"Art is not a mirror with which to reflect the world; it is a hammer with which to shape it"

Sunday, 24 February 2008

About You Now

I recently clocked up 50 posts; more by luck than judgement I’d say, and it got me thinking back. After technical glitches and the lay-off over Christmas, when I came back to the blog thing, I realised I couldn’t recall what I’d been annoying you with: I wasn’t even sure why I’d got a blog in the first place. (As I said in the first post, I don’t have much to say and I’ve been saying it ever since- empty vessels and all that…!)

Faced with not remembering what people blogged about, I looked at the other blogs and was reminded how individual they all are: the veritable information-stations (take a bow Danny, Lucy and Robin); some that tell you what they’re doing or have done and some offering opinions and reviews. Some blog frequently, some less so; some spread the love, some vent the spleen… but behind them all is someone with a desire to share something.

However, I’m still not quite sure why I continue with this blog… it started by accident, I was considering what title and URL to have, putting it in blogger to see whether it looked good and pressed the wrong button. That I continued was at the prompting of Phill, The Arnopp and Sister Elinor. So I continue.

Yet, I cannot help but have the same sense of being the interloper that I had at the Screenwriter’s Festival last year; there I was, surrounded by people I assumed to have worked in the industry for years discussing fascinating aspects of craft and I couldn’t help thinking ‘how terribly presumptuous of me to be here; any minute now I’ll be found out’. And here, when I think too much, I sometimes find myself thinking the same: I don’t have special knowledge or insight- only opinions; I’m not particularly qualified; haven’t been published or filmed; I don’t even watch many films- maybe one every couple of days; and I’m aware there is a lot left to watch and a lot to know about pretty much everything. So, why do I blog? And what should I blog about? I only have opinions and questions.

In the end, I suspect I blog because:

• I’m curious about things; I have questions. I like to hear other opinions; I like debate and discussion- I’m particularly interested in media attitudes. (I like comments and to comment myself.)
• Rather selfishly, I hope it gives me a chance to ‘meet’ people before I actually meet people. I retreated from people several years ago when I realised that 95% of those I knew or had known were either after something and/or felt good about themselves solely by making others feel bad; 4.5% were likable people who also happened to be veritable scumbags and who I’ve rid myself of; leaving a tiny handful of decent people…
• …and arrogantly, I like to think I have some small contribution to make to this ‘Scribosphere’ thing…

The other thing that has haunted my blogging is, being an opinionated bastard, how far should I censor what I put here. There are some pretty good reasons for this concern:

• Several recent articles on TV and in the press have discussed how potential employers (especially in the media world) are habitually Googling potential employees and searching for them on Facebook, MySpace and the various blog sites- researching attitudes and personal life- if you’re bragging about turning up seriously hungover (i.e. still drunk) at work an employer may just be put off.
• Should I mention much about any ideas I’ve had? If I put them half-formed on public show and someone (less scrupulous than all you lovely people) half-recalls one of them and uses it to great success would I be able to get legal recourse or would it just be my own silly fault?
• Not so long ago, there was a case of a teacher, Sarah Green, the details of which you can catch here and here*. Basically, Green is a young woman teacher at a public school who was previously an aspiring actress. She has been suspended, pending inquiry, because an in-industry advert for a building-clothes company, in which she appears in a sex scene (variously described as steamy or soft-porn), appeared on YouTube and was enjoyed by her pupils. Parents have declared her unfit to teach and called for her to be sacked forthwith… although she hasn’t killed anyone, slept with a kid and has presumably passed the CRB check. All she did wrong was leave a record of her legal past activities for all to see and now it’s coming back to bite her on the ass**. Does this mean Greta Scacchi shouldn’t be allowed to teach kids? What about Kevin Spacey’s workshops for kids at the Old Vic- has he not done sex scenes? So, while some blogs enjoy anonymity and can vent to their heart’s content, should the rest of us monitor everything we say or write- in fact make sure our lives are entirely blameless in case we change career? And what of Chip’s persistent attempts at career suicide? (Sorry Chip! :)

So if you’re still reading this and, I haven’t sapped either your soul or your strength, maybe you could share some thoughts on the following…

• Why did you start blogging and why do you continue?
• How do you decide what to blog about?
• Do you write straight out or pre-plan what you’re going to write.
• Do you censor yourself?

…and that’s that. Thanks for reading! :)

*Try and ignore that it’s a really terrible and sexist advert.
**There is an entirely different discussion to be had about how and why an increasingly liberal society has become increasingly judgemental and prone to leap straight for the portable gallows!


Rach said...

Hi Jon, here goes.

1) Why did you start blogging and why do you continue? Cos Lucy made me get an account. Also because I found lurking just a wee bit pervy (and not in a nice way) and I rarely shut up!
2) How do you decide what to blog about? Only been screenwriting for 3yrs so just a beginner. Therefore don't want be the blind leading the blind. Instead hope it will reassure others they aren't the only ones screwing up.
3) Do you write straight out or pre-plan what you’re going to write? I wing it. Still finding my style so its how the muse grabs me. Ooh err.
4) Do you censor yourself?
The most common thing said about me at work is "She's lowering the tone again." I'm trying sooooo hard to behave here because I don't know who will be reading it.

And the other half makes sure I behave of course.

However I was raised by political activists so if I'm outraged then I can go in guns blazing. Very, very rare though.

Does that help. And please keep blogging. Personally I like popping in and not knowing what it will be.

Paul Campbell said...

Hi Jon

• Why did you start blogging and why do you continue? I started as an incentive to make myself work. I don't think I ever believed anyone else would read it, but I though that if I were forced to make a public confession every day of how much (or how little) I'd written, then I might write more. Now, I blog from time for a variety of reasons:

- it's therapy, getting stuff clear in my own mind by writing about it

- it's chat. The Blogosphere is like a staffroom, and every now and again it's polite to join in the conversation.

- it's a record. It's a diary which I look back on from time to time.

- it's a trumpet. Every now and again, if things go well, I like to blow my own trumpet.

- it's a news source. There are a few people out there (friends and relatives) who get to find out what I'm up to by reading the blog.

• How do you decide what to blog about? It's pretty random.

• Do you write straight out or pre-plan what you’re going to write. Straight out, but I'm a writer, so it's never completely stream of consciousness.

• Do you censor yourself? Yes. It's like speaking in public, and it's hard enough in this business making friends, so I don't want to make enemies. Also, I never mention individuals by name - I wouldn't want anybody who I work with to have to worry about seeing themselves mentioned in my blog.

Far Away said...

Hmmm - since I've been having a blog lull I think I'll do mine as a post. Ta

Chip Smith said...

For much the same reason as Paul, I blog in order to motivate myself to write at least something every day – it sure beats staring at a blank PC waiting for inspiration to clack you round the back of the head. It’s also a handy depository for ‘stuff’, as well as being a one stop shop for many of the blogs and sites I visit on a regular basis.

As for career suicide – you’ve got to have a career to ruin first ;-) A lot of the blogs I enjoy reading express honest to goodness opinions, and most of the time I tend to fall into that trap – however, I do self-censor. If I find myself in rant mode, I tend to wait a few days and tone things a little.

More often than not, I’m amazed that anyone reads what I write at all. Even if they didn’t, I’d still enjoy ranting away to myself. Sure beats standing on street corners and shouting randomly at passers-by (although at times it does feel a little bit like that) ;-)

MJ said...


1) I started blogging to keep a half-arsed record of my time at Uni in the hope that it would spur me on. It has! And to make myself admit to the world that I am a writer (whatever that actually means);
2) I blog about anything that gives me the impetus to blog - and that can be anything from an experience to a film I saw. I don't need people to read what I write, but when they do and share something connected to it, it's kind of cool. I don't blog zealously, it's rather random but I like the lack of pressure. It's also a great way to 'meet' those rare creatures, other writers;
3) I write straight out and rarely edit anything other than spelling, even if I re-read it and think it's a little embarrassing;
4) Ditto, I only censor names or occasionally locations to protect the guilty.

potdoll said...

Hey Jon, I started blogging cos I was going on a lot of courses and thought other people might like the notes.

I don't know how i decide what to blog about. if i've been anywhere and got anything to say i suppose. or if i'm up to stuff. oh, and to moan.

i write it straight out and it shows.

i do censor other people but not myself that much. apart from i'm anonymous of course. that's so i can swear and not get into trouble with my mum.

i keep a blog cos i like it and it's lonely not having that contact with other writers.

John Soanes said...

Oh dear, a prompt to talk about myself, as if I needed it to let my ego run riot. But since you asked:
1. Why did you start blogging and why do you continue?
I started a couple of years ago with the aim of getting some of my writing 'out there' and maybe giving agents etc the chance to read my stuff. It's wandered wildly off that track in recent times - especially as my original novel-based goals have now expanded to include wanting to scribble for TV and film - but more than anything else the blog gives me the motivation to write something almost daily, and the chance to make immediate comment on events and issues I feel the need to vent about in whatever way. In terms of continuing, I enjoy the exchange of ideas - you comment on my posts, I comment on yours, that kind of thing - and the feeling (as you refer to) of 'meeting' people.
2. How do you decide what to blog about?
Very much a case of what's on my mind at the time - I may have a stupid picture I want to share, a review I feel I want to write, a link to something worth publicising, or a topic I want to post about. Somewhere in my notebook I have a list of possible post ideas - mainly to do with writing and related issues - and occasionally I'll look at that, but most of the time it's a moderately natural and unforced decision, if that makes any kind of sense.Sometimes, as with topics which are covered everywhere at once (such as Heath Ledger's death), I'll just leave the subject alone, as I don't feel I have anything to add.
3. Do you write straight out or pre-plan what you’re going to write?
As alluded to above, there's a bit of planning, and I tend to write and rewrite the longer posts, aiming to clarify points and make sure my spurious arguments make sense. The shorter posts, with links and the like, are often chucked onto't blog with less preparation. It's probably borderline OCD or something, but if I spot a typo or factual error in a post that's already up, I try to correct it as soon as possible.
4.Do you censor yourself?
I leave out names of people unless I've got their permission to name them, but that's about the extent of it. Despite using colourful language in offline life, I don't swear too much on the blog - not because of the concern that someone might read it and be shocked (I'm led to believe there are more shocking things than swearing to be found on the internet), but mainly in the hope that when I do swear, it acts as a kind of emphasis. Old-fashioned, maybe, but that's my rationale.
I very rarely write about my day job in the blog - I think it's more amusing if people don't know exactly what it is I do, like Chandler in 'Friends' - but that's probably because the blog and my thinking alike are more focussed on non-work topics like writing, TV, comedy or whatever. I'm not worried that anyone might not give me a job because they've Googled me and found something I've written on the blog - I think it was Warren Ellis who said that writers are hired because they have a voice and opinions to share, and if my aim of using an 'online presence' to express opinions or show off my writing is to have any kind of meaning, I think I ought to write stuff without any concerns about that. Gawd only knows if any of the intent shows in the finished stuff, but that's probably better judged by other people than me.
Interested in your comments about uncertainty re continuing,by the way, Jon - if it's any kind of support, I always enjoy your posts and comments; a solidity of thinking and reason which I fear is often absent from my own wordsmithing, I suspect. Be a shame if you abandoned the blog, I feel…

Elinor said...

I got blogging to focus what I was doing on a day-to-day basis and to connect with others, which is always important when you're stuck.

I wing it on the spot or sometimes just choose a subject or event but I don't plan it.

I don't self-censor as such as long as I can back up my opinions.

Keep writing Jon.

Phill Barron said...

• Why did you start blogging and why do you continue?

I kept reading Danny Stack's name everywhere and was wondering who the hell he was and how I knew him without seeing or at least reading anything he'd written.

When I found out his name was bandied about primarily because of his blog, it seemed like a good game to get into. So initially, it was just another way of getting my name onto the net.

Why do I continue? Because I enjoy it and because people occasionally read it ... and it has moved my net presence up a notch. I also enjoy being a small part of a community, which has led to me meeting other writers and even arranging a few collaborations.

• How do you decide what to blog about?

Early on I decided not to offer any advice about how to write, because there are far more experienced people than me offering much better advice than I'm capable of. On top of that, there are a lot more less experienced people than me offering a lot of really bad and ill informed advice ... which is still better than any I have to offer. Best to stay clear.

I laid down a few rules: it would only be about writing, not my cat or the latest pair of socks I bought; it's purely for self-promotion; and I'd try to be as honest as possible about how my career was progressing. I try to stick to these rules, although I do stray occasionally.

On a day to day basis, I write down topics as they occur to me and then completely ignore the list when I sit down to blog.

• Do you write straight out or pre-plan what you’re going to write?

If the post has been in my head for a while, it may be half-formed - but in general it's all stream of consciousness. I'm often surprised by where the post ends up.

• Do you censor yourself?

A little bit. I've decided not to complain about anyone else's writing any more - it's not very professional to go around slagging other people off. Other than that, the only time I censor myself is at other people's request.

Sometimes something happens which I can't talk about without giving away someone else's secrets - sometimes an interesting meeting or production process would give away the details of a project everyone involved wants kept secret ... and I have to comply.

Other than that, I try to be as honest and open as possible.

Unless it's funny, or just a damn good story.

Rob Stickler said...

• Why did you start blogging and why do you continue?

I used to keep diary religiously but stopped some years ago and never got back into it. After a couple of abortive attempts I decided last year I would keep a blog, actually intending mainly to write reviews and the odd cynical media comment.

As it's turned out I mainly write/complain about writing/not writing, although I do try and vary topics.

The community side of it awesome. When I started I didn't really read any other blogs, thinking no one was reading mine, but it doesn't really work that way. All of a sudden you're part of something [cheese]much bigger than any of us [/cheese].

Also it's a thing that has to be written. If I don't update it for a while then I have to think of something to write about or I feel bad. I like that obligation to maintain it, like keeping an appointment.

• How do you decide what to blog about?

Varies. Something I feel I need to get off my chest, or just feeling I need to write something.

• Do you write straight out or pre-plan what you’re going to

Kind of straight-out but I serial amend for about ten minutes after I hit 'publish'. Worrying habit that.

• Do you censor yourself?

God, yes. I seem to have imposed a rule never to venture into politics. I try to keep it light and avoid airing any contentious opinions I may hold. Like 'bring back hanging' or National Service.

I share your 'interloper' feelings a lot of the time. I'm also unproduced and thus far unsuccessful as a writer. It's all about sharing the pain though I guess, and the pleasure.

Good questions, Jon. Thanks.

Rob Stickler said...

On the other hand, sometimes when you bake Dalek cookies the world just deserves to see them.


Jon Peacey said...

Hi Everybody,
Thank you all so much for such unexpectedly expansive and interesting answers.

I hadn’t realised that I’d implied I was thinking of giving up blogging… until I had a re-read. That was a bit of an ‘oops’ moment so it was! I had certainly become concerned about what I should be posting about. All the supportive comments have been really encouraging and I certainly can’t be giving up now! You’ve also proved what I suspected: that you’re all the thoroughly decent people I’d thought you were. And that’s surely what creates that sense of community that has come up so many times in your comments; I can only totally agree.

My own position as a blogger has always struck me as somewhat peculiar as since time immemorial I’ve disliked talking about both myself and what creative endeavours I get up to. I tend to feel, when I talk about my ‘work’, that I sound like a pretentious prat!

I also suddenly realised I hadn’t answered a couple of my own questions:
-I post more when I’ve been writing harder and post once I’ve actually done some writing- or I’d just spend all my time writing for the blog;
-I write a rough note (especially when trying to work through an argument- in the purest sense of the term) then do the whole post in Word complete (a trait I solely seem to share with Far Away) then cut-and-paste;
-I cut and censor to make sure I make sense, for length (my longer posts are often cut by about a half their original length) and also to remove anything stupid such as being over-critical or proposing an invasion of France or banning potatoes: I hope when I criticize individual programmes it comes across as reasoned rather than rabid. I do also worry about damaging any potential career so a certain circumspection creeps in- even if it’s not readily apparent! I wouldn’t (and haven’t) mention anything I’d been told in confidence or that could track back to and damage anybody else. And I’m definitely with all those expressing continued surprise that anybody’s actually reading their Blog!

I certainly agree “it’s like speaking in public” and write accordingly. I avoid actual screenwriting advice (I don’t have any) but I will ponder issues around screenwriting if they occur to me. I would prefer to avoid politics but find it somewhat impossible- it’s that politicized-type background that Rach mentioned… one day my blood will cease to boil and just evaporate instead!

Thank you all again for taking the time to put down your thoughts.

…and Dalek cookies just need to be seen!!!

Jon Peacey said...

…and Mr. Soanes I have worked out your secret day job: you must be a ‘transponster’. ;)

(“a solidity of thinking and reason” Not sure how that came about but I like the sound of it. Thank you!)