Friday, 10 October 2014
Well, that was a waste of time, wasn't it?
Whole hours spent agonizing over words, scrutinizing analogies and, yes, learning how to use that frankly ridiculous Medium website, and what was the sum total of my efforts? Not a single comment or retweet for my article on photography and visual impairment.
But it does at least raise one important question, which I shall attempt to address here: who am I writing for?
Like most people who write I do so for a plethora of reasons. First and foremost I want to do it. There is little more cathartic after a long day at work, or a particularly frustrating experience, than putting thumbs to screen and penning a few lines which encapsulate my thoughts. I suppose it is a self administered therapy of sorts, a consultation with myself, or maybe with my imagined reader.
... Which brings me onto the second point: I write to be read. Yes, I know it's obvious, a little dull, a truism if ever you saw one, but it bears repeating. How sad would it be to talk and not be heard, to present yourself well but never be seen? Whilst much of the pleasure in writing can be found in wrestling with ideas which won't form words, or words which appear intent on standing out of line, breaking rank and not following orders, much too lies in imagining the reader's reaction, and knowing that thoughts once locked inside your head are being set free to blend with others, contributing to the rich discourse of life.
And there's a third reason, one which may not be new in and of itself, but which has surely been given greater momentum by the social media explosion over the past decade. For some, writing for oneself, being read occasionally is quite sufficient, but for the tweeters, flickrers and booers on the right side of the digital divide only world dominating viral notoriety will do. And whilst my ego is insufficiently bloated, or my talents adequately exaggerated to expect a worldwide following, like so many I cannot help but want a piece of the action. It isn't enough to know that my words are out there for others to read, passively waiting for somebody to pass by with the time and inclination to pause and absorb their meaning. In a world where everyone blogs, where noise frequently drowns out those who are truly worth listening to (amongst whom I certainly do not count myself, just for the record! ), an article or account will survive to be read only if it is publicly liked, shared, served up on a plate and pushed in people's faces. There must be countless people who, like me, have had a go with websites like Medium, but whose carefully crafted prose will never make the daily email or be featured on the front page, and is therefore destined for eternal obscurity in a lost corner of the web.
In truth, being noticed comes down to three factors, talent, hard work, and a healthy dose of luck. I can think of several bloggers I read on a regular basis who truly embody the first two of these, people who sit down every evening of every day and pen a fifteen hundred word essay, or who have the kind of writing style which flows naturally from head to screen to the reader's mind. I neither work hard at my writing, nor am especially good at it, and so realistically shouldn't expect the world when clicking "Publish". But then there is luck, that mysterious third factor, lurking unseen in the corner of the room, waiting to pounce on some unsuspecting writer, delivering a positive push up the rankings or highlighting a slip, mistake or ill thought out point and posting it high for everyone's attention. In other words, the chance of writing something which captures the attention sufficiently, or strikes a note apt for the moment, is tempered somewhat by the risk of having one's mistakes showcased in a similar way.
So, perhaps I should actually be grateful for the relative obscurity that my posts enjoy. I don't have the external pressure of living up to expectation, of writing so often that blogging begins to interfere with the other things I hold dear in life, and by keeping my head down I avoid the considerable risk of having it shot off. And I can still enjoy writing for myself in the knowledge that the small group of people likely to read it will appreciate the effort and think about the points made.
So, was it really such a waste of time taking time to think about my experience taking photographs from a different perspective to most people? Was it really so taxing to mould an account which conveyed my thoughts adequately? No, writing is a pleasure, having it read is a bonus, being understood is the real holy grail.