Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Out, damn blogspot - by Nicola Morgan

One of the good things about the online world is that we (anyone) can connect to and see the thoughts of people who don't think like us. It's mind-widening. One of the bad things about the online world is that we (anyone) can connect to and see the thoughts of people who don't think like us. It can be poisoning.

While it's very important to allow ourselves to be challenged by other viewpoints, when we are exposed too much to people who will never think like us and like whom we never wish to think, people whose views and/or behaviour feel jarring, stressful and mean-minded, the effect can be corrosive. If you're like me, disliking confrontation, believing that people are entitled to their views and feeling inhibited by either good manners or self-preservation from saying what we really think - not because we don't value our own opinions but because we have a life to live and work to do and genuine friends to enjoy and the belief that really life's too short to spend it jumping up and down shouting - then the very effort of not saying something, of not trying to explain why we think the views we've just read are misguided, is enormous. And corrosive.

And, more importantly, may stop us writing. I have recently decided that nothing is going to stop me writing.

When I was 50, I vowed not to spend time with people who made me feel angsty or negative. Before I'm 51, I'm going to do the same regarding reading stuff that makes me feel angsty and negative, by which I don't mean things I disagree with, as we should allow ourselves to be challenged, but things that are so discordant with what feels right to me and to how I see the world, that no good is gained from reading them. Here's how:
  • Next time a friend says, "Have you seen the nonsense on such-and-such blog?", I'm not even going to look. After all, if people don't like mine, I don't expect them to spend a second reading it.
  • Next time I'm thinking of writing a comment or email that's going to require really careful wording so as not to offend anyone, I'm not even going to start drafting the comment. How many hours have I spent doing that, only to discard the comment? How many chapters of a book could I have written instead?
  • Actually, I'm not even going to read the blogs of people I don't already respect or blogs that don't really interest me, interest me in a mind-opening way. There's too much good stuff to read - especially in libraries and bookshops. 
  • I'm going to remove Google alerts from my computer.
  • I'm never again going to read the comments beneath online news articles. (I really must remember that one.)
But more importantly than all this, I'm going to write - books for children. Lots of books, I hope! And I hope they'll be published. As I've said elsewhere, I'm stopping my Help! I Need a Publisher! blog next week, stopping giving advice to writers, because I think I've said it all. Probably several times. I plan one day to start another more gentle blog, and meanwhile will blog at Crabbit At Home. I've loved doing the advice blog but that and my self-publishing (which I have not enjoyed, despite having a useful income from it now - but that's a story for another day) have taken me away from what I love most about being a children's writer: bookshops, libraries, enthusiastic librarians, greedy readers, wide eyes, the gorgeous breathless silence of the transported child reader. 

I won't forget that online has also brought me new friends, new ideas, new readers. But there's often a stridency about the online world, and a shouty tribalism which I dislike immensely. I know the same happens in the "real" world, too, but rarely amongst the people I hang out with. I have to find a way to avoid the negative aspects of online, to use it as a tool and not a lifestyle. Perhaps it's the fabulousness of talking face-to-face with fellow writers during the Edinburgh Book Festival recently that's nailed this for me - there really is little better than sitting with people and talking books, seeing readers clutching books to be signed, and drinking in the enthusiasm for reading and writing. It pervades the air between our heads and breaches the void. It's what I want, more and more. So, school events, festivals, conferences between writers and/or readers - bring them on! 

Of course - if you know me! - I'm not becoming a hermit. I'm not really "going dark", but anything that stops me writing or corrodes the chance of heartsong has got to go. 

There, I said it. Now, I've just got to do it.

I'm sorry this has been all about me but actually I really want to know if it chimes with any of you, whether positively or not? 


Penny Dolan said...

Think it follows on quite well from the mood of yesterday's post, Nicola!

Rach said...

Nicola I thought you were no longer going to read the comments under articles!! I would like you to know, however, that I have found your HINaP blog immensely useful, warm and at times inspirational. Thank you and good luck with all your books.

Nicola Morgan said...

Rach - ah, but I said: "online news articles" :) Not blogposts that I've actually written! Thanks for your comment re the Help! blog.

Penny - yes! It's all got a bit too much, because I've allowed it to. I find it very hard not to dwell on annoying things.

Anonymous said...

Your post definitely does strike a chord. I've recently cut the number of people I follow on Twitter to about 250 and I am also trying to avoid reading the comments on online articles too. I've realised I'm losing a lot of energy getting annoyed about things without really achieving much of anything. I need to be doing more writing and photography not getting involved in online debates which start off considered then often turn nasty as the trolls arrive.
In addition to your list, I'll add my own foibles:
I will stop reading any article immediately when I see the phrase 'as a mother' ('Mommyjacking' of any topic just sends my blood pressure skyward - the rest of us have feelings too)
I will not read any more articles on the merits of self publishing vs traditional publishing until I have something I want to get published near to completion (That may be some time)
I will switch all my devices off at least 1 hr before I go to bed.
I'm hoping that I can get back to what I found engaging about Twitter and social media in the first place - a supportive artistic community that gives me ideas and energy not a headache and world weariness.

Nicola Morgan said...

Peter - oh yes to those additions to the list! Switching off all devices an hour before bed - YES! Also, for me, any article about how to market your books - even the ones I've written myself...

JO said...

I agree completely. Social networking can be fun, but it eats hours - and that is time we need for much more important things like thinking. The internet can be hypnotic - and leave me with a strange brain-mushy feeling that needs serious coffee to sort out before I get on with what I really want to do.

You'll be missed - but you'll be doing something much more important - writing books for children!

Chris Stovell said...

All best wishes with your future writing projects.

Nicola Morgan said...

Jo and Chris - thank you :)

Jim Murdoch said...

The thing I keep coming back to these days is ‘return on investment’—what’s in it for me? I think altruism is a good idea but I’m altruistic online for a reason: I want to be read and not just my blogs but my books too. Especially my books. I had always assumed that if I maintained a blog with good content, responded to comments and made friends with my visitors that this would encourage people to want to find out more about my books and that has happened but when I think about how much work went into making those contacts one really does have to ask oneself: Was is worth all the effort? I could have set up a stall down the Barras and sold more books if only I had the bottle to do such a thing.

The same goes for all the networking we do. There it’s harder to see the return right away and so it’s easy to think you’re wasting your time and then, as happened to me recently, a person whose site I had been visiting for months dropped me an e-mail looking for a review copy of my last book. Okay it’s not a sale but even getting people to review your books is not so easy these days.

I personally need to do a cull of blogs. I’m following over 250 all of whom I started reading because they looked worthwhile before they started posting recipes and photos of their dog. They’re never going to read my books and all they’re doing is wasting my time. Hope can make one frantic and I see many bloggers who are exactly that, frantic with hope and on the way to burning themselves marketing in all the wrong places because the wrong places are accessible and there’s always a chance, right?

Needless to say I agree totally about not investing time trying to win people round or prove points. That’s why I steer clear of forums and just pop my head up now and again in the couple of Facebook groups I’m in. There it’s not so much negativity as time wasting: newbies asking questions that could easily be googled (e.g. What’s NaNoWriMo?) because they like to be spoon fed. Time is valuable. We need to invest it wisely. Help! I Need a Publisher is still there as a resource and it will be for many years so your work is done if you’ve said all you have to say. Time to look for the next thing.

John Dougherty said...

Just what I needed to read this morning. Have logged off Tweetdeck and am going down the shed right now!

karen said...

I will never forget that when I was desperately looking for concrete advice about writing YA books, yours was the blog that came up, Nicola. Having said that, one of the things I love about blogs is how they morph and change with the writer's life. So if it's time to leave behind that part of your online career, so be it - you've given in spades. When the time is right, I'll be intrigued to hear what you didn't like about self-publishing! Good luck moving on, though you clearly don't need it.

Squidge said...

Having spent part of this morning in a session learning about the reading recovery programme we are using in school, just had to pick out this comment;
'what I love most about being a children's writer: bookshops, libraries, enthusiastic librarians, greedy readers, wide eyes, the gorgeous breathless silence of the transported child reader.'
Let's hope that, if we authors (aspiring or published) follow your advice and actually spend time on writing - rather than allowing ourselves to become distracted - there will be more chances to create exactly that scenario.
If anyone can enthuse our kids to read, Nicola, it's you!

Clare said...

Nicola, I was fortunate to come across your blog some years ago, by chance, and have learned so much from it - thank you.
What strikes me most forcibly about this post is that you sound like your old self again - energised, motivated and somehow lighter.
You have given so much of yourself to your readers (blog and books), I'm really happy that you're now going to do something for you, something that will allow your heart to sing again.
VERY best wishes for whichever direction your heart calls you to follow.

Anonymous said...

Just do it! Good slogan from Nike. We don't have to *allow* anything on the internet, as in life, to upset us, our work routine, our focus, our equilibrium or our happiness. Nothing changes if nothing changes and you've had the courage to change your situation.

Good for you, and all the very best with your future work. I gained so much from reading your HINAP website, as well as Tweet Right and Write To Be Published. There'll be a Nicola Morgan-shaped hole in a couple of areas but a lot of very happy 8+ year olds as a result!

We have to do what we have to do...

Clare S said...

Actually, this does totally resonate with me! Your last bulletpoint in particular I can relate to - I get so irate when I so much as glimpse those comments!!! I don't even know why I do it. Really, life's too short, and I want to spend as much of it as I can doing the things I want to do (like writing!), rather than getting angsty about things I have no connection to and that are ultimately unimportant.

Funnily enough, I think my partner was trying to address this with me a few weeks ago when he mentioned how upset I get about things I can't affect (I think I was shouting at the news on TV at the time). I kind of dismissed him, because the things he believes we can't affect, I believe can be slowly chipped away, especially if enough people get involved (I even used the example of Suffragettes). Having read your article, I think what he meant was what you've said so eloquently.

Unfortunately modern life (including the internet) seems to have made us devalue our time. Our time is precious, don't waste it on pointless things!

Thanks, Nicola, yet more words of wisdom. I think I might print this article and put it up next to my workspace to remind myself to step away from the news article comments!

Pauline Fisk said...

Writing for children. Yes, yes, yes. Meeting children. Yes. Reading to and with them. Yes. Writing anything for anybody. Oh, yes. Libraries. Yes. Bookshops. Yes , but it would be nice to find an independent occasionally. Fighting negativity and focusing on the positive. And, I'd add, writing with hope. Aspirations for us all. Thank you, Nicola.

Pauline Fisk said...

Writing for children. Yes, yes, yes. Meeting children. Yes. Reading to and with them. Yes. Writing anything for anybody. Oh, yes. Libraries. Yes. Bookshops. Yes , but it would be nice to find an independent occasionally. Fighting negativity and focusing on the positive. And, I'd add, writing with hope. Aspirations for us all. Thank you, Nicola.

Cameron Lawton said...

I can only agree whole-heartedly. Twitter can waste valuable writing (or family) time. I've been pruning my follow list, spending less time on Twitter and realising how utterly boring it has become since some people use it as nothing more than a vehicle for shouting at me to buy their book.
Can I add another category?
People who do nothing but RT about good causes because no matter how GOOD a cause it is, over-exposure is counter-productive.
Very best of everything for your new books, Nicola, because,like others I have been a grateful follower of HINAP and it has got me published - couldn't have done it without you.

widdershins said...

... but ... but ... but, the comments underneath news articles is sometimes the best part!

Nicola Morgan said...

Widderhsins - well, each to her own!

Thanks for all your comments. Now I just have to make it work. And it's easier said than done, though I'm getting better. I hope you are, too!

Nick Green said...

They used to call the internet the 'information super highway' and after a four-hour motorway drive on Wednesday I can see why. Some people behave on the internet the way they do on the motorway, with a level of rudeness, stupidity and downright psychopathery (no other word will do) that they would never dream of employing face to face. The invisibility and imagined invulnerability that some people feel behind either a wheel or a keyboard can cause a total breakdown of social conditioning, and make otherwise nice people into monsters.

Luckily, on the internet, you are at least safe from being tailgated and crashing at 80 mph.

Glenn Ingersoll said...

I used to get really het up about people being mean & ignorant on the internet and would get into flamewars and fume for hours (days!) about 'em. I think I've gotten better not just at dismissing ignorant jerks (instead of trying to educate them) but at avoiding them entirely. If it looks dicy, stay out of it.

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