It occurred to me the other day that I have written a lot of words on this blog. Not the best words – Donald Trump said he has those – but certainly a large portion of other (hopefully less repetitive) words.
In the process, I’ve pondered the question of what blogging is for.
In its infancy, a weblog was pretty much an online journal, but it’s since become a professional occupation for many. It’s not a profession for me, but it allows me to fulfil a childhood dream and pretend I’m a columnist, without having to get anyone’s approval first.
So far, I’ve written a total of 205 posts, averaging around 900 words per post. That’s roughly 184,500 words, which could translate into two whole novels, if we were talking about commercial fiction, which of course we’re not, but like the aforementioned, I’m not one to let the facts stand in the way of a tenuous argument.
So that’s 2 books’ worth of words on this blog, but no actual book to show for it. This is a bit perturbing, because all the best wordy bloggers have books. Now, in my non-bloggy writing life I write fiction rather than non-fiction, and yet, at some point this blog did start firing on some kind of turbo engine, changing the way I write, and making me wonder about a parallel universe where I write the sort of humorous listy-type books you buy for difficult siblings at Christmas.
I bought one just the other week I’d been hankering after for months. Mallery Ortberg is a titan of the interweb who made the leap to New York Times’ bestselling author with Texts From Jane Eyre, imagined text message exchanges between literary characters. In this article, she describes how difficult even she found it to get that book published, with 2 of the more hilarious responses from publishers being “This is a great idea but we don’t think people who send text messages also read books”, and “Let us know when you write a YA novel”.
This got me thinking about a meeting in a publishing house in the impossibly distant future, wherein the powers that be are deciding whether or not to publish the Book o’ d’Blog, which I decided to submit in a fit of drunkenness whilst under the influence of mushrooms, Hunter S. Thompson and a very dodgy curry. But even in my most psychedelic of imaginings, I can’t help but feel I’ve shot myself mouthily in the foot before I’ve even begun.
And as you all know, there are few situations in life which can’t be explored by means of an imagined conversation, which might go some way towards explaining why I appear to have so many of them.
Picture the scene. It is a Tuesday in November, it’s been raining for three weeks, and that politician you hate is still in power.
The Marketing Department of Big Ass Publishers Ltd. looks like IKEA, without the stock. My blog book has been given a tentative thumbs up by Editorial, subject to sales projections.
Junior Marketing Assistant: Good morning, Madam. Editorial sent this up for us to take a look.
Fearsome Marketing Titan: Thank you, Wayne. Precis, please, baker’s dozen or less.
Junior: Irish woman. Blogger. Moderately funny in 1 out of every 3 blog posts.
Fearsome: This had better be non-fiction. I’m sick of these idiots spending 5 years selling a blog and then coming to us with something that bears no resemblance to what they’re actually known for.
Junior: Well, there’s always YA Fiction, Boss.
Fearsome: Not since 2015, there isn’t. So what’s the book about?
Junior: It’s a compilation from her blog, Boss. She blogs about books.
Fearsome: Ugh. Great. Book reviews? No – don’t tell me. She writes about writing?
Junior: Neither. She blogs about book sales.
Fearsome: Oh, so she works in the industry then?
Junior: [scrolling through electronic device] No. It says here she’s never missed a mortgage payment.
Fearsome: What the hell is she blogging about, then?
Junior: Well, us, I think.
Fearsome: Wayne, I have three lunches to attend before 2.30pm. You’d better start summarising, and start summarising fast.
Junior: Says here she reads a lot of books, and a lot about books. Then she takes the piss out of what’s selling. Sometimes she takes the piss out of what’s not selling. It’s very hard to define.
Fearsome: Why the hell are Editorial sending me something that’s hard to define? They should know if I can’t pigeon-hole it, I can’t flog it.
Junior: Isn’t that a mixed metaphor, Boss?
Fearsome: Thin ice, Wayne. So what’s her bloody theme, then?
Junior: Well, she mostly slags off marketing, and then in the middle of it, there’s some sort of fictional satire about a rich couple in Dublin.
Fearsome: Wayne, do you like working here?
Junior: Yes, Boss.
Fearsome: Then I suggest you take your Irish blogger and walk her back down to Editorial, where you should proceed to stick her where the sun don’t shine.
Junior: Yes, Boss.
Fearsome: And while you’re down there, get me a gin and tonic. Actually, make it a double, I’m meeting EL James for second lunch.
Junior: I’ll bring the bucket.
See? Even in my imagination, it seems I’ve failed to think my strategy through. But here’s the question: is a focused blog a boring blog?
Note on the above: I appear to have gone all self-referential again – apologies – but this always happens in the Silly Season, and it gets even worse when I buy the blog a new pair of pants. If you’ve barely noticed that the site had a re-design this week then I consider it a success. I wasn’t going for a dramatic change, just a little less 2012, and moderately more magaziney, such as might suit a blog of so many words. Anyway, this time last year, I was having conversations with my arse, so consider yourself lucky that books were mentioned at all.