I think of writing as the act of standing naked at a hotel window. Very few people would ever think of standing naked at a hotel window or, at least, you don't go 'junk free' unless you're an exhibitionist or you hold a Scandinavian passport. Writing makes you feel vulnerable and putting those words into a public space feels like it should be a very risky thing to do. However, like standing naked at a hotel window, you're probably not understanding the context of your public exposure.
I often look at the vast expanse of windows in the big hotels I find around the cities I occasionally visit. From the point of view of looking at the hotel, you'd be hard pressed to spot which window frames a naked person gazing back at you. Of course, nobody will ever read this so perhaps now is the time to confess that I only look at the windows in hotels hoping to see one of those glamour models looking back down at me as she poses for some candid shots. In all the years I've been engaged in this noble enterprise, I can sadly report that I've never seen a glamour model looking back down at me. I've seen the pictures on the internet so I know that kind of thing happens quite a lot in hotel windows. I've therefore come to the conclusion that I'm looking at the wrong hotels or simply looking at the wrong time of day.
Yet whilst I struggle to spot the beautiful models pouting and bending, the people who do pose in hotels windows probably believe that everybody can see their nakedness yet the reality is so very different.
What I'm trying to say is that writing a blog feels like standing naked in one of those windows. The reality is that there are a billion other windows and that nobody is actually looking back at you or reading what I write. I could yawn, stretch my arms wide, rock back and forward on my heels like so, my pen and pencil case swinging back and fro in the breeze and nobody can see a thing. It's would be liberating if it weren't so damn depressing because, frankly, what is the point of standing naked at a window if not a single person knows that you're there? It's that age old philosophical question: if you wiggle your junk in a forest and nobody sees them wiggling, does your junk even exist? The answer, of course, is that of course it bloody exists and the judge will also take into consideration the twenty two other indecency charges before deciding your sentence.
When I was pimpled and naive, the fashion among my generation was to wear ridiculously tight trousers and big puffy jackets that I never did own. I came from a relatively poor working class family where every penny counted. Yet I was at school with the sons of local farmers and businessmen who had their own cars at thirteen and everything at fourteen that a fourteen old boy could every possibly wish to own.
I had none of those things. I had normal straight-legged trousers and some humble non-inflatable coat which therefore made me one of the unfashionable kids deserving only scorn and the occasional beating for being so deflated and straight-legged. My pants didn't cut off the circulation to my testicles and my coat was black when the fashion was for lime green with vanilla blazes. I imagine now that there are men my age suffering for the fashions of their fashionable youth. I like to think of some old schoolyard nemesis being told that his testicles were damaged by the drainpipe tight trousers he wore all those years ago and that's the reason why his lime green bud earphones pop out every time he crosses his legs.
As an adult, I think back on the misery of those years and realise that, oddly, my fashion back then was exactly what was subsequently considered cool. If I'd been born a decade or so later, I'd have been the coolest kid in the school. I looked and dressed like Kurt Cobain before grunge was acceptable. I was also dressing like a hipster in reefer jackets and desert boots long before either of them became the norm. I'll probably be wearing them still when they drop out of fashion again but I really don't care. Because I was so miserably aware of fashion as a teenager, I've never followed fashion as an adult. My natural instinct is to turn away from anything that's popular and that really sets me at odds with the internet.
The two threads of this barely cogent essay are really one and the same. It's about the writer's need for attention when the reality is that having the instincts of a writer makes you as popular as a septic cold sore in a cramped locker room.
There are some bloggers, of course, who are read and are popular. They're very often the kind of bloggers whose faces appear on the TV news above the caption 'Writer and Critic' or 'Editor of the Harvard Nose Review' or 'Scholar, Lover, Highly Gifted on the Flute'. They're the self-confident types who seem to emerge from university at the age of 24 and walk through the door of The Spectator and straight onto our TV screens with a fully formed world view. Watching the election coverage, I'm shocked by how many of that type there are out there and how they all look and sound the same. The men have narrow lofty heads, great teeth and bland Oxbridge opinions; the women have big broad faces and expensively casual Chelsea hair which they have to keep stroking over an ear whilst explaining the bleeding obvious. It's the breezy confidence they have and the certainty that they all have fresh minty breath and body odour undetectable by a bomb squad dog. Today they're dictating the news agenda, tomorrow they're announcing their retirement from Twitter due to continual abuse which they then turn into a 2000 word article that wins them the Pulitzer and 24 hour protection from Special Branch.
Journalism has entered into the Buzzfeed age where everyone is playing the same schoolyard game. I long to be one of those cool people but my trousers aren't tight fitting. I guess I'm still too straight legged. Yet that also means that I don't want to join in. I want to write long rambling essays that aren't structured around lists. I want to give my articles titles that are uncool and don't immediately attract a reader with a false promise of some amazing revelations about butter. I don't want to ever find myself posting an essay titled:
'These 10 Hollywood stars were born with tusks' [Damn! Failed again!]
'See the woman with Dick Tracy walkie-talkie tits'
'Eighteen ways to train your knees to launch you over a car!'
'Scientists plan to soundproof Canada'
'Read the secret Vatican evidence that the Pope is Korean'
'Do your earlobes prove that you're descended from the Russian Royal Family?'
They're fun titles, of course, but they're too easy to write...
'Turn your nut allergy into your super power'
'Man born with big toe that resembles Billy Crystal'
'What your arsehole says about your career choice.'
If none of my madness makes sense, it's because I don't expect anybody to gaze this direction and find me standing here ball-shine crazy in my hotel window. I write too often that I hate blogging but it's not the blogging I hate. It's not the effort of writing, the struggle with words, the lack of a theme or even a conclusion. I don't even mind standing here naked. I don't feel particularly fragile or exposed or compromised or any of those things that an ordinary person would probably feel if they confessed these muddled things.
The reason I find myself hating blogging is that sometimes it just reinforces the loneliness. A blog is the corner of the school field where the lonely writer goes to gaze through the iron railings wishing they were somewhere else when, deep down, knowing that they really want to be back with the cool kids. Back with the privileged few, in their tight trousers and lime green puffy jackets with vanilla blazes, whose dumb inarticulate cries rally their adoring fans for yet another assault on anybody or anything that dares to be different or strange.