I can’t pinpoint when ‘Be kind’ became a campaign, but it’s safe to say it was borne of the pandemic and a few attention-grabbing headlines involving some not-very-nice celebrities (that means you, Ellen). Before long, this worthwhile, seemingly self-evident sentiment evolved into a ‘movement’ of sorts. And therein lies the problem.
Pandemics have a habit of placing humankind on the back foot. To everyone around me, I may have looked like I was (finally?) slowing down, but my brain was on high alert. Anxiety does that. Thoughts take you where they will – rationality, optional. My mind, nerves and heart revved constantly, gearing up for destinations unknown. Meanwhile, I left a few crumbs in case I got lost … which, for a while, seemed to be often.
But it recently occurred to me that I wasn’t lost at all. I was simply changing.
Get fit, brush up on French, update the kids’ scrapbooks, publish my play, experiment with other forms of writing, be grateful.
That was the list I wrote after the shock of the first lockdown settled, somewhere around April 2020. It was part ‘When life gives you lemons’ and part ‘If I stay busy I won’t have time to think about seismic changes in the world.’
Most people will tell you that a blog is meant to offer something of value to readers, the idea being to satisfy, and grow, one’s following. Many blogs read like a recount (‘What I’ve been up to…’), usually underpinned by a healthy dose of self-promotion, admittedly a necessity in today’s industry. I’m not really interested in these things. So why the hell am I blogging?
When I was in my final year at Duke University, I pushed a pram from Durham, North Carolina to Washington, DC as part of a relay team to raise funds for long-shot US Presidential candidate, John B Anderson. The year was 1980 and Anderson was running against the incumbent, Georgia peanut farmer, Jimmy Carter and Hollywood movie star and former California governor, Ronald Reagan – a race that, after 2016, no longer sounds absurd.
Over the past few years I’ve logged about thirty reviews for CBCA’s Reading Time. I take the role of reviewer seriously – maybe too seriously 😉 – and always aim to be thorough and fair. This means identifying a book’s weaknesses in addition to its strengths. Readers have told me they appreciate my candour, but I sometimes worry that I’m a lone (grumpy) voice in review-land.
If I ever write a memoir, I’d probably title it Survivor. When it comes to my, ahem, eventful life, Grateful Dead sums it up best: What a long, strange trip it’s been. Perhaps that’s why I haven’t written one. I’m not sure I’m ready to hop back on the trauma train. But I’ve been ‘dabbling’, a somewhat cavalier reference for mining my memory banks, occasionally jotting down snippets. And I’ve been thinking – lots of thinking – trying to connect the dots. That was B.C. – Before COVID-19.
Writing for me has always been confessional. So, perhaps it’s only fitting that I confess: I don’t particularly like blogging. It has always struck me as being somewhat self-indulgent. (Let me share my musings … as if they are universal truths.) Plus, ‘blog’ sounds uncannily like the sound one makes when vomiting. And I can’t help but think that’s a metaphor of sorts.
I’m still prone to procrastinating. Like now – blogging when I should be writing … or at least editing. That’s because I’m a moody writer – always have been, always will be. For me, words splatter onto the page with sweat, tears and occasionally a bit of blood. Deadlines and word counts are necessary evils, ones that occasionally mess with my muse. Yet despite this intuitive approach, I still manage to churn out an enormous amount of work, perhaps because something deeper, darker, is driving my output.
January usually comes and goes in a frantic ‘How could summer holidays already be over, where’s that damn school supply list’ kind of way.
But this year it was different. Very different.