Friday 24 June 2016

Scribble, Scribble, Scribble

This is only a third of it.
In 1781, Edward Gibbon approached the Duke of Gloucester and presented him with a copy of the newly published second volume of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. 

Gloucester had received the first with warmth and it only seemed right, thought Gibbon, that he should get part two. In Gibbon's day these people were your celebrity endorsements. To Gibbon's dismay, the Duke took the book, smiled brightly, and placing it on the table said, "Another damned thick heavy book! Always scribble, scribble, scribble, eh, Mr Gibbon?"

And everyone laughed, but not Edward Gibbon because he'd just thrown five years of his life into bringing that second volume to birth.

This has gone down as one of the greatest literary burns in history.

I'm not anything as good a writer of the factual as Edward Gibbon was (seriously, I genuinely, unironically rate The Decline and Fall as a cracking good read, although in 3000 pages, yeah, it's got some longeurs) but I think anyone who writes knows how he felt. You pour your soul into a project, give it your all, and sometimes it feels like the whole world is going, "huh, you wrote something, OK," and that's it if you get any response at all, and here's the thing you brought to birth, and if anyone even notices, they don't care.

Getting people to care about your work like you care about your work is one of the wholly holy grails of the creative arts, and maybe it shouldn't be. And yeah, I once said that my goal in life was to write someone's favourite book. It still is, but of course, the thing is, they can't care like that, not the way you can. Even if you find passionate fans, it's not the same passion, and to be honest when you do meet that occasional fan who enthuses with that passion about the things you wrote, often your instinct is to back away slowly without making any sudden moves rather than delighted gratitude, which is ungracious, isn't it?

We seek the approval of strangers rather than the critique of those who love us; but external validation is the artist's arch-enemy. Ironically, it eats you up from inside.

I've been scribbling quite a lot recently, at least a post a day for the last month or so, more or less. And at some point recently I realised that I had quite some time ago passed the point where I no longer knew all my regular readers by name. Sure, I'd like more comments, more signs that people are, you know, out there. But actually it's enough right now that I consistently get about a hundred hits on every post, with the occasional post hitting two or three hundred views and that one post still going strong in the low thousands.

I confess that I started this blog after a couple of other ventures crashed and burned (which came to mind yesterday because the prospect of resurrecting one of them came up). At the time it was a way to claw back some dignity, keep things going in the face of failure. Fail forward. Fail better.

At some point I got into the swing of it. And now I'm writing more, for myself, than I have for years. If you out there reading this blog find interest and entertainment in it, that does please me quite a lot. If something moves you enough to share it elsewhere and bring more people here, that pleases me mightily.

So really this post is here to say thank you for reading. I appreciate it. And there will be more.

And as for Gibbon, he's one of my literary heroes (see also JG Ballard, Anthony Burgess, Emily Dickinson). He wrote six volumes of that damned thick heavy book before he was done, and in those volumes you can find the heart of a humane, decent man who saw real value in the lessons the past could give to the present. He inspired me.

Scribble, scribble, scribble. Always.