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The Other Side of Everything

making all our lives easier, more fulfilling, lovelier journeys


Written on March 17, 2010, and categorized as Secret and Invisible.
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Allow me to waste some of your precious time – which would probably be better spent listening to music, or reading a good novel – and educate you as to my route of internet glory. Who knows, by studying this, you may discover your own path. Or, perhaps you will fall into a melancholic confusion – it matters not.

If I were to add up all the readers I get across the multiple blogs I write, it would impress some people – namely, internet marketing people, for whom virtual bums on digital seats spun of finest web are the stuff of swimming pools and carbon-rich foreign holidays.

But the truth is, I got there entirely by accident, and by breaking all the "golden rules" with which ingénues and professionals alike run their online lives.

I have nothing but disrespect for the rulemakers, many of whom I know personally and who have generated much wealth, social standing, and dare I say it, love by establishing "best practise" formula.

Yes, that’s right, disrespect –  I’m repeating it in case you misread it – for their kind helpfulness, and for the excellence of their shining examples. Ignore them, I do not. Humour them, I do, most of the time. Criticise them – never to their handsome faces. After all, I wouldn’t want to be set up in opposition to these wonderful, positive creatures, whose internet farms provide the food for a million eager mouths. It would be as pointless as criticising the Chinese government, which cannot be changed, so why bother?

I write this with the power of certainty that I have done everything you must not do and succeeded anyway.

In 2007, I had written my first (and best) blog, the famous Blog of Funk, for three years. If you searched for "funk" this humble blog came second or third on every results page. I had written my way to over 100,000 returning readers a month, made countless dozens of friends, and fans, bless them, some of whom remain with me to this day.

The first myth to scotch is that interaction, or "engagement" as it has come to be known, is a magic golden key to unlocking the mighty door of interest in one’s work. My strategy was always to write without regard to reaction. Yes, comments are great. Emails are good. But I practically never reply to comments. If I were to put a promissory diamond upon the ring finger of each and every person who happens to read a few words of mine, it would be no more effective as attempting polygamy in an essentially monogamous culture.

Engagement is pointless, exhausting and ultimately, anti-social, unless you are an actor (more on that to come) or a sexual athlete. What matters is writing about interesting things in an interesting way. Right? Of course.

Second myth: "Focus on your niche". I never did. My only rules for writing were to write fearlessly and often, disregard or assume structure as it suits me, invent as much as I like, and please nobody but myself. These days, I channel certain subjects into specific blogs, but that is all, and I only do that to be kind to my readers. Your niche should be you. How small you are is entirely up to your parents, your education, and to a far lesser extent, your own free will.

Third myth: "Develop a sincere voice, be yourself". This is where training helps. Or not. The thing about actors  and many writers is that they don’t actually exist. They convince through artifice and technique. Their sincerety is the truth of convenience, not honesty. Being "real" is a lie. Even as they say, "trust me" observe the careful construction of their trustworthyness, and summon up your cynical disbelief, unless of course, you’re enjoying the fiction. But know it for what it is – fiction. As Oscar Wilde famously said, "A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal."

Did you ever hear about the literary device of the unreliable narrator? Such is the joy of believable reality. Yes, I love you. No, I don’t love you. I mean both of these, really I do. Sincerely. I don’t. Do. One or the other. Maybe. But anyway, so much more fun.

Ok then, back to being reliable.

Which leads us on to the fourth myth: "You must be consistent and develop your ‘personal brand’ in order to be taken seriously and thereby make money from this gig". Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and five times wrong.

In my time (6 years of blogging, 15 years of internet)  I have written and edited blogs, produced podcasts, created interweb for blue chip companies, the government, famous people and your mate. I have been elevated to sit on panels alongside household names, media stars, industry luminaries, and your mate. I wrote short stories, poetry, polemic, commentary, and now I’m writing a novel. I attracted the attention of a literary agent, my work appeared in newspapers, and Google included me in their video. ALL of it came from writing crazy shit in Blog of Funk, which I couldn’t have done if I was trying to be taken seriously. Don’t take yourself seriously – get over yourself. Take your work seriously.

Writing my blog helped me write better. I was taken seriously because the only thing I was serious about was writing what I wanted to write. Amazon and Google brought in puny amounts of cash, but the real living came from writing blogs elsewhere. I wouldn’t have written these ‘pro’ blogs though but for the discipline and the readers which came from writing my main creative outlet.

I despise lists, but there really ought to be a fifth myth to debunk, and so there is.

Myth Number Five has to be: "Keep going – you’ll get there." No. Abandon your work when it suits you. Do not keep going. Stop. Give up. Frequently.

Really, I mean it. Take a step back. Are you doing what you should be doing? Question yourself profoundly as often as you dare, even at the expense of your so-called bank balance.

I was quite proud of my subtitle to Blog of Funk: the every day story of the smell of sex – because it meant everything and nothing, and because it was true, and because it generated lots of readers. I wrote Blog of Funk until the end of 2008, and then I moved my blog to a much less snappy domain with a long, difficult to remember name and a rather naff subtitle, and tried hard to lose most of my readers. I stopped blogging entirely for a few months. I started a private blog, got some things off my chest, and then abandoned that. I worked out that the internet was taking up far too much of my time, and said so.

I wanted a break, and I got one. I wanted time away from the internet, and so I got it. Inevitably, my readership dwindled. I watched it reduce right down to about 7,000 tangy, spicy visitors a month. I didn’t care, in fact, that was exactly what I wanted.

So, I planned to leave London and set up a studio in Sussex and write in more depth. It was a good plan, which failed because, a month and a half later, my father died, which scuppered my best intentions, after which I split up with my girlfriend of six years. I really had to re-think. I started to write again, but I was a changed man, it wasn’t the same at all. It is different now. Something fell away which needed to go. The last vestiges of inhibition disappeared.

With the re-birth of writing, not strangely, my readership has steadily climbed. Now I’m back up to heady heights of 20,000+ visitors a month on the Big Blog, and if I bothered to count up the readers of the feeders, I’m sure I could titillate a marketing person all the way to a stunning climax. The best thing is that very few of the new readers read the old blog when I wrote it, but several are reading it now.

Many years ago, I met the fabled poet and songwriter Ivor Cutler, who gave me a sticker, a quote from Craig Murray-Orr: "Creativity requires a certain ignorance".

My enthusiasm now comes from knowing that I have everything in front of me, and that I actually know very little indeed about the world I am entering. Except that enter I must.

So, in conclusion, patient reader, my advice, such as it is, is to completely disregard all advice, especially advice on how to succeed. Indeed, the best thing about good advice is how easily it can be ignored. Ignore it, and succeed anyway.

The best way to go is forward, even when it means going backward. Give up whenever you feel like it. Let your children starve, lose your lover to  a randy shop assistant with a rash, max out your credit cards as fast as possible, and flee your country never to return.

Forget the internet, which will soon be gone, with everything in it. Whatever it is you want to say, write it all down on paper. Learn how to make ink, and build yourself a printing press. Seal your books in a lead box, and bury that box in a stone sarcophagus, somewhere far from where you are now, half a mile above sea level, in desert conditions. Grow beans, and chew them thoroughly.

If you do these things, surely you will be handsome, and wealthy, and your children likewise.

But that’s not the point. The point is the sharp bit at the end.

You see, I write to make sense of things, to discover what lies beneath the surface. What I found was that the writer in me was the guy I liked the most; and before I knew it, I was writing stories again, dreaming possible dreams – yes, that’s right, possible dreams – and as the great self-constructed edifice fell away, I found myself not merely happy, but excited once again.

Posted via email from Dean Whitbread

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