Suggestion: I would like to see a story about a friend of mine whose notions stretch beyond the notions of all others. Let’s call him… Saul. For the last twelve months or so, he’s been writing about other people’s notions, from the local level to national level, and I would like some light shed on his notions writing notions.
“It’s a bit…” Saul hesitates, “No, I don’t like it.”
He selects the paragraph and deletes it. All the words disappear, replaced by the clean white light of the blank digital page illuminating his face. That paragraph was all he had written in the last hour. All he has to show for his writing time is a single, 11-font black line, flickering in and out of view.
“Writing about how I write, that’s so…” he sighs deeply.
Saul wants a different topic, a subject that he can lose himself in, something that he can plot a nice story through or write a few cracking jokes for, at the very least. It shouldn’t be a struggle; he’s written something new every week for a year now. Why should this week be any different?
MAYBE YOU’RE SHIT AND YOU SHOULD GIVE UP NOW, says The Voice.
But this is no different to any week. Every week, staring at the blank page and waiting for inspiration to present itself. Saul can’t focus on the flashing cursor. Instead, he clicks back to his website – Profound Whimsies – and checks the reader statistics. The numbers are lower than he expected. Saul hasn’t published anything new in a few days, yet he’s still disappointed.
NOBODY LIKES YOU, says The Voice, with a mock-Gollum impression. QUIT NOW!
Saul decides to make the short walk to the kitchen to boil the kettle. “A tea break is as good as a rest,” he thinks, congratulating himself for the turn of phrase. In fact, he returns to his desk to jot that down in his notepad before he forgets. Saul makes a cup of tea and settles back in at his desk with some biscuits. The blank screen remains waiting. What should he write about? Again, Saul unpacks his notepad and scans some of the recent scribbles for inspiration:
- Cereal bags should be zip-lock bags and other things slowing humanity’s progress
- What if team meetings in your office were delivered like GAA pre-match team talks?
- I actually dislike that famous person everyone else likes and here’s why
NO IDEAS, says The Voice, NO GOOD IDEAS, ONLY SHIT ONES…
Saul weighs up the options, arriving at no clear decision. Should he even bother writing something this week? Should he even bother writing at all? He’s a straight white male – what could his writing possibly add to society and culture that isn’t already provided for by a straight white male majority of employees in local, regional, national and online media in the country?
YOU’RE SHIT, YOUR WRITING IS SHIT, JUST GIVE UP, says The Voice.
“Maybe I should do some research, first…” Saul tells himself.
Saul minimises the page and switches to a browser. He checks his social media accounts. He should know better. It makes him compare his hobby writing to professionally-run sites and that’s not fair. It’s not competition. Except, it sort of feels like it is. Not the news sites – Saul isn’t trying to be a journalist. In fact, he really hopes that no one is seeking current affairs from anything that he writes. There’s a structure to online writing and Saul knows where he belongs, right in the middle of the “just a bit of a laugh” brigade. He’s not as reputable as a long-read feature author and he’s not as low as a comments section troll.
YOU’RE MEDIOCRITY IN HUMAN FORM, The Voice says.
Despite this awareness of his place in the world wide web, Saul expects more from his real-life contacts online. Some of his friends don’t even like his page. Others like his weekly links without ever reading a thing he writes. Yet, these same friends will happily share links from Southeast Secrets on a daily basis. It only annoys Saul because he knows it’s just for the headline and they didn’t read the article.
THE DIFFERENCE IS THAT THOSE WRITERS ARE HILARIOUS, says The Voice, BUT YOU’RE A JOKE.
Other people in his timeline share articles from ledge-today.ie without paying any notice to Saul’s posts. He sees a post titled: 11 dogs in predicaments that are totally fine about it. Saul reads it and… it’s simply brilliant. Dogs are great, he can’t pretend to be mad about anyone sharing that kind of thing, actually.
SEVEN LISTICLES YOU COULDN’T WRITE BECAUSE YOU’RE SO SHIT, says The Voice.
Of course, Saul understands these things are popular for a variety of reasons. He gets it. All kinds of stuff on the internet. People like what they like, it’s no statement on his writing and he can keep doing what he’s doing, too. Saul tries to be open-minded… except, when Saul sees people are also sharing click-bait from humpingthecapital.ie, he can’t help but feel furious:
OMG! You will DIE for the food on this menu you can’t afford
Seriously, why haven’t the poor all been banished underground yet?
From the Editor: I feel nothing but contempt for you all
“That’s the final straw,” Saul thinks, “anything I write has got to be better than that…”
The Voice is silent. There’s peace and quiet and Saul has time to think – really think – about what he will write. In that moment, an idea comes to Saul and he goes with it. He writes, filter-free, typing the words as he sees them and refusing to pause in case they disappear. He keeps going into the night until he has the whole thing down. There’s a structure with a relatable character and a clear plot. Saul rests back in his chair. It’s all there. He can review and edit all he wants but the piece is there. Is he happy? Saul isn’t happy, he’s never happy with anything he writes.
YOUR WRITING IS SHIT, says The Voice, THERE’S NO FIXING THIS SHITTY SHIT!
But Saul doesn’t let that stop him from publishing what he writes. He takes another social media break and there’s a different share for another humpingthecapital.ie article…
Is everyone having sex-dreams about another Celtic Tiger or is it just me?
Saul shakes his head glumly. “If that can go online, anything that I write can, too,” he says to himself, returning to his site to click the schedule button. In truth, that’s Saul’s writing secret. Sometimes, he writes for readers and people he admires. More often than that, though, his main motivation is spite.
NOT SAYING YOU’RE NOT SHIT, says The Voice, BUT YOU’RE NOT AS SHIT AS HARBO, TO BE FAIR…
“Thanks,” Saul says to himself, smiling. “A back-handed compliment is still a compliment.”