Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Existential questions

Criticisms can stick much more than compliments, even a sly, barbed aside. For a hundred big-ups, it's the one diss that'll be what lingers in the mind.

I was too young to read her work as an NME scribe in the 70's and equally as unlikely to pick up much of her 'Me Generation' 80's novels. However, when she began writing for The Guardian in the 90's, I'd often find myself reading Julie Burchill's columns. For one, she had relocated to Brighton, and any Brighton-centric musings in a national publication were inherently interesting to me. Above that though, the position she often took on many issues tended to be similar to my own. I don't recollect the contents of them that much, but as best as I can remember, it tended to be tirades against the insanities of the modern world so troubling to those who think and care about what goes on around us.

I may not remember the nature of what she wrote about, but there was one comment that remained lodged in my mind. To paraphrase: 'The 'I' key on her computer is broken from overuse'. This barb set in train the line of thinking that, perhaps either to be beyond criticism or to make their writings more interesting or readable, a writer should not write so much from a 'first person perspective' (i.e. I, me, mine). Perhaps the third person (he, she, it) was best, to be truly objective, or the second person (you) if one was appealing directly to an audience or readership. The passive voice ('it was done' not 'I did it') might even add a greater element of detachment, and thus cement the idea of the writer as outsider or commentator.

Still, having kept a hard-copy diary of personal thoughts, feelings and experiences for over 20 years now, I'm pretty solidly versed in writing from that first person perspective.

And herein lay the second conundrum.

The first, as hinted at in my initial posting, was 'to blog or not to blog'. The fact that you're reading this here and now says that I've moved beyond that one.

The second question was then about the nature that such a venture should take.

Should it be simply an online extension of the diary that has been my long-standing confidant? Perhaps to some extent, although there are thoughts and experiences one has that one doesn't really want to share with the world.

A step into journalism, given the revolution that blogging has been to traditional publishing? Maybe one day in the future, but it is a little early to be thinking along those lines.

A means of collating my various different projects together and acting as a 'news' service for them all?

Some kind of 'upmarket' looking Internet presence, a 'classy Myspace profile'?

Somewhere to throw the thought and opinions on the world around me which come up from time to time and that I feel the need to share?

In many ways, I guess that this will become all of those things, and hopefully more too. One cannot know how a venture will develop in its earliest stages.

And so what perspective to use?

Would Thoreau's 'Walden' have benefited from not having the personal touch of the writer actually experiencing what he was writing about? How about Orwell's 'Down And Out In Paris And London' - more interesting if fictionalised and designed to look like he was hiding something or making it up? Henry Miller's 'Rosy Crucifiction Trilogy' surely would have been less engaging if the reader didn't know that it was the author's actual life that was being writing about.

When I had my (minor) 15 minutes of fame as a rock 'n' roll singer in The Zamora, one of the main publicity angles was putting the singer (i.e. me) up front as the mouthpiece of the band. That was certainly an interesting experience of standing and blinking in the limelight, but also made me slightly wary of the public exposure that it brings about. For those of you who have long dreamt of fame as a way to 'be somebody', have you considered the down sides of it too? What must life really be like with your bad hair days on the morning front pages and journalists camped out on your doorsteps? Fame does not come without drawbacks too. For the record, The Zamora were not exactly papparazzi staples!

Athough my 'rock 'n' roll frontman' persona was also another mask - a patchwork puppet cobbled together from rock's back pages - my post-Zamora years have been coloured by the creation of a series of alter-egos under which to create and issue my works. Whether acting as a representative of an organisation such as Sounds Phenomenal or Peace Not War Japan, issuing electronic music as Control K, or the range of angles I've taken and the subjects covered in my writing, I've learnt to publically be more than one person, and often simultaneously. In 'Quadrophenia', The Who's intentions for the character of Jimmy were that he was somehow beyond schizophrenia. They created him to represent the 4 different personalities that made up the band - brash Daltrey, conscious Townsend, destructive Moon, steady Entwhistle. I'll take it a step further and say that this blog might just be a mouthpiece for my 'multiphrenia'. After all, it's a diverse world and reflecting that takes a diverse approach.

So to answer that existential question posed earlier. Yes, writing as 'I' is OK by me. I'll just try not to overuse it!

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