Wednesday, October 22, 2008

So what's it all about?

What is the purpose of a blog? Now that blogs are firmly established in the plethora of modern media, it's a question that many ponder - not least of all the bloggers themselves; indeed, it's the Big Question that ends the TV documentary series I've been involved in - the one where me and other bloggers from around the country (none of whom I've never even met) blurt on and on, to camera, about what's increasingly seen as an 'egotistical' hobby.

But blogging, in my experience, isn't egotistical at all. The blogs I follow (and they've all been given big shout-outs here) are way more than mere diaries of nobodies; they're informative, enlightening, thoughtfully written and totally fascinating, written by people with similarly charming, engaging personalities. Egotistical? Incredibly generous, more like. Okay, many of us are prone to publicly diarising the trivia of our everyday lives (heck, I love sharing the details of food I've cooked and eaten, with whom and where, and what happened next). But if you're happy to read it, I'm more than happy to write such stuff - indeed, I can't help it; to me, writing is a hugely addictive compulsion. For sure, I'm lucky enough to have been able to turn that compulsion into a paid job (albeit a not very well paid one), but sometimes, journalism brings with it a seriously mind-numbing set of frustrations and limitations. I like to waffle freely - and here, I can do just that. Well, sort of...

Copyright, idea theft and plagiarism: for bloggers who write fiction, those three issues constitute our Big Three Fears - and rightly so. But now that I've found myself a reliable literary agent (I've just signed my life away to her - hoorah!), I can be entirely confident about posting any original pieces (ie, either not formerly published in Venue, or simply not worth stealing or plagiarising) here. So today, I can reveal a few notes from one of the projects that the aforementioned agent is excited about, safe in the knowledge that the words and even the ideas are all legally protected, so woe betide any sneak thieves (by the way, I highly recommend that my literary blogger friends take similar precautions - there are some nasty people out there).

So we've come full circle, I guess, from the point where we started off today: are bloggers so egotistical that they honestly believe that not only are they going to facilitate a huge fanbase, but that someone out there might actually go to the trouble of 'stealing' their electronically-scribbled thoughts? The thing is, if a writer doesn't harbour such paranoid fears at the back of their confused, befuddled minds, they don't think their writing is worth much at all. But as far as I'm concerned, if the tight-knit little band of merry men and women who read my words here genuinely enjoy what I'm writing, then I've already made it in my chosen 'career'. And if you want to print the pages and use them to line your hamster's cage, I'd be honoured.

Anyway, ladies and gentlemen: today, I can exclusively reveal part one of one of the two writing projects that are set to keep me busy over the next few months. The other is a bit more chick-litty, I'm afraid - but even that will get its spotlight moment here soon. For now, I give you:

Medad - A User's Manual

This is the story of me and my dad: an eccentric, unique relationship, the machinations, drama and history of which are at once both bursting to be written about and reluctant to be revealed.

On the day I started writing this, I was full of plans. I knew how I was going to start, I knew what I wanted to say, I knew exactly where I was going with this … or so I thought. Then I sat at the computer with ‘Deal or No Deal’ on in the background, a cup of tea by my side … and a blank page in front of me.

I’d not long ago left my dad at a bus stop in town – him going off in one direction, me in the other. Earlier that day, a family friend who I hadn’t seen for 20-odd years had turned to me halfway through a reunion lunch at one of Bath’s prettiest caf├ęs and asked me why, when I'm not writing about restaurants or comedians or cushion covers, I don’t write about me and my dad. “It’s an amazing story,” she said. And the thing is, I suspect she may be right.

So, after all the years of ego battles, emotional warfare, total dereliction of responsibility on his behalf and many, many incredible moments, I’m doing what the psychologists (and trust me, there have been a few on my case, as you’ll learn) may say is playing right into his hands by writing a book that is indeed all about him. But I don’t need a man with a PhD to explain why I’m doing it; the truth is, I know it’ll make a good read – for you, for me, and for everybody who is still lucky enough to have a male parent to take care of.

My dad’s version of this story started over four decades ago, on the 22nd May 1964. He says that from the moment he looked into my eyes he knew I was “his”. If I, as a minutes-old baby, was as fast off the mark as he credited me as being, I suspect I might have come straight back at him with a response that today would be seen as a typical exchange between him and I: “oh shut up, dad – this isn’t about you”. But here I am 44 years later, sitting here with my tea and my crap TV, and actually … well right now, it is, isn’t it?

Part One: The Good, the Bad and the downright Ugly... to be continued!


marmitelover said...

hey Melissa,
I must say it has never occurred to me that anybody would want to rip off my writings...
You've done a documentary on bloggers? Who?
So what is the big mystery with yadad?

Melissa said...

ML, they do! I heard a horrible story from a fellow blogger who's blog post turned up, uncredited, in a national weekend newspaper glossy. Anyway, better to be safe than sorry?

The documentary is a pretty downbeat, late-night Channel 5 'lifestyle' affair, not that exciting I'm afraid. I started filming for it before we came across each other, otherwise I would have roped you in!

And no big mystery re Medad - I guess him and I are just a funny/strange story, that's all. He certainly lends himself well to writing material!

Anyhoo, thanks - as ever! - for reading/commenting x

Liam Swallow said...

The one memory i have of your dad, ws when he thought he saw a ghost in the ally way walking back up to your flat from the little harp, i'm chuckling to myself as i type :-)

Melissa said...

Liam Swallow! Wow, I'd LOVE to hook up with you for a good old catch-up - how can we get in touch? Hope all good in your world xxx