Humans are weird creatures.
I mean apart from obvious peccadillos that some of us indulge in (piercing every bit of skin that flaps, having whiskers implanted in your face and turning yourself into a cat – bus spotting) and despite the fact that it seems an obvious solution to many of the world’s problems, we just can’t get along, can we?
From what colour someone’s skin is, to which gender partner they choose to share their bed with, to which god they worship, human beings always have to look for the difference in others, not the similarities.
You’ll see it in microcosm every time you leave the house.
You’re in the supermarket queue. You’ve put your shopping on the conveyer belt. You’re waiting for the person in front of you to be served. What do you do while you’re waiting? Well, you could listen to the music drifting over the vegetable aisle (usually something cheerful, often something nostalgic – something that will stupefy you enough so that you don’t stab the nearest person with a cucumber out of sheer consumerist overload).
So, you listen to the music but your brain’s starting to melt, so your eyes wander to other people’s shopping. Look at the guy in front – his purchases do not include fresh fruit or interestingly shaped veg, just a tower of frozen single-portion ready meals, a bucket of Ben and Jerry’s Karamel Sutra large enough to drown a kitten in and a six pack of beer. And you look up to see a middle-aged man who needs a shave and who’s trying to pay with vouchers and a collection of small change and fluff he’s emptied from his pocket. Now, if you’re not standing there thinking ‘lives alone – possibly divorced,’ I’d be very surprised.
It’s the same with writing – we’re always searching for the difference.
Now, I’ve read a few comments online that state that blogging isn’t ‘proper’ writing, that there’s little skill involved and you can dash a post off as quickly as you could heat up one of that chap’s Roast Chicken TV Dinners. Some people think stories – specifically novels – are the only ‘real’ writing and that writing for a blog ‘doesn’t count’ in some way.
Now, to an extent I get what they mean. I would never claim anything I write on here is comparable to great fiction. But then, it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be bright and brief and hopefully entertaining and then you’re supposed to forget about it and go back to drilling for oil or conducting deep ocean surveys on the sex life of the cuttlefish or whatever it is you do when you’re not hanging out here.
But that doesn’t make it worthless. It just makes it different.
I read a piece in the Guardian about Terry Pratchett by Jonathan Jones, published after the author’s death, decrying the public out-pouring of grief and the fact that so many people regarded him as a genius when he wasn’t. Jones claims it’s a waste of life to read Discworld novels when there are better ones out there – whilst freely admitting he’s only ever read a few pages of Pratchett’s writing himself.
I think Jones is rather missing the point. I’m pretty sure Pratchett never intended or wanted to be a ‘literary’ genius. But he was a great ‘genre’ writer. He was damned good at what he did, he did it for a long time, produced a lot of books and sold a lot of copies.
And isn’t it the variety of books available that’s so wonderful?
I love Dickens and Austen but I don’t want to read them all the time – my mind would implode eventually, bent in half by the circumlocutory patterns of speech. I love Christmas, but I’d count myself psychotic if I chose to keep a tree in the window, tinsel festooning every crevice and Bing Crosby pounding from the stereo all year round. (If you can say Bing could ever ‘pound’ – prr-rup-per-pum-pum.)
Stating that Terry Pratchett is no Gabriel Garcia Márquez is – to put no finer point on it – stating the bleeding obvious, but it doesn’t mean I need to ban one or other from my life.
As for blog writing – no it’s not writing the Great American (or even the Great Bristolian) Novel but it can still have merit.
If people could get over the idea that one thing has to be better than another, and accept things can be worthwhile but different, the world might just be a whole lot better.
And if you don’t know why I chose an orangutan to illustrate this post, then maybe you could read some Discworld books. They’re a charming ‘waste of time’.