to breathe. They need time spent on them. I recently replied to a friend’s e-mail and my subject line read “9 words a minute” because it’d taken me three hours to write, edit and proofread—yes, I edit and proofread my e-mails—and I’ll let you do the sums yourself if you can be bothered. It was a considered and carefully-written e-mail. And if I’m going to devote three hours to an e-mail just imagine how I feel about my actual writing.
Starting in January I’ll be editing my novel The More Things Change. It took me seven months to edit the short story collection so I can only imagine the work involved in a 90,000-word novel but it needs to be done and there’s no way I can give it the care it deserves whilst trying to maintain two blogs (I’m also putting my McVoices blog on hold for the year). I have a book of poems which was supposed to be out at the end of 2014 but it got delayed for various reasons; mostly my work on that’s done but I still need to keep on top of things. That’ll be out early 2015 and I’ll need to devote time to promoting it too. And then we’ll see if anything else happens. I have ideas—I have ideas all the time—but they get lost in the morass that passes for my mind and half the time even when I write them down I lose them.
I’ve been reading a lot this year—160 books (okay, 160 short books)—and I’ll post something next week talking about that and then the poems’ll start to appear. Some’ve been published before, many are slight and although decent enough poems are not what editors are going to jump at. But they deserve a read and this is a good opportunity to let them see the light of day. I might append the occasional wee note if I can think of something worth adding—where the poem was first published if I can locate the magazine (I was very bad at keeping records when I was young) or where I got the idea from—but nothing that’ll take any real time to write.
Change is inevitable. At times it’s awful—much of the time it’s awful—and we resist it as if we had much choice in the matter. It would be naïve of me to imagine I could go back to being the writer I once was (that guy’s gone and when you read some of the poems next year you might wonder who wrote them but that guy’s gone too) but I would like to be a different writer than the one I’ve become; a better one would be nice but I’d settle for a… for a year off and let nature run its course.