There is only one real reason to be a writer, and that is to be read.
Other writers will tell you differently, of course they will, but that is mostly self-aggrandisement and vanity. No one, but NO ONE is more important than the reader; every word is filtered through him, and the only important opinion is his opinion. It’s that argument about the tree falling in the forest and no one being within earshot. It is the vibration of the stuff in the inner ear that makes sound, and not the tree falling. It is the reader and not the writer that gives the written word its voice.
The same is true of blogging. I write this blog with the intention of it being read. That is not to say that I will do anything at all to ensure that it is read, but it does mean that I monitor it to see what sorts of posts are popular, which people return to and why.
Some of that is nonsense, of course, because the blogs with the highest readerships are often those with the most controversial or sexiest titles. It’s inevitable, I suppose.
One of the things I indulge in from time to time is borrowing from the great and the good. If someone says or does something interesting and is in the public eye, and I have something to say about it, I will use that in the blog.
I am sometimes surprised by the results.
Oscar Pistorius, who has nothing at all to do with writing and has no direct connection with me, but whose misadventures (to put the case extremely mildly) had me up in arms ,garnered me a huge raft of extra readers on the days I talked about him. He was newsworthy and I had something to say. I said it and my readership grew on those days, notwithstanding the fact that, at least ostensibly, this blog is about writing.
Earlier this week, I devoted two blogs to Jeanette Winterson after reading one of the regular features in the Sunday Times magazine, which happened to have alighted upon her as a subject. She’s a writer and a person of interest to me. She’s in my age group, she’s hugely respected for her work, and she’s well known for being a person with an interesting life and opinions. I thought taking a look at what she had to say, particularly her writing practice, would make for fascinating reading.
I was wrong. The Oscar Pistorius effect was very much not duplicated. Jeanette Winterson, apparently, is not as popular with other people as she is with me. I am rather sorry about that.
You would suppose that since I make it my business to generate interest in my blog, I might decide not to write about Jeanette Winterson again. On the contrary; today, I am making it my business to change the opinion of my readership by telling you two things about Ms Winterson that you might not previously have known.
The first of those things is that Ms Winterson grows her own vegetables, lots and lots of them, and that she eats them with apparent relish. Good for her, keeping her carbon footprint down and being productive and a bit of an Earth mother, and all sorts of other good things. You’ve got to take your hat off to her for that, at the very least.
The second of those things is that Ms Winterson’s latest book is a horror novella called The Daylight Gate. Women often write the best horror, in my opinion. They are less afraid of the hard nasties than men seem to be, less squeamish about what’s real. Ms Winterson has written brilliantly across the board and I anticipate good things from her foray into genre. I do so hope I’m right.
Having readers matters, and it will always matter, but having an opinion and sharing it honestly, and not being tossed on every breeze, matters more, especially, I think, when it comes to blogging.
So, it’s a pretty good bet that I’m more likely to write about middle-aged, literary, women writers than I am about young, male sports stars.
I’m sure we can all learn to live with that, though... right?