On writing

The writer’s equivalent of stage fright

As I wrote last month, (Writing, typing, “The Shining” and the Cargo Cult) I write (or type) at least a thousand words per day at least five days per week. If I carry on till the end of this month (January 2016) I will have been doing this for over ten years. Before last month only 40,000 of these words have been available to read, in my book “1000 Memories”, published last year and available as a Kindle book here (UK) or here (US). But my mathematical abilities are good enough to know that I have produced at least 2.5 million words in all that time. In fact, it’s more like 5 million words (I use word count a lot), all on screens, in password-protected documents. Without electricity these words would not exist.

One of my reasons for setting up this Blog was to make more of my words available to others to read, and in another piece, The Pre-op Transsexual in PC World, I explain how that feels.

It’s possible that I have the writing equivalent of stage fright. I have performed on stage from time to time in the last 20 years (guitars, vocals, keyboards) and spent years introducing speakers in front of large audiences, and that has never bothered me. Give me a guitar and a microphone, place me in front of a thousand people and I’d still be able to sing a song. At least you can see who’s in the audience. Writing for an unknown audience, however big or small, is different. No matter how happy I am with something I’ve written, the knowledge that someone else could read it and trash it makes me feel uneasy. I have to get over it.

I was trying to remember which well-known artists have suffered from stage fright. Annie Lennox came to mind, and I recalled stories of a young Rod Stewart hiding behind a stack of speakers when singing with the Jeff Beck Group in the 1960s. But like everyone else with a computer or smartphone I looked it up. A 2013 article from the Huffington Post lists Adele, Barbra Streisand and Brian Wilson as others affected by it. I can understand people with a small fan-base suffering from stage fright, but someone as popular as Adele or Barbra Streisand will only play to large groups of well-meaning fans. You’d hope that it would get easier.

And for me, posting dozens of articles into a space where anyone can read them, it does feel like things are getting easier. Also, I wanted to build up a body of work, not just tell my friends “I’m starting a Blog” and then post one small piece a month. Yesterday the total number of words posted on this Blog passed 20,000, in 28 posts (I told you I use word count a lot). That’s more than I planned for last month, especially with an 11-day break over Christmas and New Year. I’m looking forward to the next 20,000 words and hope to carry on past that. I have followed a lot of Blogs over the years and found that some of them just stop. Whatever happened to the Skint Foodie? He won The Observer Food Blog of The Year Award in 2013. I enjoyed reading his pieces for the next year but there are no new posts since November 2014. I hope that he’s okay.


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