Blogging saved my life in a way. That sounds dramatic, it is true, but there you go.
Last summer my job disappeared in an acrid puff of smoke. After 27 years it had gone. The details are now wearisome, but this lifelong journalist was left with nothing to write and no newspaper to call home.
“I’ll start a blog,” I said to anyone who asked and probably a few who didn’t.
And so Man On Ledge was born. The name was sitting there in my mental attic, alongside curls of dust and a few yellow-edged regrets. Without a job I was standing on a ledge, you see – arms out, legs trembling and looking down at the scary view.
The early blogs addressed how the world looks to a man pushed out of the office door one tearful, beery Friday afternoon at the end of May. Seven or eight more years in that job would have seen me through, but there you go. Life on a ledge was the new reality.
Since those beginnings the blog has appeared nearly every day, and the words have mounted up – more than 100,000 by now, equivalent to a 350-page paperback, say. All sorts of topics have been covered including redundancy and beyond: political, cultural and personal, whatever arises at the moment of writing.
Speaking of words, another 100,000 or so have gone into a thriller since last summer. The book is with my agent at present, leaving a nervous lull. Will this one join the two crime novels published a few years back – or will it go the corner and lie down with the treasured failures?
In theory, I am now a freelance journalist. Anyone can call themselves that, but at least there is printer’s ink in my veins, and a pile of fading published words at my smudged finger tips.
Working as a freelancer isn’t easy. To date my features and interviews have mostly appeared in the same newspaper (thank you to the Yorkshire Post).
Trying to break through into national newspapers or magazines is proving trickier. All the emails, all the ideas – they hit a wall and fall to the floor. One or two national journalists have been encouraging, but that wall remains unclimbed for now.
But the blog has been a lifeline, a reason to sit down at the laptop first thing every morning, and get the wind blowing through the mind again. Would-be writers are often advised to write every day, to add a few words to the page, even to commit one solitary paragraph to paper or screen. The act of writing, knocking words around until they are pleasing, seems to work better if you do it often.
Same thing with blogging, I’d say. Post every day and your words are fresher and you worry less.
Maybe speed-writing is a journalistic virtue – perhaps a vice too – but bashing out an article in a hurry seems to work. I write between 500 to 800 words a day and spend around an hour on the task, ideally leaving the words to ‘dry’ a little, with a final glance before publication.
After 25 years of writing a newspaper column every week, which I still consider an achievement, it is a thrill to see your words appear at the click of a button, rather than waiting for the printed edition (although I still love a proper newspaper, that daily old miracle of print and ink).
Lots of words, but not much money – that about sums up the past few months. The blogging is a hobby, but it is taken seriously. And this Man On A Ledge would recommend writing a blog to anyone – including his own wife, whose long-running gardening column was recently dropped by the same regional newspaper.
The subject panorama is wide and endless: anyone can write a blog about anything. Give it a go. It might save your life too.
Vote for Julian in the UK Blog Awards 2016 once per day: http://www.blogawardsuk.co.uk/ukba2016/my-entry/man-ledge