Behind the Scenes at The Word in Edgeways #3

I set a rule for myself that I wouldn’t bog down this blog with boring personal life stuff or me-me-me story time but I suppose I should explain why I haven’t been blogging regularly in the past ten months.

Shhhhh

When any blogger on the internet tells too much about their life

Let’s go back to November 2013. This time last year, I was unemployed and still living in Edinburgh, passing the time by hopping around the UK going to fruitless interviews and cringe-inducing assessment centres for jobs I wasn’t suited for whatsoever. When not lying to myself and wallowing in bittersweet post-graduation limbo, and later getting torn over a future of waiting to strike lucky in Scotland or taking a risk and going to a capital city where there were all the jobs, I was forgetting my problems by hanging out with good friends and family, getting out and about, pluckily reading books and, of course, keeping up with this blog.

While it’s true that I like partaking in reading, creative writing and a good indulgent session of literary analysis (who doesn’t!), I should be honest about my other motives for creating and maintaining this blog. Now that I’m comfortably in a role for the foreseeable future (let’s hope this post doesn’t jinx it), I think I can afford to reveal why I started this blog. And I would wager that it’s secretly why a lot of young graduates start their own blogs. Employability.

“You bastard!” scream the numerous imaginary followers of The Word in Edgeways, devout denizens of wordpress.com so socially lubricated online that they click the like button for articles and yet scroll down their feeds without actually reading them, according to my dashboard stats. “You don’t really enjoy literature or books with the voraciousness and passion as you imply! You only really did this blog so you could get a job! You’re a phony!”

But what else can you do when you have zippo going on in your life and you’ve just graduated with a literature degree? When you’ve never previously networked, interned or demonstrated enough autonomy, authority and responsibility to be snapped up by headhunters or taken seriously in the bureaucratic hoop-jumping selection process of a graduate training scheme? Where even going back to a service-related job is nigh impossible because of over-subscription for vacancies? You start a blog and you do as much as you can to develop yourself personally and professionally to make up for lost time.

But I am confident in saying that it worked. I am now in a job where being able to write well (or at least having good grammar, spelling and I hope, an engaging writing style) is imperative for the role (something I didn’t really believe until seeing firsthand our recruitment process…). Creating this blog and being able to work on and publicly demonstrate my writing skills was one thing out of many that managed to earn me an interview and then a call-back for an internship. And which, extremely luckier than that, turned into a full-time role.

How it feels to finally make more than minimum wage

How it feels to finally make more than minimum wage

So of course, with an awesome new job and new chapter in life came the 42.5-hour work week. My job is extremely interesting and varied, but doing anything religiously for eight and a half hours a day, five days a week, plus London’s mental tax of making getting from A to B painful and time-consuming (not to mention expensive, holy shit), means all you want to do when you get home is conk out and eat pasta in front of the TV like a good capitalist. Setting up and adjusting to a new life, focusing on the job, sorting out the flat, training for a half-marathon, exploring a new city, relishing crumbs of holiday and finding one’s feet in this new point in life meant the blogging shifted in my list of priorities, to the point where I nearly forgot my email password were it not for its being written down elsewhere.

I dropped the ball because I didn’t need this blog anymore. It fulfilled its underlying function – to help me get a job. It’s shamelessly true. And I didn’t feel guilty about letting it slip because, hey, I have bigger fish to fry now. Reading books and writing them up takes up heaps of time so if I have little incentive to do it then I won’t bother. I’m not sure why I’m being so brutally honest, cause what does this mean for my followers, the ones that do apparently actually read what I have to say about books and stuff? I’m not deluded enough to believe that they would truly give that much of a shit about my mixed motivations to blog or even that any of this would deeply affect them but I do feel bad that I am not giving my own readers, the few that have engaged with my writing, the respect that they deserve.

Career motivation aside, blogging is a masturbatory exercise. This one really is. What am I really offering with this blog? Does anybody really care for a personal evaluation on the different books, films and TV shows I consume? Why am I wasting precious wordpress kilobytes by punctuating my indulgent heavily-borrowed self-satisfied analysis of Pynchon novels with complementary gifs in a vain attempt to attract an audience? I haven’t been doing this for an audience’s interest in mind. I have been doing this for me.

Which explains furthermore why I haven’t keep it moving. If I’ve learned anything from this year, it’s that when it comes to the success of blogs and online media, although content is king, making anything engaging online takes actual effort, care, consistency and a certain enthusiasm for it to be worth visiting and worth others sharing, something to which I had neither the willingness, interest or capacity to commit. Replying late to the odd comment or asking a vague question at the end of a post and expecting a discussion to magically happen would never cut it. And if I am so reluctant to use Twitter, Facebook and other networks to share and spread my blog, what really then is the point in keeping one? Should the success of blogging be measured by its instant appeal and shareability? Blogs are meant to be a social medium. An opportunity for dialogue, news, community. This blog is one-sided and selfish. Despite my previous protestations, I have been going about this blogging business the wrong way.

I’ve candidly revealed what I think about this blog after letting it break away for the last ten months and realising what it really amounts to. I’ve gutted it and laid bare my past motivations behind it, but do I walk away and leave The Word in Edgeways to rot or let it rise out of the ashes of self-awareness and disenchantment like some clumsy apologetic phoenix and totally change it to offer something of genuine value and put a whole lot more effort in? I read something somewhere, I think from imgur, that has stuck with me for the past couple of days and that nails what how I feel and what I need to do if there will ever be a future for this blog: “Do you tell jokes to make people laugh, or to make people think you’re funny?”

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Behind the Scenes at The Word in Edgeways #2

A month without posting. I make no apologies.

Though I guess I should explain why: first of all, I now have employment! Having just arrived in London, I was extremely lucky to land confirmed work in the same week as getting here. Seriously, extremely damn lucky. I am interning in the centre of London at a market research/consultancy kinda place which is very fun – when I’m not doing data entry, I actually get to write the odd piece or two which is great. Everyone is nice and friendly, I’m really enjoying it and learning so much about writing and the working world and all that stuff (particularly how to efficiently use a Mac…). Readjusting my body clock to a 9-5 was traumatic but I actually feel better for it.

Over the December I wasn’t actually working. Besides finishing off a colossal doorstopper, I just could not be arsed reading anything else. My Tsundoku post captures this weird malaise I get with reading and blogging together in further detail, but I just couldn’t be sacked. Reading a book and blogging about it in detail is time-consuming and although I like to write and I am still as interested in literature and books and films and TV as ever, I just didn’t have the energy to do anything about it. Moving to a new place combined with excessive social drinking throughout the holiday period inevitably put book blogging far down my list of priorities.Feelings

So is this the post where I vow to change for the better now that it’s the New Year? No. I don’t want to make any promises that I might not keep. Now that I am no longer a NEET (at least, for the time being), I don’t have the same free time and responsibilities as I do now. My blog may not be updated so frequently but I will do my best to be conscious of offering something now and again. I don’t know. Over the past six or seven months, I can’t really see my blog experiment developing or changing into anything bigger for many reasons, reasons that I now realise all boil down to post consistency, my self-indulgent writing style (apparently a big no-no in the world of blogging successfully) and my own aversion to social media publicity (err… what? Shu’up). These things might change in the future. Nevertheless, I do like writing for its own sake. I actually have some real writing projects for other people in the works on top of the ones I have to do as an intern so unfortunately these will take priority over this blog.

So that’s that. Till next time, who knows when that will be.

Thoughts about Tsundoku

Tsundoku: a Japanese term for the act of buying a book and then letting it sit on your shelf unread amongst all your other unread books. My name is Marty, and I have a reading problem.

I’m usually quite a frugal person. I rarely buy clothes or shoes unless they’re in shreds or enough females in my life go on and on at me to replace them. I hate wasting money on things I know I’d never use or wasting time doing things that have no beneficial end result. But when it comes to books, aw lawdy lawdy. I can’t help myself. I am a total gaping whore for books. I have to ban myself from second-hand book shops because I often come out clutching three or four tattered novels that I simply cannot turn away from. Trips out to town inevitably end up in Waterstones and I have to avoid the half-price or 3-for-2 sales. It is a problem, and one that goes on and affects other areas of life.

Bookporn like this is a catalyst for succumbing to tsundoku

Bookporn like this is a catalyst for succumbing to tsundoku

Tsundoku is fetishistic. I am essentially collecting and cataloguing a bounty of ideas and stories that are not being used and embraced and all because of a fleeting moment of desire and expectation. And so my own material possessions create implications about myself. Having all these books implies that I have read all of them when more often that not, I have not even taken the promotional sticker off the front cover. Rather than buckling down and actually reading the damn things, I have these piles of books hoarded on my shelf that sit there only to gather dust. As a result, I feel a mental ball-and-chain when deciding what next to read for which tsundoku is to blame.

Tsundoku is one of the reasons that I started this blog. I felt I needed some kind of assistant medium to help me get through the mountains of books I impulsively purchased in the past. So I can go on and justify buying books that are new releases from new and exciting authors. In case it wasn’t very evident, 90% of my reviews thus far are for books that I already have on my shelves. Tatty classics from charity bookshops, recommendations from various people, birthday and Christmas presents from 2008-2013, doorstoppers whose prices (£2 for Bolaño’s 2666 – yes please!) I couldn’t refuse.

Most book blogs I have read on wordpress focus on new releases whereas all my reviews seem to be for books that have survived the years and that already have some known reputation and recognition. I guess subconsciously that is why The Word in Edgeways is so called, because I am Slowpoke-reviewing against what has already be read and done and spoken about by so many already. There are advantages and disadvantages to this, but most of the negatives relate to self-motivated questions of “what is the point in even covering this” and the effort vs. reward relating to site traffic. But these are all extrinsic motivations for blogging in my mind. I blog because I like writing.

Behind the Scenes at The Word in Edgeways

Well, folks. It’s time things get personal as I share some crumbs of the big ol’ biscuit that is my life.

The title implies that The Word in Edgeways even has scenes that one can look behind but the reality is that nine times out of ten the work behind this blog is just me lying tucked up in bed wearing nothing but boxer briefs, drafting and redrafting blog posts and finding funny images and gifs to use from the comforts of a laptop. Sorry to deceive you like this. There is no brightly-lit office where I excitedly type at a messy pine desk with a pile of worn books in the corner and a mug of black sugary tea in my hand (partly because liquids and technology don’t mix as I know all too well). This is the unglamorous reality of blogging, or at least, this is my reality.

OfficeDog

An accurate representation of how I productively spend my time

For the three people that actually take time to read my blog, you will have noticed that there has been a seven week spell of radio silence. I have been away on various holidays, enjoying post-graduation freedom in the sun and spending my savings on continental beer. (I have even made a post about some of it!) This summer seems to be the only time that I could get to enjoy some time off without feeling the guilt or pressure that comes with being a recent and unemployed graduate. Right now, I am experiencing that paradoxical limbo whose antipodes can be summarised as “Enjoy your freedom while you can” against “Why haven’t you got a job yet?”.

Fireworks

Fantastic view of the end of festival fireworks from our roof!

I am currently living in Edinburgh for the foreseeable future, beavering away with the big hunt(s) for employment, turning over pebbles in the hope that an offer, and even an further interview, will manifest. Though such times are hard and frustrating, I am feeling optimistic. Staying in Edinburgh is great though, despite the fact that most of my friends I made at uni have gone back home and are scattered around the rest of the UK and beyond. There is something about Edinburgh as a city that makes this all OK. Edinburgh has something indescribably magnetic about it, a city that offers to me hope and inspiration despite my not-so fortunate circumstances, and so here I stay. One bonus this year is that I have secured a spare room right next to the castle, and I mean, right next to the castle, which means I get to live my life in the beating heart of the city.

So, yeah, The Word in Edgeways is going to crack on. I am going to try to keep a better handle on things so please stay tuned. Expect more “reviews”, and I will probably blog more generally, too. I appreciate all the followings and likings and everything! Feedback is always welcome too – do my posts make you want to claw your eyes out from their pretentiousness? Please let me know.

Marty

The First Post is the Hardest

Hello there, and welcome to my blog!

This blog will be primarily a book blog. I intend to use this blog for three purposes:

Firstly, as a means of strengthening my own writing skills. I like writing and I often find that I go through months and years without writing anything to justify such a claim. I hope to rectify this.

Secondly, to encourage myself to read books regularly. Doing an English Lit degree for four years has just about burnt me out and I hope having the freedom to peruse what I want now and having this blog as another impetus will rekindle my interest in reading.

And thirdly, I intend to blog in order to have a taste of what blogging is all about. I would just like a platform to talk a bit about the ones that I have just newly read, whether as a point of interest about its history or its author, or how a book has made me think and feel a certain something, and see where it all takes me, however tangential it gets. I hope to blog to get more out of books by taking the time to invest some thinking behind them.

Therefore, my “reviews” won’t be marking books out of ten or gushingly summarising their worth in clichéd terms such as page-turners or eye-openers.

In terms of what I will be reading… well, there is no particular theme. The piles of books on my shelves, recommendations from friends (and potentially other bloggers *nudge nudge*), and spontaneous purchases will constitute my reading list. Anything goes, no limitations. If I am intrigued, I will read it. The classics, non-fiction, contemporary lit, local lit… I quite enjoy American literature, especially naturalism, and I have a weakness for magical realism so perhaps this will provide some consistency in genre throughout this process.

At heart, this will be a book blog but no doubt my ideology behind all this will change and I might end up being way more open and focused upon other media such as TV shows and films, or even some real life events and experiences. We’ll see.

If you like what you read then please feel free to comment or follow me on various other networks to your heart’s content!

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Jazzing up the first post with a duck eating pizza, what of it?