(This overwrought, over-extended metaphor has now left the station. Thank you.)
I'm not giving up blogging or anything. I wouldn't remotely want to, and anyway, what the fuck would I do with myself? Pitching ideas to disinterested features editors with an increasingly obvious note of cheery desperation is not a full time job. I have thought a lot, though, about what I can and can't say online, more than I ever used to, and I have felt very constrained in the last six months or so in what I feel comfortable saying. I don't know what exactly changed - but oooh, imminent unemployment might conceivably have had something to do with it, I suppose. Anyway. It's made me wonder if there's a template for the lifecycle of a blog: early months of glorious indiscretion, a period of happy insouciance, posting your visceral inner torments and grievances as the readership builds and then, somewhere along the line, a tipping point, where you realise that x and y and z are reading and maybe you can't, or shouldn't, say that thing you were thinking about. There might even be some hurried deletion. I wouldn't know anything about that, obviously. Nope. Not me.
Perhaps other people, wiser, more thoughtful people, think before they start out, but when I started writing here I wrote because I had to. It was a genuine compulsion; I had years of stuff to say, and it all came spilling out, screeds and screeds of indiscretion. You couldn't even say it was brave, though it could have been mistaken for bravery. It was thoughtless. I quite literally gave no thought to who was reading, and the idea that my writing might have any effect, or consequence, was so remote as to be laughable. That changed hugely when my name appeared in the Sunday Times about a year ago, and has continued changing in smaller increments ever since.
But now what? You try and find some kind of a balance, I suppose, between causing hurt or offence - or in my case, more probably damaging my prospects of ever earning a living - and ending up writing stultifyingly dull stuff about the weather and what you had for dinner. I feel like I've struggled with this recently, that I haven't written anything very entertaining for ages. Of course, that might be nothing to do with any of the factors I've described here. I might just have lost it, might simply be struggling to be funny at the moment, and this is all an elaborate excuse.
I think I do have to accept, though, that I can' t go back. I miss it, miss that freedom, miss saying whatever I damn well liked. I see people who still write like that and I admire it, and envy them. That's the kind of stuff I enjoy reading myself; you don't want to read something that has all the emotional pull of a European Commission press release in your free time. Well, maybe some people do and many of them live in the same city as me, but that is irrelevant. Actually, here's the proof positive that the early confessional stuff wasn't brave, just unthinking: I can't do it any more. I'm too conscious of who's reading and what they might think. That's partly weak, and partly sensible, and I can't do anything about it. I'm thirty five, I'm not going to grow a pair overnight and suddenly become the kind of person who can publish and be damned. I have a craven need to be liked, more's the pity.
This isn't heralding any great change in what I write about, or any change even - it's more by way of an explanation of the shift that has already happened over the last year or so. I'm just marking its passing, I suppose. Looking back, half embarrassed and half wistful, at the kinds of things I used to say. Misty Water Coloured Memories Of The Way We Wrote.
Let us pause for a beat as I stare, teary eyed at the archives.
Would you like a picture while you wait?
(From here, via Fi. Thank you Fi)
Right. So. Look. I have put an "about" page at the top and it has my name on it. Most of you knew it anyway, and you could all have found out without the slightest difficulty, so it's no kind of a secret, really. That boat sailed a year ago (hang on! Where's the HORSE gone???), here. Do I wish it hadn't? Possibly. But it did. So I might as well take proper ownership of what I write, right?