A little au revoir

So flipping good at this.

So flipping good at this.

You know, blogging is a funny old thing. I started in 2009 because I wrote diary entries from India and couldn’t stop once I got home. I feel about writing the way Harry Potter (aw!) feels about getting on a broomstick for the first time: a rush of fierce joy. Words are such intricate, beautiful things. You can search for exactly the right one and put it in exactly the right place, and all of a sudden you’ve created something that makes people feel. There are lots of things about my writing style I would change, and I’d love to do a creative writing course and get critically slapped into shape. The graft of it, though, fills me up like nothing else. And when you get it right, oh, you soar.

And so to this blog. I started writing about babies once I had them, and it was a way of recording things I might forget, and reaching out to parents in similar situations. It puts shape to the emotional seismic shifts that come with having children. If motherhood is a hopeful, flailing leap into the unknown – and it is, and the unknown includes much faeces – then blogging helps me map out the fall. Where are we now? What does this feel like? Where are you, dear reader? Are we both here together?

Here’s where I am: parenting blogging is sometimes overwhelming to me. We are in an intense phase of mother-and-toddlering at the moment, and it often feels like toddlering is all I can think about. Sometimes I want to read gentle advice articles, and humorous you-know-you’re-a-mother-when-this-sucks blog posts. Sometimes I want to write posts like that. Sometimes – more often, at the moment – I want to write about something else, ANYTHING else, and I scrabble around inside for another topic and can’t find one. And then I am frightened that I am an empty well, scraped clean by dirty nappies, and I have lost my words and they will never come back and nothing I’ve ever written has ever done any good.

I am keeping the melodrama tamped down tight, since you ask.

This means that sometimes the world of parenting blogging is my salvation, and sometimes I can’t bear to look at it another second. There are days I write something that gets picked up by Mumsnet and feel great about it, and days I want to be free from the anxiety that I am not as talented or popular as the people I follow on Twitter. I am very aware that these things are not Real People Problems, and that it ends up with me spending too much time on the internet. It all feels like a lot of bother, over a blog.

So I’ve decided to take a little break for at least the rest of the year, while I decide what it is I want this space to be. It might be a more streamlined place to talk about children, or it might be something else entirely. Or it might be just the same because, like Mariah Carey, I’ve decided I can’t liiiive if livin’ is without you[r stupid blog]. I can’t not write (I know this already) but I’m not sure what I can write that is worth the reading. I’m hopeful that it might, at least, be somewhere where I learn to write shorter sentences.

I’m sorry for rambling on at such self-indulgent length (if you enjoyed this you may also enjoy my sixteen-year-old diary) but I wanted to explain why Make a Long Story Short will be disappearing for a while. Because every single person who has ever read this blog, left a comment or told me they enjoyed it has done something for me I can’t really describe. Off I jumped into parenthood, arms flailing, wondering what in the heck I was doing. But there you were, too. There you were. Thank you.

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It’s all coming up gums around here.

I went to India, and found some words

Hey, come back here with me a minute. All the way back here, to October 2008. A strange world, before One Direction, Sherlock and the iPhone 3GS. I’ve been married six months, a milestone twice over. First, thanks to Timothy’s two years in South Africa, we’ve only just now spent as much time together in the same country as we’ve been together apart. This is a fact that makes us sound weirder than we really are (I hope). And second, I’ve just been sent to India for a month, and I am frightened to death about it. This is a fact that makes me sound lamer than I really…oh no wait, never mind.

It’s an opportunity I can’t turn down, so I don’t. My mouth falls open when I get there, and doesn’t close for weeks. I’m sat in a huge 4×4, gaping out of the window at two parents and three, yes count them three small children all on the same motorbike. The motorbike-for-five is swerving hypnotisingly close to us – I can see the breeze ruffling the tiniest boy’s hair – and I notice I’m gripping my seatbelt so that my hands have turned into claws. I think, Tim would never believe this. I should write it down.

When I get to my hotel room I leave the unpacked suitcase where it is, and open a fresh Word document. Something about a clean piece of paper and a pen makes me freeze – I can never find the right word first time, and I’m obsessed with finding exactly the right word – but I look at the empty white screen with a keyboard under my hands to fill it, and it feels like there are stories in my fingers and a world here for my making. I haven’t written anything for fun since high school, unless you count The Ballad of the Tiny Ironing Board. I’ve forgotten what it does to my insides.

I write long, indignant, amazed, colourful essays from Chennai the whole time I’m there. Somewhere during that time it dawns on me that this will not be something I can easily stop. When I get home, I start a blog.

Snapshots

I reread my Indian travelogue last night. It’s pretty painful in places – I had yet to realise that it’s possible to be funny without being grumpy and sarcastic, though I suppose anything you write in your early twenties comes with a side-order of hideous embarrassment – but I haven’t edited it. All the time since I haven’t been able to stop looking for stories. They might be tin-pot little stories that never go anywhere except here, and I might be hideously embarrassed by them in years to come, but they feel like worlds for my making. And I found them first in a fresh Word document, a hotel room in Chennai, a tiny boy on a motorbike about to bang on my window.

This is what I believe so fiercely I could shake a fist at it: find what you love. Do what you love. Start something that does things to your insides. You have worlds to make and stories to tell, and I for one would love to see them.

Three things:

what have you always wanted to do? Do tell me, and leave your blog address below if you have one.

I’m on cupcake mascara today, talking about why I started blogging. I suppose this is the long version.

And my India diaries start here. Have a look, and we can laugh at how grumpy and pretentious I am together.

How to blog the real you, whether or not ‘blog’ is a verb

‘Yes, self’, I said, ‘you may write a blog post this evening, on the strict condition that you are done by 10pm. Because, and stop me if you are already aware of this, you are tired enough to be an actual menace to society’.

Cue stream-of-consciousness (it’s 9.51).

Yesterday I led a couple of workshops on blogging for teenagers. I’m not always on solid ground with teenagers, which I think is mostly because I’m extremely uncool and hyper-aware of it, so I get all awkward. But these were great. They laughed obligingly at my baby-poop stories, joined in my lame-o personality quiz, and we all had an inappropriate giggle at an innuendo I accidentally wrote on one of my slides. Totally not the time or the place, and frankly what you deserve when you put together a slideshow at 1am. But they laughed instead of letting me flounder in an awkward silence, so we were all winners.

Preparing this made me think a lot about blogging. How you can write your life the way you want it to be, or the way it actually is. When I was a teenager I was caught always between the bravado I pushed in front of people and the insecurity that seethed underneath. Blogging can be a lot like that – too shiny-perfect on one hand, too woe-is-me misery memoir on the other. Sometimes I think that turning into an adult means learning how to occupy the middle space between bravado and insecurity: taking long, square, compassionate looks at your vulnerable places, allowing them house-room alongside your strengths, and holding them out so others can understand you better.

The blog I want (and don’t always manage) sits in that middle space, too. Good days and bad. Leaving equal room for the vibrant and vulnerable. If we start from the assumption that we’re all vulnerable somewhere, then maybe there’s space on the internet for us to sit alongside each other, swing our legs, pass around some cheesecake, and be ourselves.

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