I love this project from Scottish artist Katie Paterson: Future Library Project. What an honour it would be to be one of the invited authors. Margaret Atwood is such a fitting first contributor and even such an established literary figure as her feels delighted to be taking part. The idea of commissioning an author a year to write a novel that will then only be seen in 2114 when it is published on paper made from trees planted a few months ago is simple and prompts the ‘that’s an obvious idea’ response when first heard that all great ideas do. Of course someone should do this. It’s a creative and almost magical celebration of the imaginative life of books and the power of libraries as exquisiste collections of all that the human mind is capable. A perfect artwork as its form matches it concept ‘deliciously’ – a word Atwood uses herself to describe her involvement. I only wish I could be around to see it’s realization. But the fact I’m wont somehow only heightens the project’s allure.
First time at Mumsnet Blogfest [now in it’s third year] and I have come away feeling inspired about blogging and the genuine empowerment it gives to women from all kinds of backgrounds and with all kinds of interests. I met a secret divorcee, a jewellery and crafts maker, a business advisor, a designer, a fashion stylist, someone who does amazing things with vintage fabrics, all of them mothers, most are wives [or exes] and all are dynamic individuals following their passions as women in an age defining activity – blogging. It’s a place where all of us can share our experiences of motherhood and intimate personal relationships – something as women we all share but also express ourselves beyond the tag of mother/wife/partner etc to other like minded souls without leaving the house. Something like approximately 80% of all bloggers are female. So what is it about blogging that attracts women and in particularly mothers? Traditionally ‘stuck at home with the kids’ women can now communicate with a global audience. We can share our interests and passions and experiences and feel connected and validated. Rather than isolated and alone. Is it the ease with which you can take part in wider society while still fulfilling your family commitments? Perhaps. But more than this I think it is about writing. Whatever you’re writing about writing requires a level of reflexivity – of reflection that makes meaning in our lives. Writing allows us to catch hold of at least some of the things we experience everyday and hold it dear. The discipline and structure involved in putting even just a paragraph or two together bring you out of the maelstrom of life – particularly family life – and like a meditation allows you space to think. This might seem like a small deal in the scale things – but life is made up of small things and as I age and life moves faster I value this space to reflect more and more. I started blogging as a way of connecting to my students [I am a writer and lecturer] but since having my now 3 and half year old and 6 month old boys I want to write about my transition into motherhood. I even embarked on a PhD around this subject. [See my about and research pages] I would love to know why you blog? Why did you start blogging? Has your reasons for continuing changed? if so how? Why?
I’ve only published 2 short stories in print and received nothing but a small cash prize for one of them. Not payment as such. Being a paid writer is something I aspire to. To be paid one day for the work I write would allow me to have the focussed writing life I’ve long desired, a chance to tell stories, explore ideas and develop my craft. But the market likelihood of this ever happening seems to lessen year by year by the corrosion of creative copyright laws and a digitally minded society with generations who increasingly resent paying for anything.
This somewhat disheartening but realistic survey of the state of things for writers wishing to write for a living summarizes the problems anyone considering writing as a profession, rather than writing for a hobby. Not that I’m disparaging the values of writing as a hobby – there are many – but rather a situation surrounding creative copyright that would have us all content providers but not a one getting paid. Technology disseminates, enables and living it with is inevitable but if the only people who make any money are the handful who run the digital distribution platforms, the content providers – designers, filmmakers, musicians, writers must look elsewhere for an income. A situation that might well result in a era of bust for independent authorship, free voice or original thinking. It will certainly mean a lean time of belt tightening for anyone desiring an old fashioned life of letters. The challenge for writers is to find ways of reinventing this notion of a committed and serious life of words while staying true to its heart and purpose and the personal and creative integrity that that entails.
How We Become Who We Are is the working title of my doctorate novel. Today I had a bit of breakthrough with voice and character perspective – always a major challenge when beginning a novel and the answer to the most important question of all at this stage. What kind of novel am I writing? So far I’ve tried third person past tense, first person present tense – fortunately i’ve been able to exclude other options for this particular novel – sometimes the mind edits subconsciously – for this I am thankful. Neither on their own has felt right. So today after 4 hours of dissatisfactory reworking of the first 10 pages I come up with the mind shatteringly brilliant solution [please hear the sarcasm] of trying both. And I like it. I spent way too long on my previous novel writing in the wrong perspective – third person past tense – when what works best for it – and how it is now – is first person present. Somehow everything I wanted to say about the main character, her predicament and the themes/ideas suddenly sounded true when I’d found the right POV in which to present them. Spending so much time on finding the voice or perspective of your novel can feel like you going nowhere slowly. You might gaze longingly as your word count objectives for this week/month as they pass by ludicrously out of reach. But in fact the work you are doing is in many ways the most important work of all. Words on a page is what you can do. You are a writer. Putting the RIGHT words on the page – well that takes a better writer and that’s what you want to be isn’t it? With each novel you want to become a better writer. Better answer that question of what kind of novel am I writing then. Because when you have the voice everything else follows – form, structure, language not to mention your background research to do list. Then you can really start putting words on the page.
How We Become Who We Are is my doctorate novel about the stories we tell that make us who we are online and the gaps between our real and virtual lives.
Is this myself, or are we merely fictions – David Shields reality hunger
From How We Become
‘Frankie knew the internet was a slippery thing. She knew how easy it was to get caught up. So many diversions, distractions, lies, fantasies, desires in one place. If it’s not selling you something it’s telling you something, making something, faking something. Sapping life out of the new, squeezing the value out of everything. Frankie had too often had enough. But as she watched the stats of her youtube channel pass 1 million subscribers she ascended from the merely ordinary to somewhat remarkable. It was a good feeling. A feeling she felt she deserved. For the first time in her life Frankie had assets. Assets that, if she played her hand right, could fundamentally change her life.’
Time for a little re-branding. After a bit of a break I am coming back to this blog with new enthusiasm and a slightly new angle. I am going on maternity leave in 3 months and have few teaching commitments in that time [or after for a period too of course] I am going to use this Blog to share thoughts, information and ideas about a broader range of subjects – see my strap line. I have nicked my Blog’s subtitle from a brilliant if controversial book I recently read by Canadian author Sheila Heti. Her 2013 novel/memoir How Should A Person Be? addresses this age old philosophical question in a provocative and striking way and reflects the theme of the content here. It also, conveniently, ring-fences a field of inquiry that legitimizes posting on all sorts of subjects – social, cultural, political, literary, cinematic – and post i will. I’ll be offering a short personal review of Heti’s book soon.
Brilliant summing up of last weekend’s conference by writer and journalist Molly Flatt
who herself made an impassioned call for words not gimmicks as writers and technologists etch out mutual ground. An inspiring and thought provoking two days. Set up by Rebecca Swift and Jon Slack of The Literacy Consultancy the conference covered both business and creative ends of the digital discussion.http://www.literaryconsultancy.co.uk/events/literary-conference-2013/2013-programme/
more anon no doubt