I’ve been thinking a lot recently about blogging. That might seem quite surprising given my failure to blog much at all over the last few months. But it’s the very lack of blogging that has made me question the whole thing.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy it. I do. I suppose it’s the mix of the wannabe writer in me and the politician. It gives me a chance to vent my opinions, come up with a cogent argument, (which I might occasionally succeed at), and whilst no one may care what I think, it feels as though you have got something off your chest. But it’s not just that, it’s also that feeling of putting something out there that some people think is worth reading – a thought you’ve had, something you have done, somewhere you’ve been, something you’ve read, and you can share that with others and see what they think. Sometimes the comments are abusive from those who have an axe to grind against the Lib Dems or just critical of anyone who dares to disagree with them, but usually it’s an interesting contribution and the best ones are those who say that what I’ve written is just what they were thinking. It’s quite reassuring.
What also focused my attention on my lack of blogging was me coming in at number 53 in the Total Politics Top Lib Dem Blogs list. OK, so I don’t write a blog for the fame, glory or prestige, (who does, except perhaps Irfan Ahmed), but realising that I even got a placing, (albeit 16 places below last year), despite having been so bad at writing anything recently, showed that some people must value what I am doing. Either that or it is just friends trying to be nice. But it’s still good as appearing in a list like that is like those rare times when someone comes up to you and says how much they agreed with something you wrote on your blog or put in a leaflet. It doesn’t happen a lot, and you don’t write leaflets for that reason, but it’s nice when someone does acknowledge what you do in that way.
What’s is frustrating me the most perhaps about my lack of blogging, is that I actually think my writing has got a lot better recently, and I reckon it is all a result of reading for most of the three hours a day I spend on a train. I just find it a lot easier now to find the word that I need to to put together the right sentence. I still ramble a bit, but it’s better than it was. People say that reading is the best way to improve your writing skills, but I never expected it to make such an immediate different. I looked back at some of my first ever blog posts the other week, (I printed off some of them when I scrapped my first blog), and when I compare what I wrote then, I can see how much my writing style as improved. It’s odd to think now, that when I started my first blog way back in October 2003, hardly anyone talked about blogging and now it’s become really popular. I’m not really an ‘early-adopter’ type of person, but I was in blogging, all thanks to James Graham inspiring me at the time with his first blog.
But when it comes down to it, there is one very simply reason I don’t blog as much these days – time. Once you start a blog you find that it ends up taking up more and more of your time, and you eventually reach a point when you just can’t keep up. Because it’s not only my own blog, I also enjoy reading political websites such as UK Polling Report, Liberal Democrat Voice, Conservative Home, Iain Dale, Political Betting etc etc, and yet when you read them you find things you want to comment on or write your own post about. The next thing you know you are adding comments all over the place. Then people post comments on your comments and if you aren’t careful you end up in a continual dialogue with other people and have to keep coming back until one of you blinks first and stops posting.
What’s worse is that I now also find myself with a second website that I am also trying to keep updated. This is the website I have set up now that I am a candidate for Sheffield City Council next May. But when I wrote something on it the other day, I then realised that on that website too I hadn’t written anything since the 3rd of August. You see I know all the rules about how you should make sure you post regularly, otherwise people stop coming back. And it’s not as if there hasn’t been anything to write about, as there’s been loads. But I simply haven’t got around to it. The downside is that it now looks as though I haven’t done anything in the ward, which isn’t the impression you want to give when you are standing for election.
Having two websites adds to the time pressures even more, but the reason I have both is because what I am trying to do with them is very different. I want this blog to be the place for me to write about anything and everything, including the stuff that it seems most people who read it find dull – what I am reading or what music I listen to – but the reason for the other website is because I also want to write about what I am doing as a council candidate without people having to trawl through stuff that is irrelevant to that. It’s not because am trying to hide anything from the electorate. If I do have anything I’ve said that is an embarassment I am probably already screwed if someone simply googles my name. But standing for election, also makes you conscious that you have to take care on things such as posts that look badly written with grammatical and spelling errors. That all takes more of your time.
Being a potentially keen blogger should make me ideal for this time when people are saying that politicians should be engaging with people directly and debating with them. After all, the internet is an ideal forum for engaging in this way as you can talk to people who are clearly interested in the same subject. But again if you aren’t careful you end up spending all of your time reading a multitude of different websites belonging to, amongst others, the local press, local residents, community groups and chatrooms and you never have time to do anything else – like talking to people directly on their doorstep. An example of this, is one website that is essential reading for all Sheffielders, not just those in politics – Sheffield Forum. It’s a good site, and as someone once posted there, all Sheffield’s politicians should be on the site taking note of what people have to say. They are no doubt right, but you can’t be there all day monitoring what people are saying. When you do go on the site though you end up adding your own comments all over the place, but often with no time to reply to anyone who responds because you have to be out doing other things. This lack of a response then becomes an even worse crime, than having ignored the whole website in the first place.
I love all the things that you can do with the internet. I enjoy blogging. I enjoy being able to read what other people write on other websites. I enjoy being able to keep in touch with my friends through things like Facebook when before I might have just drifted apart from those I don’t have time to see very often. I love some of the other things that I could put on my websites if only I had the time, such as YouTube videos. But at the end of the day these things just end up taking up more and more of my time. Time that I already don’t have a lot of. I recently got in to Twitter, which does have the advantage of being quick and easy to do and I can do it from my new phone. However, most of what I write ends up then being about my commute to work – something that can be amusing, but all too often comes out as one long whinge.
I don’t want to abandon blogging. But as well as finding the time to do it, I also have the issue that the time I think of writing things is either on a train when I can’t or when I am sat reading a newspaper in a cafe. So basically I think the lesson is learning how to use my time with the internet more efficiently and putting some time and effort in to something I really enjoy. After all, my blog is also not just about politics. It’s also a way of making contact with people who are also researching the same family history as I am. It’s a way of me published my photographs – another hobby that I don’t spend enough time on.
Having said that my writing has improved, I find myself at the end of this post not knowing why I have written it. But that’s the beauty of blogging. You can say what you like, and if it’s worthwhile people read it. If it isn’t, then it just disappears in to the archive.