Friday, 24 April 2009

I am a Slow Blogger

When my daughters first heard that I wanted to write a blog they were not convinced.
‘What would you write about every day?’ they asked me. ‘Nothing ever happens to you.’

I was outraged. Many things happen to me every day but of course my children consider them neither newsworthy nor exciting. Or maybe they think that shopping, cooking and cleaning and offering telephone counselling when they are low, usually around exam times, are all I do most days. Nevertheless, their comment kept me thinking that maybe I hadn’t quite got the idea right what it meant to write a blog.

I started the blog anyway and put on a few postings. Then, one day I came across an article in the Guardian about SlowBlogging.
I was fascinated. Immediately I recognised myself. I am a slow blogger, no doubt. I don’t want to churn out a daily stream of trivia. I agree with Todd Sieling, who invented the term SlowBlogging and wrote up a manifesto, that SlowBlogging is a rejection of immediacy. It is an affirmation that not all things worth reading are written quickly, and that many thoughts are best served after being fully baked and worded in an even temperament,...(Slow Blogging) is speaking like it matters, like the pixels that give your words form are precious and rare. In fact, I cannot understand why anybody would want to give a constant running commentary on his daily life online. Who are the readers that are interested in these details? No matter how famous a person, why would I want to know what they did yesterday or this morning? If it’s important, I’ll probably read it in the paper, if it’s gossip, my life’s too short to worry about strangers. There are too many people in my life that I really care about and want to be in touch with. I'd rather write a letter or e-mail to a relative or friend than reading up on what Alistair Campbell is doing today. He is mentioned here because according to the Guardian he contributes daily to his blog.

Sieling asks us to share our own SlowBlogging manifesto with him. Here are my thoughts on the topic.

The fastest growing plants in my garden are the weeds. They need no attention or care, they’ll just appear. Trivial thoughts will almost write themselves. SlowBlogging means asking yourself a few questions before you share your thoughts: Am I saying something good? Will it benefit people? Is it important enough to spend time on it? If you answer no to any of these questions, then censor yourself. Use your time in a more meaningful way or go out and talk to family or friends face to face. Or accept that membership to the slowbloggers club will be denied to you.

Thursday, 23 April 2009


What has illness got to do with writing? you may ask. I will give you an answer in a minute.

I am a person who is very impatient with sickness. My children were sent to school no matter how tired or pale they looked. If they had no temperature they could go to school. Occasionally I would get a phone call from the school, ‘Mrs Martin, your son really is not well. He complains of a headache. He didn’t want lunch. Can you please pick him up.’ Of course I picked him up, and of course by that time he had a temperature. Did I feel guilty for sending him to school? No, because 9 out of 10 times it turned out the other way round, that he was fine once he was at school.

I was never a mother who fussed over her children when they were sick. Okay, I made sure they were neither too warm nor too cold, had enough liquid to drink, but after that I expected them to stay in bed and sleep. For this very reason my children never pretended to be ill, nor did they want to stay at home when they got better. It was just too boring. Sick children weren’t allowed TV or running around, or eating sweets and biscuits.

My husband more or less gets the same treatment when he comes down with flu. I will serve the regular lemon and honey drink and otherwise ignore him.
I don’t seem to possess one ounce of nurse material.

Likewise I don’t like being ill myself. I try not to stay in bed unless I absolutely have to. I resent every day spent without energy, yet I know recovery can’t be forced, no matter how hard I try.

And here comes the answer to the question: What has illness got to do with writing? Sometimes the creative energy is as low as the physical one. I feel sick in a different way, but helpless quite in the same way as if struck down with flu. No matter how much I want to finish that chapter/that story/that novel, it cannot be forced. The character doesn’t let me know what is going to happen next. I have to wait. I can try and force a move-on by engaging in activities that will enhance creativity (in my case I will opt for walking in nature, doing yoga, reading Qur’an, listening to music) but quite often that will only help to calm down my impatience rather than speed up recovery. The advice of many creative writing tutors, to just sit down at the computer and write, even if it is rubbish, doesn’t work for me.

It has just taken me over six years to finish telling the stories of nine of the twenty-five prophets mentioned in the Qur’an. This doesn’t mean that I wasn’t writing other things, but this project had me sick a lot. You can compare it with having an injury. You hurt your ankle while running. The doctor tells you not to run for a while. He tells you to swim or cycle, but no running. You simply have to wait until that ankle is healed.

The waiting, the recovering, the healing, is the most difficult part in writing. It means trusting the creative process, trusting your ability as a writer, and trusting that the story will be told eventually. Just because you are not running now doesn’t mean you won’t be in a month’s time. Keep trying but don’t blame yourself if you fail.