I believe there is a solitary little boy without internet access somewhere in Peru who has possibly not heard by now that I was away last month, travelling the TransSiberian Railway through Russia, Mongolia and China, followed by an entirely unrelated sojourn in Vietnam (well, unrelated other than a geographical proximity to China, which kind of makes it extremely related, but it would be pedantic to point that out).
(It would also be pedantic to point out that technically I was on the Trans-Mongolian Railway, rather than the TransSiberian, seeing as I went from Moscow to Beijing via Mongolia, rather than the whole way through Siberia and on to Vladivostok, so I won’t do that either.)
Anyhoo, I may have crept away silently, saying nothing of my plans, but there are some who can testify to the fact that I haven’t bloody shut up about it since I came home.
I hadn’t been away for more than 2 weeks since 2005. This holiday was fecking momentous. I would do it all again in the morning, if I had enough clean socks.
It’s a rough-and-ready trip, kind of like a music festival on tracks, without the decibels or the overpriced burger vans, but if you like that sort of thing, which I do, it’s so worth it, it’s gone beyond L’Oréal’s wildest dreams.
On The Rails But Off The Grid
There is something utterly cleansing about staring out the window of a train, watching the landscape, the climate, the faces, and the very feel of the world around you change. (It’s fortunate that it cleanses the mind, because the body isn’t going to get a shower until the next hotel.) But the mind goes on travels all by itself, when it has nothing else to do but stare at a world which is so much bigger than it ever could have imagined, and think, and notice a stark and sometimes terrible beauty, and wonder when it will next need to go to the toilet, and what it should bring with it when it does.
While I was doing all of this staring and thinking and toilet-training, I realised something about both writing and life, which became synonymous while in that space.
What I realised is: I’ve been doing it wrong.
I always thought of myself as a niche blogger. “My blog’s unusual,” I’d say to well-meaning friends and acquaintances, who had absolutely no interest in my blog, but were being told about it anyway. “Oh really?” they’d enquire politely. “Yes, really,” I’d nod. “I blog about books, but I don’t review them, if that’s what you’re thinking.”
Eagerly getting no reaction whatsoever, I’d plough on with excruciating earnestness. “I blog about trends in the book market instead. And sometimes I write weird sketches where I anthropomorphise writing clichés,” I’d say, choosing to ignore the blank looks of discomfort, as they idly wondered how to get away from both the conversation, and me.
It’s All About The Label
But niche blogging is definitely a thing. It’s a thing loved by niche bloggers, because niche is a nicer way of saying you’re not as popular as bloggers who will get 45,000 hits on their latest vlog wherein they “unbox” a hamper of dog treats and chartreuse eyeshadow.
Niche blogging is a way of saying you’re totally popular within the miniscule section of society which actually takes notice of you. It’s lauding your own success in a very, very, small pond.
But while I was staring out the train window, marvelling at the vastness of the world around me (after Mongolia all I can say is, with horizons that far away, I can totally understand why Genghis Khan took over the world. If I could see that far from my horse, I’d want to have it all too), I wondered at my niche blogging strategy. Why limit myself to a niche? Why not write about it all? Why couldn’t I become Swiss Army Tara, I thought? There’s so much else to blog about, besides books, and personified narrative devices.
I could tick all the popularity boxes by becoming a travel blogger (Off The Rails: My Unique Experiences On The Albeit Well-Travelled TransSiberian Railway), a survival blogger (Don’t Panic: What To Do If You Run Out Of Instant Noodles, Baby Wipes And Toilet Paper), a fashion blogger (Go Down: How To Stay Chic When It’s 25 Degrees Below Freezing) or a beauty blogger (You Guys, I Totally Went Without Makeup For Four Weeks And It Completely Changed My Life #NoFilter).
I could do all of these things. Or I could just compensate for being off the grid for a while by suddenly bombarding you with posts EVERY FEW DAYS!!!
Last weekend, Tark and Mara chirped their swansong for the time being, signing off by plotting my demise. On Tuesday, I did a piece on my writing.ie blog about writers switching genre in midstream, and whether the real creative freedom is in that time before an author is published (which you can read here).
Today, I’m pontificating from my own platform.
And next Sunday 10th December, you’ll find me over at the inimitable Anne R. Allen’s blog, where she very kindly asked me to get up to my usual festive shenanigans and make some Christmas writerly jokes on a blog I admire so much it sometimes makes me drool a bit. I’ll throw up the direct link in a post here once it’s published.
Annoying Cryptic Social Media Statement
There are also some plans and changes afoot. I don’t mean to do that annoying social media cryptic thing where I merely hint at something, thereby making it out to be more important and interesting than it actually is, but I’m totally doing that annoying social media cryptic thing where I merely hint at something, thereby making it out to be more important and interesting than it actually is.
The thing is, my professional life is changing. It means that I’m going to be more restricted in my abilities to respond to comments, and read the blogs I really want to read. My posting schedule may also have to change, but not dramatically. At best, it will only affect me, because I may just have to change to posting on weekends, when I find that my posts get a little less traction. Time will tell.
But in the meantime, I may well give you the opportunity to get sick of me, which means that none of this will really matter.
There are things I have to tell you, such as what you can actually do for a living in Russia; why competitive travelling is the offline manifestation of Facebook; and why someone needs to invent a Weapon of Mass Mindfulness, in order to combat The Attack Of The Selfies.
Between that, and me already spreading myself all over the bloody internet on other websites, well, I’m just out to prove that I really am a feast or a famine. You have been warned.
P.S…. I did kind of miss you.