Writer, photographer, "rapper" and general technophobe takes on the internet in what could be a very, very messy fight. But it's alright: she's harder than she looks, and she's wearing every single ring she could get her hands on.


Sunday, 19 April 2009

Stage fright

Hey, was a message I got a few days ago from a number I didn't recognise. Reading your blog thingy. It's interesting.
Umm thanks, I sent back. Who is this? 
There is, after all, no right way of asking this question: they're either somebody you've deleted, or somebody you don't know, and neither of these options is a good one.
It's me! mystery texter replied, rather obtusely. Which didn't help me much: although it did narrow it down to being definitely male, so I ignored it. This is usually the best way to get a proper response from a man.
Sure enough, he cracked: it turned out to be an ex-flame who I had neither seen of nor heard from in at least 18 months. We're not even Facebook friends: that's how little we ever wanted to see each other again.
I stared at my phone for a few seconds, feeling distinctly uncomfortable. 
How did you know about it? I asked eventually.
Oh, I'm not stalking you, he sent back. I was googling the word Holly for another Holly, not you, and your name came up so I clicked on it.

I frowned at my phone again. I've always wondered, actually, what I would say to an ex-boyfriend who ever caught me stalking him online. I now know that 'I was googling your name for another person, not you, and your name came up' doesn't sound even remotely convincing: that's not how the internet works and everyone damn well knows it. You have to put in a surname or you don't get squat: in my case, you get 73 million pages about plants and Holly Willoughby.

Right, I said. Oh, I saidThen I left it: it's a romantic ball that fell in the lake a long time ago, and this princess has no interest in jumping in to go fetch it again (which is probably why he felt the need to contact me: they can tell, you see). 
You've not updated it in a few days though, he added when I'd been silent for half an hour. Everything okay?
I stared at my phone in increasing alarm, and then turned it off in fright. He hadn't stumbled across it at all: he's reading the bugger. A man I'd shooed into the box in my head labelled Dead As Far As I'm Concerned now knows... well, not everything, but certainly more than I would want him to. Enough to make him think my life is interesting, and - frankly - that's too much. He didn't even think that when we were dating.

So: Is everything okay? I asked myself. Not really, actually: no, I replied in my head. Now I've got stage fright.

And that's where I've been for the last few days: cowering, electronically, in a corner. (Okay, in real life I was freelancing and going to the pub and eating dinner with my sister, but electronically I was hiding.) I'm petrified, and - as the word suggests - I've been converted to stone: I can't write to save my life. 

People are now reading this bugger of a blog, and I'm suddenly scared. Where I normally just smash out a post in a few minutes - and don't even re-read it - now I'm stiff with fear, and I'm erasing, erasing, erasing. I've written four posts in the last few days that aren't online, because every single one has gone in the little picture of a bin in the corner that represents a real bin, except you don't get to tear your work with your teeth first. 

My mum reads this. My grandad reads this. Friends, ex-friends, strangers, potential employers and ex-boyfriends now, apparently, read this. And I'm suddenly terrified. How can I write anything good enough? How can I keep people interested? More importantly: how can I write anything without offending or upsetting someone, or without exposing myself to someone I don't want to expose myself to? I'm in a little box, and the things I can't talk about have suddenly become much, much stronger than the things I can. Which leaves me with bugger-all creative freedom, and this makes me panic, and the panic means that I freeze up and I can't write. Thus: silence. Thus: an empty blog, and - worse - another temporarily abandoned novel (when I can't write it stretches across all of my stuff like a really nasty rash). 

So, I've decided: the box is coming down. It has to. I had to do it consciously for TBJITW, and now I've got to do it for myself. I will write what I want to write, when I want to write it, and I will just have to risk upsetting people, or boring people, or failing. I will have to risk exposing myself to people I do not want to expose myself to, because otherwise I will end up exposing nothing, and writing without honesty is like a kettle without a spout: it makes a lot of noise but you get nothing out of it but a lot of steam. And, frankly, there are quite enough whistling blogs out there already without adding another one that just exists to make the writer look good.

So I'm turning off the lights, and I'm closing my eyes. Until the stage fright passes, I'm just going to pretend that the audience isn't there at all. That it's just me, on a stage, with my silly little lines. 

And if you love me, don't heckle from the sidelines. It only makes me forget what it was I wanted to say.