I See You!

‘If you could choose,’ I said to the Handsome Sidekick one day, a few months ago, ‘would you rather receive recognition from your peers, or from the general public? Bearing in mind that the recognition from your peers might mean that you earn less money, than if you were to become famous in a mainstream sense.’

He thought for a while.

‘I guess… my peers?’ he said. ‘I mean, sure, it would be great to have both. But I suppose I’d rather have people who I know really value this stuff, also think that my stuff is good.’

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘Me too, I think.’

Of course, neither of us is in the position where we have to worry about choosing between the respect and admiration of our peers or our fans! But I have been thinking a lot about recognition lately, for a few reasons.

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FOMO? Well, YOLO, you know.

I hadn’t heard about ‘FOMO’ until I read about it in an article. Apparently, it’s really a thing! Through social media, people can tailor their online presence to appear to have a certain kind of life, and others who view this presentation then fret about why they  don’t have that, too (Fear Of Missing Out).

That’s not news. That’s always happened. It’s always been the case that it’s easy to look at someone else’s life and believe that they have it better. We’ve always imagined that movie stars are all tremendously rich and confident and popular, when the reality is that they’re just people, and while they might have more money at their disposal which means they can afford more ‘stuff’, it doesn’t follow that they’re any more content than your average person.

Their internet persona just makes it seem as if they do.

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While You Weren’t Looking.

I’ll admit that I’ve only been half-following the riots in Baltimore this past week, in part because life has been busy, but also because it is very easy, as with shootings in the US, to sigh and wonder when things will ever change.

Of course, change does come, albeit slowly, and the fact that police officers have now been charged with Freddie Gray’s murder is a huge step in this direction. I suppose we will see what happens in court, and whether they will be held accountable for their actions. And I suppose, it’s only a matter of time before the entrenched attitudes begin to shift.

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Sashay on Sunday.

It rained! Yippee! I hope this is a trend which continues for a while. I’m going to bake fruit bread and chocolate chunk cookies this morning in anticipation of friends coming over this afternoon. I also have birthday cake to finish off. (It’s really good).

Quite a varied list of links this morning. Hope you enjoy!

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Plodding Along for Posterity.

Oh, Sunday. Where did the week go? It seems like all I’ve been doing is dropping children at various schools and daycare – which has had its advantages, don’t get me wrong. I had grand plans of completing a good chunk of my novel this week. Instead, I discovered head lice on Fourth Offspring and have been combing them out of everyone’s hair ever since. Joy.

Anyway, it’s a beautiful day, and my plans include going for a run and baking chocolate chip biscuits. Happy day!

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The Time-Honoured Traipse.

Ah, last day of summer holidays. It’s possible I’ll miss them when they’re not here everyday, I suppose.

Hahahaha.

*ahem*

We’re spending the day at home putting labels on books and ensuring that the school uniforms in their drawers are actually clean. I might even manage to get them to school on time tomorrow (but I also might not).

Good Sunday to all of you, and here are some links!

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The Best Time.

There’s a joke in gardening circles about a novice gardener asking a more experienced one: “When is the best time to plant a tree?”

“Twenty years ago,” the old gardener replies. “Because by now you’d have an established plant whose shade and fruit you could enjoy everyday.”

Now obviously, this is not the information the novice gardener was looking for, but the experienced gardener continues: “But the second best time to plant a tree is today.”

Don’t lament the lost time. There were other opportunities, and you’ve missed them, but now there is a new opportunity. Take it.

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WE’RE ALL GOING TO DIE.

Did I get your attention?

Geez, it’s hard to get people’s attention these days. My Twitter feed likes to tell me what’s ‘trending’ whenever I drop in there. At the time of writing, the trends were:

More recent trends have been about the protests around the death of Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes, the way in which children’s clothing and toys are gendered, and the incarceration and possible pardon of Al Jazeera journalist Peter Greste. About any one of these issues, and many more, there is a long list of tweets, opinions, links to articles, satirical remarks, cartoons. There are calls to change our attitudes, to discuss the problem, to make sure this doesn’t happen again, to push for our politicians to do something. We are inspired to bring attention to these events or problems. They are important, after all.

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Where Have All The Comments Gone?

I was reading a blog recently—actually it was one recommended in an interview I read—and as I looked through some of the entries, I was impressed with how well the person wrote, and at the end of the article, I noticed the line, ‘No comments yet. Be the first to write a comment!’ and I thought, Huh. Really? But why?!

And it occurred to me that this happens a lot. I’ll come across a link to an article, to a blog I’ve never seen before, and I’ll read it and think, wow, this is really good! and there won’t be any comments. Is it because my tastes are so different from the majority of the rest of the people who read the internet? I can’t believe that (although of course, I do have excellent taste).

As just another blog on the internet, compared to independent, professional websites, my blog naturally gets very modest traffic, but it’s probably as good a representation as any as to what happens, even on the big name sites. Over a week, I might get between 150-300 visits. Given I only post once a week, I’m certainly not disappointed with that. On that weekly blog post, I usually get between one and three comments, and between four and eight ‘likes’. I usually post the link back on my livejournal account, where I might get a couple more comments. Naturally, even one comment makes me happy. Hey, even one ‘like’ makes me happy! Still, the ratio of comments to views is low, and I know this is something that’s not unique to my own blog.

So when I see people writing really amazing stuff, and yet nobody is commenting, I have to wonder what is going on. How are people missing this? How are they not telling the writer how wonderful it is? I have to wonder about what this means for the future of writing and for the future of writers.

I’ve written before about the issue of paying writers for their work, and payment is certainly one very significant way in which one can be recognised for one’s work. But the payment is only one (major) part. As much as it’s lovely to see one’s name on a byline on a website and have money in the bank, it’s a little disheartening if nobody has anything to say in response. It’s like giving a speech to an empty room. In fact, it’s worse. It’s like you’re standing on the footpath, giving a speech to a constant flow of people, only the smallest number of whom will give eye contact, or smile, or a thumbs-up.

When I first decided I wanted to be a writer—I mean, when I really thought, this is what I want to do–I naively thought that I could just write, and it would be brilliant(!) and that I would get ‘discovered’ by someone, and my work would become an instant hit, and I’d be famous and wealthy and be able to buy a little cottage with a window that looked out onto a meadowy field, where sheep grazed in the sunshine and wisteria grew rampant over an old wooden fence. I’d sit there and write my bestsellers and drink blackcurrant-flavoured tea and eat cherries and mangoes.

(Hey, I was sixteen. Reality didn’t feature much in this pipe-dream!)

And the reality is, there are so many out there, waiting to be discovered. I used to think that the best would simply find their way, that the cream would rise to the top. If it were really good, I thought, it would get the recognition it deserved.

Obviously that’s not how the world works. It’s certainly not how the internet works. Have you read it lately? And the ones that get the most comments are certainly not outstanding literature! Rather, they’re clickbait and sensationalism at its worst (or best, depending on your perspective). We really do ‘browse’ the web. We flit past, picking out what might interest us, and decide on a whim if we want to spend our time on it. Some sites even state the number of minutes it will take to read their articles, so you can decide if you have enough time to bother with it.

I wonder if perhaps we’re just so stretched between social media sites, news websites, email, and—gasp!—real life that we no longer feel we have the time to take a minute to type out a short response, even when we see something we really appreciate. I read an article recently where the writer decided to stop ‘liking’ on Facebook. Instead, she was going to actually take the time to write something.

Even though I’m not on Facebook, I’m still guilty of the same behaviour. I’m happy to retweet or favourite or like something someone has said, because it’s easier. And it’s not just a matter of having the time. There are times when I’m reading something so good, or so disturbing, that I don’t know if I have the energy to summon the eloquence I feel the article deserves.

Would it really be so hard, though, just to write ‘I really enjoyed reading this’? We don’t have to try to win the Nobel Prize for Literature with every comment we leave. We could just write a quick response, to let the author know how much we liked what they wrote. Even the self-doubt I might feel—but they don’t know me!–is ridiculous. I should remind myself that almost all of the comments I get on my blog are from people I’ve never met.

Comments aren’t the yardstick by which a site’s success is measured, of course. If one is trying to sell advertising space, it’s hits and followers one needs, and even then, there’s no guarantee that success will come. And then, there’s no certainty that payment will follow. One’s fifteen minutes of fame can come and go with relatively little to show for it, and after the spotlights fade, it’s back to regular programming. There is still work to be done; there are still words to be written. Internet fame is fleeting, and nothing old can stay. It’s all about the newest, the latest, the most horrifying.

The thing is, though, even without all the fame and the bright lights, I still feel that need to write. I still really like pieces I’ve written, even if nobody comments to say they do too. Sure, I can still read back over my work, and almost always edit a sentence or even a whole paragraph, but some posts, I’m genuinely happy with. Of course, I’d like to earn some decent money from writing, because it allows me to work from home, and it means I can choose my hours around being able to weed around the passionfruit vine if it’s a gorgeous day, or be up all night with an unwell child without having to worry about sick leave and letting colleagues down. But while I practise and search out publications which might pay me, I keep writing this blog, because every week, I’m writing about something which is important to me. That’s what will keep me writing. No matter the number of comments or views or likes, and I can only imagine that’s what others feel, as well.

Otherwise we’d just stop doing it.

(Any acknowledgement is kind of nice, though, I have to admit. So, you know. Don’t be shy! And I’ll do my best to do the same.)