There’s a meta-movement going on at the moment on the internet.
My email inbox is a petri dish spawning daily, weekly and crescendoing entreaties to add my voice to the online conversation. To get writing, blogging, sharing my no doubt profound experience with the world. That I, too, will be able to find my niche of fellow oddballs. In fact, I read so much rousing, encouraging stuff that sometimes I’m left wondering:
But when do they get to sit down and write the stories?
Are we all writing about writing and making socially shareable images in order to avoid telling the stories and making the art we really want to? And ‘we’ is of course a rarefied layer of internet land; of course there are hundreds of thousands of writers, artists and musicians out there just getting on with it.
Are they okay, though?
If success is measured by how many shares your Huff Po advice piece received, and not by how a story you wrote might have tunnelled its way to the hearts of just a handful of those who were ripe for it, how does that skew the goalposts?
If I tell you the stories I want to tell you about barbecued hedgehogs, about standing in a room about to effervesce with frustration, about miserable nights spent in mosquito-infested irrigation areas, about being lost in foreign lands, even in my own country — will I be mattering? Will I be broke?
See, there won’t be any nice cut-and-dried takeaways, or flawless rhetoric or any 9-point lists, apart from that list of 9 reasons not to get out of bed when you feel like where you’d like to get to is being in bed with a queen-size coffee and a novel.
Our stories live inside us and fight to get out; we damp them down like a barista with a heavy stainless steel tamper, with ‘professionalism’ and with destructive interference. You know the kind I mean. I mean the kind that, when a story wants you to swing down, to really be with it in the breadth and depth of a dark valley, you flip it the finger and swig another miserable capsule imitation of a cappuccino and march on and up, up and away to the peak of positivity. And, because I did physics and I’m forcing myself to make this stuff useful, I know that a peak and a trough just cancel out to a flat line in the end.
I’m not convinced that shining and polishing and buffing our murky bits to lift them into the morally-simplistic land of easily digestible internet nuggets is a good thing.
I don’t like nuggets, they taste like sad sawdust. But they’re addictive because they are rammed full of salt and msg and brightly coloured additives, like a baboon’s red ass burning a beacon for sex.
I’m hungry for stories, and not chicken mcFugget ones. It’s the unloved, un-Oprah’ed stories that move the earth beneath me, which make me giddy with joy. Do they matter? I think so. Does it matter if they don’t have mass appeal? No. Because the very hand that feeds the bland nugget-mill has the force to feed the storytellers, the modern-day bards.
Crowdfunding. Blogging. Podcasting. Even crowd-publishing. It’s the Amanda Palmers and the Unbounds of the world who help the little people feel safe at the bottom of the valley. Feel safe not cancelling themselves out. If it’s possible to both love and hate the internet, I do so with a vengeance.
The internet is dead. But long live the internet. Bring a torch and a packet of wasabi peas.