3 October 2015

Same Journey, New Direction?



One of the things I like most about reading (and writing) blogs is to see how they evolve and change with time. Nothing stays the same forever, yet somehow all things remain the same. Continuity is the only constant. I still feel like I am the same "me" as I did when I was ten years old, but I am not the same person that I was then. It’s the same with blogs in some ways.

When I began writing this blog I had only a very vague idea as to what I thought it might be or become. Initially it was a means of coercing myself into writing regularly in a public forum. The fact the blog was public, I knew, would focus me on what I was writing in a way which would be entirely different to that which it would have been had I chosen to write a private journal. Artifice was to be avoided, honesty and integrity were to be the real aims. Writing true to the self, but, hopefully, without shouting: “Look at me! Look at me!” over and over again.

In thinking this over, I realised I’ve always found myself tending to write in a way which is very much focussed on the visual, but, as I began to write the blog, I realised the visual was in fact truly key to this sort of media. Words were what it was all about, but the glare of a computer screen isn’t kind on the concentrated eye. The text needs to be broken up a bit; photos and films would be a good way to do this – but they must be tied in, integral and complimentary; they must add, but not overshadow. They should serve as guide and indicator. They should illustrate.

I come from a family of photographers, and, whilst not a particularly expert one myself, I’ve always liked to chronicle my travels in that medium as much as by the written word. One of the main reasons I decided to begin writing the blog was also because I was travelling so frequently for work, making some really quite remarkable journeys, doing unusual things in unusual places – working with China’s Terracotta Warriors; riding a bicycle through the Forbidden City; jungle trekking on a tiny island in the Pacific; climbing the Temple of the Sun at Teotihuacán; getting caught trespassing in open fields by (and winning over) Cornish farmers – that sometimes I couldn’t keep up with myself. I have any number of half-begun journals stacked up from several of these journeys, hence the blog would be a way to assemble something out of these disparate notes and fragmented memories before the freshness of such thoughts and experiences vanished forever.

I stuck at it also as an exercise in writer’s self-discipline. Writing regularly keeps the act of writing from relapsing into a daunting prospect. Like any kind of exercise, you can’t go climbing mountains unless you keep yourself in trim by regularly climbing a couple of hills or two each week. Going back to university after some fifteen or so years to pursue first an MA, and now currently undertaking a PhD, I find writing the blog helps make this process flow more easily. Writing regularly (on topics ranging far and wide from my studies) is a constructive distraction; it helps keep my ideas fluid, and so it becomes easier to translate thoughts into words, and then to set those words down on paper. Tinkering with them becomes all the more fun for it. And happily, this makes writing feel far less daunting. Which is probably the main reason why I do it.

As blogs aren’t set in stone, they are actually very malleable things, you can return to a post later and correct your typos, or even tweak a sentence which later on you realise wasn’t working in the best way it could. But really, the important thing is to keep it clear and readable from the start. One of my favourite maxims was written by Aristotle:

“The greatest virtue of diction is to be clear without being commonplace.”

I’ve always felt you do a disservice to your reader if you don’t take due care in what you write. And by that I mean the attention to detail, of how you say what you have to say, as much as what you are saying – the reader will decide whether what you are writing about is interesting or not, but how you write it might well confound their prior suppositions in this regard. You can never do this straight off the cuff, not without a lot of practice, at least. Hence the immediacy of a public blog should make you consider carefully what is most essentially ‘your’ writing.




I always draft all my blog posts beforehand. I never write directly onto the blog itself and then click ‘publish.’ I usually revise my blog posts by hand over the course of a couple of days or more. I then select the images I might like to use to illustrate the piece, and only then do I finally sit down and start to paste the whole thing together. The images sometimes alter the layout in ways I’d not anticipated or steer me to reshape some of the text, or even remind me of elements I’ve overlooked and don’t want to leave out. Only then does it all come together into the finished post.

When I began the blog I knew in time it would begin to take on a shape and form of its own, but what that might eventually be at that point I couldn’t really tell. Hence the original, rather oddball title: Eccentric Parabola. Too clever for its own good. In mathematics (something I know very little about, as I am in fact decidedly dyscalculiac) the geometrical value representing the ‘eccentricity of a parabola’ equals one. And one being a unit in itself = unique, I therefore resolved an ‘eccentric parabola’ could be a unique point of view. It seemed like a good idea at the time, even though I wasn’t wholly happy with it as a title. It’ll do, I thought. I can always change it later. But, as the blog began to attract readers it started to seem as though it were too late to change it. In effect it became an identity. An unwanted nom de plume, a misnomer even. It began to trouble me quite a bit. It now seemed as though that wacky off-the-cuff, but over-thought, old title didn’t really fit any more. I felt it gave a false impression – it hinted that the blog might be crankier and more eclectic than it actually is ... Maybe it needed to be called something a little more serious?

Perhaps Waymarks is just as daft or obscure? – But for the moment it somehow seems more appropriate. As things evolve and change with time, so too does the well worn clichĂ© of the journey. This blog has been (and hopefully will carry on being) a unique odyssey of its own. It’s kind of about me, but really it’s more about the things I see and how I see them, what they make me think and how I shape those thoughts around them. Lots of blogs set out to do the same thing. Mine doesn’t seem to prompt the kind of conversations I see (and often join in with) at the foot of other people’s blog entries, but I can see from the site stats that this blog does have quite a sizeable, regular readership (mainly in the USA, the UK, the Ukraine, the Philippines, and a variety of other places in Europe, South America, and Asia) – for which I am very grateful, and I do hope you all enjoy reading it. 

Above all, whilst I know it’s useful to me – helping me to experiment and practice my written voice – I hope it might also be of interest, amusement, and general use to other people too. And if you’ve valiantly stuck with reading this particular post to the end, I hope you approve of the new name and the new colour scheme. It’s still much the same blog it was before, even if it is ever so slowly attempting to evolve …

2 comments:

  1. A similar writing process to mine. Fine-tuning a splodge. Blogging is a great way of exploring ideas and writing styles in an informal setting. I think with names the grass is always greener. I wish I had not named my blog after myself but I was in a hurry at the time and now look with envy at clever names that entice a casual reader to explore more. Keep going - enjoy reading your writing!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Many thanks, Alex - I really appreciate that. There's a lot of good writing happening on blogs. I wonder how many of us aren't altogether happy with our choice of titles, probably quite a few! I think you are right though, other people's titles are always better than our own.

    ReplyDelete

I'm interested to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment.