Tag: Discussions

Blogging In Stages

(stage one often consists of not having any ideas for about five hours)

Normally, I write posts on here and hit ‘publish’ without so much as a second thought or a proofread, a process which has made me pretty good at not saying anything ridiculously offensive or controversial without much thought, but also means that my posts tend to lack any kind of meaningful structure or argument; even the pretentiously-named ‘intelligent’ ones are more like scrawled trains of thought in the margin of a notebook than a coherent piece of writing.

But in what might be a first for this blog (of over 400 posts :/) I have started a post, put a lot of time into it, got halfway, and called it a day, not wanting to rush something out that I end up regretting later; it goes without saying that this post is of particular importance – both because it reflects one of my most deeply-held opinions, and putting a foot wrong in the discussion of this idea is likely to result in me being assaulted in an art classroom somewhere – and you’ll probably be able to tell which one I’m referring to when I eventually post it as a result.

I’m also prepared for the inevitable outcome that it will read no differently to any other of my posts, and will be totally indistinguishable in quality from any of the others, because spending five days to write five times as much shit doesn’t necessarily mean the shit will be better than what you write in one day. But to me, if no-one else, there’ll be a difference; and without wanting to sound too narcissistic on a blog named after myself, I’d like to think that I’m capable of changing my approaches to and methods of writing, dependent on the reasons why I’m writing it – most posts exist to continue my arbitrary streak of posting, while this impending post will be directed at a specific person, and argue in favour of one side of a specific debate.

And isn’t that what writing crap on the Internet is all about – a pointless sense of self-worth, regardless of the actual quality of work produced. Hooray for entirely self-centred projects!

I’m Anti-War, But Pro-Violence

(stick that in your mutual exclusivity and smoke it!)

I like Anti-Flag, and Rise Against, and not being blown up in a series of abstract politically- and ideologically-motivated differences between people, who have power as a result of our broken society, and not the intelligence to use it wisely (also the result of that broken society). Yet I’m okay with small-scale violence: playing Mass Effect is one of the greatest pleasures a human being can experience (just above sex and just below eating two Custard Creams at once to create The Mythical Double Custard Cream of Legend), and that’s based largely around murdering aliens, I’m more than comfortable in moshpits, and I’m not above punching someone in the face if they’re being a dick.

But while it’s easy to draw a distinction between virtual or meaningless violence and full-scale war, it’s less easy to be totally fine with one, and maniacally opposed to the other, as I think I am; if I’m to keep up this stance, I’ve got to draw a line between the two somewhere, which isn’t easy when my opinions on the two things are totally different.

Take large-scale protesting, for instance. I’ve not been to any marches or rallies organised for students this term because the issues being marched on – basically that students are surprised and whiny about the fact that gaining access to, in some cases over two thousand years worth of, learning, academia and scholarly and worldly experience and advice requires more input than the ability to read King Lear as a 16-year-old – bore and anger me, but I’ve seen news reports of them spilling over into large-scale violence. Similarly, the recent violent protests in the wake of the killings of Mike Brown et al. where, ignoring the crappy eye-for-an-eye argument for a second, I question whether I’d be okay with more violent actions than shouting obscenities at police officers, or chucking stones from a safe (for all parties involved) distance.

Because a lot of the violence in these cases is unhelpful in terms of the issues raised, and actively harmful for those involved; apart from the obvious ‘death is bad’ thing that war has that makes it so detestable, my gripe is that it’s a base, rather animalistic way of solving problems that are often unfathomably complex. Take the political quagmire in the Middle East, a decades-long conflict that combines historical and ethnic identities, political separatism, the concept of interventionism, and a bajillion valid, justified and complex opinions, that is largely being solved through the use of a shit-ton of bullets, making it the international equivalent of failing to open a particularly intricately-wrapped Christmas present according to its instructions, shouting ‘frak it!’, and tearing into it with screwdrivers, scissors and anger; the present gets damaged, and its giver is sad that you didn’t take better care of it.

Equally, sometimes people overthink things, and get too caught up in ideas and speculation, without thinking of tangible problems, and in such cases a blow to the face is a rather effective way to recalibrate their earthly-pretentious ideological bullshit balance. I find myself thinking this a lot with people who self-identify as politically right; you might have your lofty reasons for wanting to protect an ethnic identity, or maintain social structures and norms that have, in fairness, kept the species going for a good few thousand years now, but sometimes you want to headbutt Nigel Farage and say ‘here is a real-life gay person, who you are oppressing’.

But where is the line between violence for the sake of groundedness and realism, and going too far the other way and ignoring ideas completely in favour of rule by money or might? Like all questions worth asking, I don’t know the answer; I’ve lived one, so far quite short, life, in one city in one country in one culture in one fragment of that big, scary infinite thing we all pass through called time, so I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to comment on it.

I think being flexible is the best solution. Pick the two opposite ends of the spectrum and have some opinions for the sake of context – paintball is fun, actual mechanised international warfare is much less so – and judge all the bits inbetween on an individual basis; if I’m at a march that turns violen,t get involved if it’s just insults and a few fists being thrown, but maybe back away if cars are being set alight, or whatever marchers-cum-rioters do with their afternoons.

Should I Take Politics Seriously?

(and I mean outside of the power struggles in Westeros)

A few days ago, I publicly pinned my cynical, mocking flag to the mast of the UK Independence Party, arguing here that I don’t care about politics, and so voting for a party just because I find them funny is probably a better use of my vote than washing my hands of this whole affair and buggering off to the safety of my status as a white heterosexual male in a society that bafflingly prioritises whiteness, straightness and maleness. And I, as expected, got a lot of funny looks from my, largely Socialist, Green, and Labour-supporting peers on my English course, which led to my ideal conclusion with this blog – we had a discussion about it! (admittedly at one in the morning after alcohol had been drunk by a few parties.)

And that other consequence of my blog came about – I’m reconsidering a way in which I view the world, namely that not everything can be lightly dismissed in a few hundred black-backgrounded words on a computer screen. A friend of mine, who comes from an area in which Ukip are popular, urged caution about supporting them, even as a joke, having seen first-hand what they can do with even limited power, and another mate raised the altruistic argument, that politics isn’t a thing I should engage with for my own cynical amusement, considering it can have implications for like 60 million people that live in the country.

These arguments were, for me, far more persuasive than the usual criticisms of my Faragery, that democracy is a human right and shouldn’t be wasted (piss off, a concept won’t make me think things about how my country should be run) and others have died for this right so it’s important (yeah, they died for their right to vote, not my right to vote).

Say what you like about politics, it is a deeply communal thing; individual votes don’t matter, only the ideas of people in large demographics, based on age, sex and everything else, and so policies are geared towards influencing these groups, and prioritising the interests of certain groups over others. Nowhere in this model are the narcissistic ambitions of a sleep-deprived philistine who’s greatest achievement in life is being able to masturbate effectively with both hands through a total of four different hand positions; and so if I am to be represented politically, I oughtn’t be represented as that person.

It’s hard to compress a human character – full of goals, fears and emotions – into a cross in a box in favour of a white man wearing a differently-coloured tie to another white man, but I that’s not what democracy is about, I now feel; it’s about taking those few opinions about wider society you do have, and aligning them with a party, rather than trying to express your whole complex character through a vote. And while I am more wanking philistine than rampant Trade Unionist, I am in favour of things like higher wages, reasonable hours for workers, and a national healthcare system for everyone, even if I don’t think about those things all the time.

So I’m not going to become more interested in politics because of one conversation I had in a bar, because that shit still bores me. But when next year’s General Election rolls around, and I’m in a position to exercise my political opinions, if not my opinions on everything, it’s an opportunity I might take. Equally, I might remain uninterested to the end, and not vote, but I’m now uncomfortable with trivialising my vote into something comedic when millions of people could be affected by it. I won’t vote for a party that fits my character, because none exist, and that’s not the point of democracy; I’ll vote whichever way my small political self decides is the most appropriate, and if that’s not at all, so be it.

But I can categorically say this, that I won’t be voting Ukip.

Here’s Another Piece Of Writing About Writing

(James Patrick Casey, taking the ‘original’ out of, well, ‘original’, since 2013)

Do you remember my novel I’ve mentioned in passing on this blog before? Neither do I, because I’ve only ever used it as an example of my own idleness and inability to do anything creative unless a teacher stands over me prodding me with a stick and threatening infinite detentions if I don’t write that bloody essay. But I’m writing a novel and, in the ten days I took off from this blog, I wrote about 35 pages of that, which meant that my break due to a lack of creativity was spent creating an apocalyptic society from scratch.

But in writing it, I set targets for myself, namely to write 4,000 words a day, which I did for six of those ten days. Then the totals fell to about 2,000 words, then 1,000, then a fifty-word ‘session’, whose very existence severely undermines the practicality of me making a career out of writing. I realised, then, that there is a fine line between setting a goal to motivate yourself each day – i.e. a word count – and becoming obsessed with that goal, that hitting the target is more important than the quality of work your produce, and any enjoyment you may get out of it.

I’ve had it in the past with this blog, where I’ve turned it into a turgid chore for the purpose of maintaining a streak of posts, but I’ve always had the safety net that the blog mirrors my life, and so if my life is boring, the posts based on it will be inevitably uninteresting too; this is why I’ve had no problems taking a break in the middle of long holidays, as I did a fortnight ago, to wait for more interesting things to happen that I could blog about.

But my novel isn’t based around my life (at least not explicitly), and certainly not around the daily occurrences within my life, where each new day of writing is heavily influenced by the life I’ve led that day. Essentially, being too focused on a goal when it comes to writing fiction means that you trade creativity for quantity of work, which is rather inexcusable when fiction can exist, on a basic level, to provide simple escapism from the crapness of reality.

This is my biggest fear of trying to make a career out of writing novels, not that I’ll probably live at home for the next two decades, or that I’ll survive on baked beans and broken dreams alone, or that I’ll have to work really bloody hard just to get a novel published, let alone have it read by more than my family, but that in trying to hit targets, either deadlines from publishers or my own word counts so I feel like I’m making progress, some of my creativity, or technical writing quality, will be undermined.

Of course, just as you must draw a line at the point where you do too much work to be truly original, you must have a lower limit on the amount of work you’re doing; you can’t take a three-year break from writing a novel just so you’ll ‘be more creative, man’ once you actually start working again.

I guess that writing, unlike some careers where your bosses or co-workers will give you targets to complete and tasks to do, is much more dependent on the writer themself, not just in terms of the motivation to get started, but in terms of judging when is an appropriate time to write, and how much one can produce without undermining quality. And considering that writing is usually a deeply individual career, I don’t think I’ll be able to Google ‘how much should I write today?’ and expect to get an answer that works right off the bat. Perhaps this is why I’m doing an English degree, rather than Law or History, because this is the first time I’ll have to create a meaningful work-life balance for myself, one distanced from the world last year when my parents cooked all my food, and drove me everywhere I wanted. This degree will basically be a trial run, where I’m balancing essays with housework and social commitments, and if I can make it work, I might get some joy out of being a professional writer.

And if I don’t, I can always monetise this blog to earn some cash once it gets enough viewers to be economically viable; on an unrelated note, please share this post, and all my 289 others, with all your friends. Cheers.

Art Versus The Artist

(sadly that title doesn’t refer to an amusing online video in which Michelangelo and his famous David have a boxing match to determine who has the larger penis)

When I was a kid, I made comics; they weren’t particularly amusing, and I didn’t show them to anyone outside of my year four comic-making group, an organisation made by me and my friends in which we would sit in at break times and draw impressively preposterous superhero comics that lasted a few months, but I found a lot of satisfaction in creating worlds, telling stories, and offering responses to things like my friends’ stories – considering I’m about to start an English degree, I’d say those things still interest me.

And in an attempt to improve my comic artistry – because I scrawled brightly-coloured heroes in panels long before and after this club rose and fell – I bought a book entitled ‘COMICS’, that taught how to draw cartoons and create stories foe beginners to experts; it’s from this book that I learned of the importance of sketching characters in pencil first. I’ve forgotten most of this book’s sage advice now, but one line stuck out to me in particular – ‘as an artist, you’re either selling yourself, or you’re selling your art’.

In practice, this means that, when you produce a piece of art, you are either trying to show off that art to the world, and make everyone fall in love with it as a single painting on canvas, or story in a book; or you are trying to show off your range of talents as an artist, and include plot-twists, romantic sub-plots, cliffhanger endings and all the other devices of a novelist, to show what a skilled and diverse writer you are. In this second model, the art is a means to an end of advancing the popularity and acclaim of the artist, whereas the art itself is the focus in the first example.

Of course, these ideas are very similar – a great piece of art will lead to its artist being well-known, and a popular artist is more likely to have their art better received by fans – but there is a subtle change in emphasis that I think is relevant to this blog. I’d like to think that I’m selling myself to you, not in a commercial, sell-out sort of way, but in the sense that my posts are intended to make you interested in me as a person and a blogger, so you come back regularly to check up on me, like a concerned aunt with none of the unwanted presents and demands to watch Saturday night gameshows on the BBC. I feel this way, I’ll become more of a person to talk to (because I am) rather than a producer of amusing one-liners.

But since my first ‘big’ (i.e. ‘widely-read’) post, Geographical Pickup Lines!, the majority of my views come from a list of twenty crass and dreary jokes that’s nine months old now; similarly, my Football Manager Pro Tips – Lower League Edition post, another relatively old one, gets far more viewers than even the great geographical one-hit wonder. These examples make me think that my ‘success’ on this site, at least in terms of sheer numbers of views, has come from selling my posts – i.e. making articles, intentionally or otherwise, that people consider and enjoy without caring about me as a person – rather than selling myself, as my more personal posts get nowhere near the number of views.

And I don’t really have a solution for this; I feel that to sell one’s posts, those posts must have interesting concepts, whereas to sell oneself, a number of posts must all be well-written and engaging, which requires a more technical skillset as a writer that I either don’t have because I’m not very good at writing, or won’t have because I keep this blog strictly as a hobby as opposed to a job or an obsession. As well as improving my writing technique to sell myself as a writer, I think I’d also have to improve myself as a person; ‘self-improvement’ is such a vague and subjectively-judged term that I don’t think I’ll ever succeed, and it’ll probably involve less cynicism and general bastardry, neither of which I forsee changing any time soon.

So am I doomed to be an unpopular blogger with popular posts, whose creativity is good for one-off laughs about geography, but is too much of a dick, at least in their writing, to ever be considered as a person?

Frak no! I was pondering these things last night, and would have ended this post on a note so depressing it would take a video of a pug literally being abused by Bowling Ball-Bag Bob beheaded to lighten the mood. However, in my efforts to stop being a whiny bitch, I realised that there are different ways of judging the ‘success’ of selling your art versus selling yourself; while it’s certainly true that art is successfully ‘sold’ if it is seen and appreciated by many people, whether you folks care about me as a person isn’t measured by the quantity of comments or followers to this blog, but by the actual words you use to talk to me. Without sounding too fluffy here, one meaningful comment is a much better example of you engaging with me as a person than a hundred views on a post about Football Manager tips.

This isn’t to say that those views are irrelevant, however; without fully grasping it, I’ve produced some posts that are to be interpreted themselves – the more comedic ones that can be read as one-offs – and more personal ones that are more about presenting myself to you than an amusing idea. So I’ll continue writing both kinds, alternating between posts for their own sake, and posts for the sake of getting to know me and, by extension, you guys where the content of the post is really just a means to an end.

I’ll stop having blogging existential crises now, and let you get back to your using of WordPress, where you can choose which posts you want to read, and how you engage with them.

Also, this post is over a thousand words and is quite self-important and whiny’; it feels like an old post from me! #throwbacksundays

Where The Hell Is My Inspiration?

(its probably hiding in those Where’s Wally books I had as a child but never finished; curse you, Martin Handford!)

I like to think that I blog about things that happen to me in my life – the occasional tangent discussing books and music albums aside – which has led to a problem during this Summer Holiday, the first time I’ve ever had two months off from school, or any of my regular activities: my life isn’t that interesting.

I am doing things this summer – I try to run almost every day, read a hundred pages of a book a day, and watch about half a season of Game of Thrones instead of sleeping – but none of these things make for particularly good blogging topics, apart from episode reviews, which would be horribly out-dated and require more effort to make sophisticated than I’m bothered to put in, or analysis of my running times, which would, by definition, be so niche that my whole ‘write about anything’ aim would be ignored.

And so I’m presented with a common problem among content creators, whose creations are closely related to their real lives: does the art define the life, or does the life define the art? If I were to go bungee jumping, or ice skating, or even swimming, because these things are unusual for me, just so I could write a blog post about them, does that not prioritise the content of a blog few people read on the Internet over the free will and desire of my own life? Shouldn’t I do stuff because I want to, and draw those events together each afternoon to inspire a blog post? Probably, but there just aren’t many thing happening in my life to be drawn together into posts.

One solution would be to cut down on the number of posts, so if I have one good idea a week, I should post once, not wade through six days of turgid nonsense before writing that idea up. But this creates an amusing paradox, that instead of improving my blog in summer, where I have more time to devote to it, I would be undermining it, because I have too much time on my hands; I love idiocy, but that’s too much even for me.

And I’m not willing to narrow my opportunities to do stuff this summer just to entertain you slightly more effectively (sorry babe, its not you its me) – if I want to do a particularly dull, individual thing that no-one else would enjoy, I’m going to do it, dammit!

Alternatively, one could see this lack of inspiration as an incentive to lead a more interesting life, or at least a life more relatable for other people; if I have a choice between going to a theme park, or getting a haircut, I am more likely to be tempted by the former, considering that I want to write about my day that evening, and currently have no ideas to write about. But that has failed spectacularly, as I’ve only left the house this summer to run, apart from a single afternoon spent watching the Tour De France, and another spent watching some friends put on a gig; I suppose I’m too stupid for such subtleties to work on me.

But I’m happy with the life I’m living, even if I think it won’t make good blog material; I’ve always found the difficulty of blogging daily to come from the need for constant inspiration, not a lack of time or eagerness, and this blog has been through some pretty dull patches in the past, but you’ve still Liked and Commented on posts, especially the ones that I thought were crap.

I started this blog for myself, but that motivation isn’t as important as it used to be; people find my posts entertaining, whether it’s one person, or even five, and whether they read six months of posts, or they follow me after reading one piece, and I never hear from them again. I think I need to stop writing just for myself; ideas that I think suck will often be funny for other people – like this post, that I thought was a filler, but quite a few people enjoyed – and this is why daily blogging is awesome: it’s like cooking a meal to people consisting of every ingredient known to man, even some that I dislike myself, but there’ll always be someone who likes a bit of it.

And you know you’ve been watching a lot of MasterChef when your go-to metaphors involve pizza.

How Do You Categorise Posts?

(he asks, in a post with a single category)

I like to think that I write about a variety of things on this blog – even if a full one percent of my posts are about the unusually specific field of Geography Pickup Lines – but I’m not sure what this variety is, exactly, whether my posts vary based on their content, or their tone of writing. If categorising posts is designed to provide order to the randomness of this blog, how can anything be categorised if I don’t know how things are varying. Essentially, I wonder if posts should be categorised based on content, or style of writing, because both are equally important in conveying meaning.

So far, I categorise based on content: the pickup lines posts are in the Pickup Lines! category, and the ones where I tell you about things that annoy me are usually in the Stuff About Me one, but these divisions are already flawed, as a lot my posts are anecdotal, but I don’t have an ‘Anecdotes’ category to put them in, meaning a lot of them are shoved into Ideas or Reactions To Stuff.

The divisions I do have are also painfully vague; Ideas and Reactions To Stuff contain fundamentally similar posts, in terms of their content. I think my intention was for the former to be my ideas on society, and the latter my ideas on things that happen to me, but that distinction was never noted down, expressed in a post, or even adhered to recently, as this blog became increasingly about shoving sinisterly-worded driven onto a web page, and categorising posts became a means of rubber-stamping the completion of a post rather than providing it with actually navigably helpful identifiers, as it did a few months back.

I’m also not going to change any of the random and inconsistent turgidity of my old posts because this blog is, if nothing else, deeply personal, and I feel that everything about it reflects how I was feeling at the time of writing; if the posts were a discordant mess at the end of April, that just reflects the general chaos and confusion of the ’Oh my God, there are two months to exams and I’ve not done any revision’ phase of my year.

But the future is something I can change – to the extent that I have a whole useless category devoted to it on my home page, a decision that I find both embarrassing and reflective of my optimistic idiocy of starting this blog, but that I will not change so as to show what a moron I was a few months ago, an acceptance that is an important part of self-improvement – and so I wonder if I should change how I split up my posts.

If I do, there will be greater clarity on this blog, perhaps helping newer readers find their way around; I’ve said before that I don’t expect you to read all of these posts, like illiterate but well-meaning religious types that arduously study moss formations as indicative of the will of a god instead of a holy text, but only those that interest you, so surely making it easier to locate posts about a certain topic would be helpful?

And this is why I’ve divided posts based on content so far, because I think that’s what you look for – you want my opinions on x, not a list of all the times I present myself as a pretentious git.

Or do you?

Personally, I take great pleasure in reading the articles of Charlie Brooker on The Guardian, not because I’m interested in current affairs – I couldn’t care less about Paxman leaving Newsnight – but because I like seeing how he deconstructs recent events into individual examples of idiocy and hypocrisy that can be dismissed humorously, and with an underlying intelligence to them. Equally, I love watching CinemaSins on YouTube, even for films I’ve not seen, because I like the precise way they pull apart films for comedic effect.

And I wonder if some of you are the same, that you don’t care whether I talk about socks, pedestrians, lie-ins or buses, but as long as I do it with an air of self-unimportance and paradoxically general dismissal of everyone who’s not me, you’ll find it amusing, which is kinda why I do this. I’ve had commenters saying they can’t relate to the things that I do, but find the way I present them amusing.

But that qualified – ‘some of you’ – is important, because I don’t know what you want, and will never find out what you want, because the beauty of online content is that new followers and viewers can pop up all over the place; I’m not appealing to a single, easily-pacifiable demographic here. The ideal solution would be a form of double-categorisation, where I label posts based on content – Ideas, Sports, School, etc. – and on style of writing – Sarcastic, Sincere, Self-Loathing, etc. – so that people can search for both, and either. That way, they can either look for my genuine views on gender roles, and the times where I take on an exaggerated persona to mock a certain viewpoint, which I may or may not intend to do.

The only problem with this solution is that it would add even more terms to the long-ass list of Categories I have on my home page already, and would require an overhaul of all my old posts so they fit the new model, a prospect that is both inconsistent in its presentation of me, and frankly too much bloody work considering my first exam is in exactly thirty days.

But maybe over summer, hey?