Thursday, 26 March 2015

This is the best post I've ever written

It's hard to believe, but I've been doing this blog thingy for almost four years.

That's four years of insightful observations and hard-hitting revelations and general fluffy blah.

When I first started, I really had no idea about what I was doing. Every week, I would think, "What on earth can I come up with to post on my blog?" I was scrounging for ideas out of thin air. It really was a challenge.

Luckily, I'm a quick learner. I began to get better at generating ideas for posts. I also began to get better at getting a sense of good topics to blog about. I could look at my hits each week, and that would help to give me an idea of which posts were effective and which ones weren't.

Which has led me to the position I'm in today. After lots of practice and experience, lots of trial and error, even occasional pain and heartbreak, I have a really grand announcement to make today.

I'm proud to announce that this is the best blog post I've ever written.

Sure, I've written some doozies in the past, but I don't think any of them come near the standard I've reached today. This post is like a fine wine. It's like a glorious summer day. It's like winning the lottery, three weeks running.

Did you see that? Not just one, or even two, but three similes. That's what makes this post so great. It's absolutely jam-packed with brilliant literary devices. It's not just a blog post. It's a first-class Rolls Royce of literary invention.

Was that just a metaphor that I put in? To be honest, I'm not completely sure, but I'm happy to claim it. After all, this post really is the apex, the highest peak of my blogging career.

Is there anything else I can add to this post? Have I truly reached the extremes of excellence I've been aiming for? Mmmm, maybe I should stop now. I'd hate to think I was diluting this wonderfulness by adding too much extraneous material.

Wow. I'm quite out of breath now. This blogging thing really can be exhausting. After all this excitement, I really hope I can keep the amazing, incredible high standard up in my follow-up posts.

After all, I'd hate to think I've hit my peak too early.

Thursday, 19 March 2015

I'm really unreliable - and you can rely on that

Just a little warning to anybody arriving at my site for the first time. Don't believe everything I say.

So how do you know which stuff I say you can believe and which stuff you can't? Well to be honest I have no idea. I'm not even sure if you can believe me when I say that you can't believe me.

That's the tricky bit. As a writer, I am in the business of making stuff up. I'm a professional storyteller, an inveterate and incorrigible fabricator. Everything that comes into my head, no matter how correct and verifiable in the beginning, inevitably ends up getting twisted and turned until it ends up being something completely different.

Did I just say that? Then maybe it's not even true. Maybe it's just something else that I've imagined.

This lack of clarity about where the truth lies can make life very interesting for a writer. Often, I'll use autobiographical details as the inspiration for a story. But as the reality of events gradually begins to be converted into the fiction of a story, the line between what actually happened and what I imagined happened starts to get very blurry indeed. After a while, I start to have no idea where the distinction between fiction and reality lies. I begin to exist in a strange nether world between the two.

Or maybe I don't. Maybe I just made that up too.

In the end, does it really matter? If the essential truth is retained, even if the details become substantially different, does that not mean that I'm still a faithful compiler of events?

Part of me says yes. I'm the sort of person who is very much into solid facts. If something happened, then it had to happen. The last thing we want to do is find ourselves down some kind of post-modern rabbit hole where fact and fiction become meaningless.

But another part of me disagrees. We can never be sure exactly what is fact and what is fiction. Memory is unreliable, and all our experiences are somehow mediated by our senses and influenced by our prejudices and expectations.

In the end, I'm not sure I can believe either of those parts of me.

So where does that leave me? I have no idea. If I'm stuck down some kind of post-modern rabbit hole, then I guess I better learn how to dig. Quickly.

All I can say is don't rely on anything that you've just read. And that's something you can rely on.

Thursday, 12 March 2015

Life is too short - for pretty much anything

Life is annoying. Life is irritating and frustrating. Sometimes life just makes me want to tear my hair out and scream.

What are the aspects of life I find most frustrating? Is it the grand injustices that people suffer every day? Is it the violence and cruelty, or the greed and corruption that can leave our societies in such a mess?

Well no, not really. True, I'm not rapt about that stuff, but it all seems so big and scary and unmanageable that I mostly just blank it out. The things that really get my goat up, and make me grumpy and annoyed as I try to get through my day, are all the little things.

I might be reading in the paper about something terrible that happened over on the other side of the world and then maybe some major catastrophe might happen, like one of my kids spilling milk over the table. That's it. End of the world. I'll be furious, ranting and raving about what a disaster has just occurred. Or I'll be walking down the hallway, quietly musing about man's inhumanity to man, when I'll stub my toe on the metal strip that lines the edge of the carpet. Most likely, you'll hear me screaming in anger from the other side of the street.

At least that was the old me. The newer me is trying to look at things differently. True, I still find some of those really big things to be totally scary and unmanageable. But at least there's something I can do about the little ones. Okay, so I can't completely ignore them, but every time some little thing starts to drive my temperature up, I can breathe slowly or count to ten. Then I can say to myself, "Is it really that bad? Do I really have to get so worked up about it?"

Sure, it doesn't work all the time. Sometimes, no matter how hard I try, it's impossible not to feel my anger and annoyance starting to rise. But then there's always something else I can do. I can write about it. I can channel my anger and frustration into something more creative. I can even turn it into something fun.

Because let's face it, life is already too short. It barely seems to give you enough time to do all the things you really want to do. Do you really want to spend that time getting angry and annoyed and upset about things there's just no need to get angry and annoyed and upset about?

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Life is too serious to take seriously

Life is serious. Seriously.

All sorts of terrible things happen all the time. Kids are abused. People lose their jobs and have no means of support. They might be victims of violence, or all sorts of brutality. The world is full of racism and sexism and lots of other not-so-good-isms.

Sometimes, I find it difficult just reading the paper, when I just have sadness and violence thrown in my face. How on earth are we meant to respond to all of this? What is the decent, honest, human way to deal with the general awfulness of a lot of life?

A lot of people take the burden onto themselves. They become involved as activists, or join up with organisations that support people in need, or volunteer for all sorts of different services, often putting their own lives at risk. That's great. I really admire people like that. But other people get overwhelmed with it all, or simply shut it out. Most of the time, I confess that's me. I suspect it's most of the rest of us as well.

In the end, the main strategy I have to engage with the general seriousness of the world is to write about it. But, you may say, isn't my writing largely humorous? Am I not primarily just trying to get people to laugh? Well, yes I am, but there's a bit more to it than that.

Humour is a big part of the way I deal with the seriousness of the world. I know, that seems to be a bit of a contradiction. How can you turn something serious into something funny? Isn't that just trivialising the very real suffering of others, just to get a laugh?

Well, yes and no. I agree that there is a lot of humour that can be quite trivialising, and personally I'm totally not into making fun of anyone disadvantaged. But there are other types of humour as well. Humour that helps you to see things in a new way. Humour that gets you to reconsider the way you view the world, and your preconceptions and prejudices. Humour that is about understanding there's only so much you can do, and putting on a brave face and getting on with things just the same.

To me, humour is a powerful thing. You can never be truly downtrodden if you're able to laugh, no matter how painful that laughter may be. It can bring people together, and maybe, in some small way, it can change the world for the better.

Because it truly is a serious world we live in. Far too serious to ever take too seriously.