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Monday, 18 January 2021

Writers At Heart

John Bull Printing Outfit 21

Bloggers are writers at heart. We paint patterns in words, feel their force and hear their harmonies.

A few have written for a living. At least one I follow, Brian Sibley, is an accomplished author and radio dramatist. He blogs but does not engage in comments. Another, Hameldaemepal, is, I believe, a retired journalist. He comments but does not engage in blogging. Others have enjoyed writing at work, say, as teachers or report writers. I even wrote computer manuals for a time.

Many of us have been writing all our lives. As a child, I tried to write stories and poetry, and intermittently kept an diary (“went trainspotting at monkey bridge”). I wrote a family newspaper to send to cousins (“Loch Ness Monster seen in River Humber”), forms for others to fill in at school (“Enter your name and address to join the Black Hand Gang” – so named because my John Bull Printing Outfit fortuitously contained a pointing hand symbol), and, as we did then, I liked writing letters. 

It continued after school. I attended a writers’ workshop in Leeds where one session was led by a tall chap called Harry. I’m not certain but suspect he was Jack Higgins. I should have paid more attention. At work, it was more fun writing spoof newsletters than studying for accountancy exams (“Mr. Hawkwind mugged on way back from bank with firms’ wages for the month of June. Over twenty pounds stolen.”). It got me into some trouble. Then, when I went late to university, there were spoof information sheets on notice boards.

I still have some of the university ones. The first arose out of the way we received assignment marks: through lists pinned up in the Department. Instead of by name, we were identified by anonymous numbers: 1501 62%, 0007 68%, 2486 55%. Number 0007 always did well, and, being a memorable number, everyone noticed. This irritated me somewhat because it was me. Very soon, my marks were public knowledge.

I could not resist retaliating with an imaginary set of results for an assessment of lecturers’ competence (never imagining that some years later such an exercise might take place for real). It went something like: 9507 74%, 8872 65%, 8077 58% … 9037 24%. Underneath it added: “Please would lecturer 9037 report immediately to Head of Department, Professor Brener.”

Never underestimate your readers. Next to the note at the bottom someone had written: “It is Professor Brener”.

48 comments:

  1. Love that last bit Tasker. I wrote for The Times Educational Supplement for some years during my teaching career and also articles for magazines like The Lady - usually about travel. Once I moved up here I wrote a few pieces for The Dalesman but then I got really self critical and began to think that much of what I wrote was rubbish so I stopped. Now my only writing is my blog and I really enjoy that. As I age and get less mobile I find it a huge boost each day to communicate with everyone.

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    1. A creditable back catalogue! I bet I'm not the only one who would be interested in reposts on your blog. At least with a blog you don't have unreasonable nit-picky editors making you jump through hoops, unless of course you are the nit-picky editor yourself.

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  2. The urge to write is strong in some of us, be us good writers or bad. I used to wonder if blog writers were nerdy types who were without personality but after meeting a number of bloggers, they are certainly not and just as entertaining in real life.

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    1. I think we're an interesting and talented lot. Look at all the confessions coming out about what we've had published.

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  3. LOL. You are right. We are all writers. I need to write, even if I have nothing to say. I notice and I write. I wrote a newspaper column for 13 years, but when I criticized the current (not for long *happy dance*) president, the column was taken away, the newspaper being very conservative.

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    1. Thirteen years! The quality shows, Debby, it shows. Reposts please.

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  4. Did Mr Hawkwind have a silver machine?

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  5. Can't compete with all this brilliance....{slinks off to hide in a corner}...

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    1. Just fired off a rocket on course for the IoM.

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  6. Yes you are right, many of us are would be writers. My only published things were in the Suffolk Smallholders Newsletter and The Penny Pincher Paper. No pay and very small readerships and I was only ever able to write about things I knew about - no good at Creative Writing!

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    1. I tend towards thinking that all writing is creative. People at writers groups often write the most fantastically flowery descriptive stuff which I don't really do. The clumsy first paragraph above is about as far as I ever go.

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  7. You reminded me that I once also had a John Bull Printing Outfit. For a while I loved it but I am glad that all writing doesn't have to happen that way. It would have been extremely laborious but at least one would have had to think carefully about every word one wrote.

    I am surprised that you failed to mention the Shepley Writers Group in which you were a leading light until they drummed you out for sauciness. Your short story "The Vicar and the Postmistress" was extraordinarily raunchy in my extraordinarily humble opinion.

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    1. Funnily, I don't remember that one. It might have been something I wrote at primary school.

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    2. No that was "The Dinner Lady and The Caretaker".

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    3. I think that was one of yours, Oscar.

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  8. I don't count those without blogs as bloggers.

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    1. I know what you mean, but commentators do make valuable and creative contributions to the blogging community, sometimes at length. Of the four categories (blog/no blog v comments/no comments), then either 1, 2 or 3 of them might arguably be considered bloggers. It gets more complex, though, when you start to debate what counts as a blog and what counts as participation in comments.

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    2. They may be an important part of blog world, as are football supporters to football and concert goers to recitals but they are not bloggers. Those who take over a blog for their own platform should learn blog etiquette and or start their own blog.

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    3. Commentators contribute more than just cheers and applause, but, yes, it is out of order when they comment at great length or alter the subject to one of their own. More than anything, it irritates other readers. The basic question, though, is whether a blogger has to be someone who creates posts, or who contributes additional perpectives. I don't think it's as straightforward as writer/reader.

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    4. Football supporters contribute more than just cheers and applause. Standing on the terraces taught me that, and sitting in the seats it is still the same. They have a lot to say so there is a valid comparison there.

      I do realise that it is not necessary to read the long comments that go completely off on a platform displaying extraordinary knowledge way beyond the blog post but they do intrude for many. Size of course does not matter if the comment keeps to topic.

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    5. Concert goers also contribute to the concert as much as blog commenters to blogs. The vehicle may be different but the presence is the same.

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    6. I'm not convinced by the analogies.

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    7. A blogger prefers to have an audience I assume, not an empty room although a lot can be said for blogging and talking to oneself.

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    8. There is one blogger (another ex journalist) who often complains about lack of comments, but never comments on others blogs himself. I am not even sure he reads any of them. I have stopped reading him now, because he is not even writing his autobiography. It's a one-way thing with him.

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  9. Many bloggers are excellent writers and I greatly appreciate their content. Decades of writing things like legislative testimony and 200+ page grant proposals took a toll. Probably the reason I don't blog. However, I have always kept a handwritten journal. Writers just can't help themselves.
    Hmm, reminds me, I need to destroy some of those journals. :)

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    1. I spent years writing proposals, manuals and research reports and appreciate how it constrains style or motivation, but in the end I like to think it was of benefit.

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  10. I am a blog reader so I appreciate all of the work and talent that goes into writing a blog. Thank you very much!

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    1. Thank you. There are some incredible blogs around, and all for free!

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  11. There's lots of fun to be had with words alright!

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    1. Fun there is to be had with words, alright, lots of!

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  12. Funny! I think you're right about bloggers being writers at heart. Some of us just take to that method of expression and rely on it all our lives. I've always had the "writing habit" and made my living that way for 20+ years.

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    1. I think that's right. Sometimes at work people couldn't understand how I could do anything as "boring" as writing computer manuals, research reports or grant applications, and wouldn't accept there could be a kind of beauty in these things done well.

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  13. You have indeed had much experience writing from an early age. I love all the creative and fun pieces you added along the way. Imagination and a sense of humor are great gifts for a writer.

    I grew up dreaming of being a writer but never got past large amounts of poetry and a few short stories. I feel I've lost the spark I once had and would love to get it back.

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    1. Thanks. I try to entertain myself and hope it entertains others too, but doubt I could have made it as a writer. There must be lots who wanted to be "writers" (whatever that means) without understanding what hard work it is. The Jack Higgins I mentioned wrote for years and years before he had enormous success with The Eagle Has Landed. He was just a teacher called Harry when I attended the workshop (if that is indeed who it was).

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  14. You're right about some of the analogies. Going to a concert doesn't make one a musician - unless one IS actually a musician as well. So visiting a blog might not necessarily make one a blogger, even if the contribution one makes by way of comment is valuable.

    I used to have one of those John Bull printing outfits - little rubber letters lay about at the back of drawers for years, even after it had been long dispensed with. I think I'll try and acquire another, just for old times' sake.

    Incidentally, I'm not 100% sure, but wasn't the Black Hand Gang one of the inventions of William Brown in the Richmal Crompton Books?

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    1. The gang probably wasn't an original concept. Nobody signed up anyway. What is a "facebooker"? I'm writing another post about this issue, nearly done.

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  15. Great story! I wrote newsletters for work, and never understood why I couldn't cajole anyone else to write an article. Even a short one, Sue. Tiny even. Why not. C'mon!

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  16. Like many children, my sister and I wrote little stories for each other, made up puzzles and poems. Later, I read and wrote more, and then - much later - I discovered blogging.
    On my own blog, I have written a few times about my motivation for blogging, for instance here in 2010. That has not changed.
    I write for a living, too; my work as a Data Protection Officer means I write my own teaching material (my favourit task), reports and guidelines for my clients, and much more. Always keeping the potential readers and the aim of the document in mind, I hope that most of what I produce makes for reasonably good reading.

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    1. The words "here in 2010" were meant to contain a clickable link to that blog post; somehow, HTML didn't work in the comment. Here it is, if you are interested:
      https://librarianwithsecrets.blogspot.com/2010/09/dear-dashboard.html

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    2. I've added some code to the template that removes links from coments (unless you are quick enough before it does it). I used to like writing teaching materials but the joy went out of it when the managers started trying to constrain how long it took - "gone are the days when you could spend five hours writing a lecture" one said. As we were all under thereat of redundancy I didn't point out that in industrial training ratios of 20, 30 or even 100:1 could be the norm.

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  17. Some bloggers are photographers at heart!

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    1. True. And some are both. I was going to start with something like "A lot of bloggers are writers..." but you end up qualifying everything out of it.

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  18. You've made me laugh out loud! I can just see you at the University notice board!

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    1. The added comment made me laugh too, but I was annoyed not to have thought it myself.

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