HOLLY MIRANDA SMALE

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.







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Thursday, 27 May 2010

See-saw

Ignorance is bliss. Which is lucky, because it`s a state I quite naturally revert to without much effort at all. It`s trying to change it that gets me into trouble.

As an experiment, three days ago I attached a meter to this site. I was curious; first of all to see how many people read what I write, and second – when I realised that the application showed me a lot more than just numbers – to see who was reading it, where they were reading it and how long they were reading it for.

I know a lot about you, now, reader. Not as much as you know about me, but I know a lot more than I did. I know what computer you use, I know precisely where you live in the world – down to the city - and I know what network you`re on, how you found me and what you clicked on to accidentally stumble upon this site. I know what time you read it, how many times you read it, which pages you click on. I don`t know your name, age or gender, but I`m convinced that if I could just work out which button to press, I would not only be able to work these out; I would also be able to find out what you had for breakfast this morning, whether you`re thinking about getting a new haircut in the next week or so, and if you pick your toenails in front of the television or not.

Luckily for you, I haven`t established which button this is yet.

Which was interesting for about three seconds – somebody reads this in India? Do I know somebody in India? Germany? New Zealand? Denmark? – and then became confusing and slightly scary. I started worrying over every single detail: would somebody from Canada be offended if I wrote this? What about Essex? What about Hatfield? What could I write of interest to someone in Denmark? Why did one person only spend one minute on the page? You can`t read anything in one minute. Didn`t they like it? Did I upset them? What did I do wrong? How can I make them like me more? Why is my sister not reading it? Why is my best friend not reading it? Is that entry one of my ex boyfriends? Is that daily click – from a precise area of Japan – from the ex boyfriend (heart spirals into mouth); and if not – definitely not, wrong language, wrong computer - why the hell is he not reading it too? Why doesn`t he care anymore? Why doesn`t anything I think or feel make a difference to him when he used to read it religiously, every single morning? Why do I still care so much about him - what he`s doing, what he`s thinking, how he`s feeling - when he doesn`t even stalk me sporadically anymore, and it`s so goddamn easy to?

And, before I knew it, my beautiful, invisible readers – mysterious and international and kind and forgiving and utterly unknown and strange to me, even the ones I knew – had become horribly real: horribly known, horribly transient, and horribly discerning. And – most terribly, in one particular case - horribly absent. The faceless, nationless, invisible people who visited my blog suddenly had computers and locations and `click numbers` and short boredom thresholds, and I realised that I had forgotten the fundamental rule of writing; that the reader is always, always half of it, and what the reader brings to each sentence is equally as important as anything written there. And that I need you all far, far more than you could ever need me, because writing does not exist without readers, whereas a reader will still exist without a writer. And my dependency on you to be who you are in my imagination was even more important than your dependency on me to be that way in yours.

It has made me so sad - so incredibly sad - because, as always, I pushed too far. I couldn`t just write and be read. I had to try to make sense of that relationship, as I try to make sense of every relationship: and, in trying to hold it in my hand and pull it into pieces so that I know more about it, I nearly crushed it. I had forgotten that the reader`s unimaginative, cruel and base exposure to me - in the form of scary, unsympathetic numbers, and scary, unforgiving silences - could be as damaging to my writing as my total and callous exposure would be to my readers.

The writer and reader have – always have had, always will have – a unique dependency on each other; they balance on the see-saw of creativity with such fragility that one tip too far can be enough to push it over and stop the process altogether. And I need you all to be what you always have been; as much to my imagination – as mysterious and infallible and invincible - as a writer should always be to yours. Even if I am partly writing, secretly, for a reader I love that has long since gone.

So please, readers, whoever you are - whether I know you or not, whether you read for one minute or two minutes or five hours or two seconds: keep reading. Keep your side of the see-saw off the ground, and I will do the same to mine.

I have turned the meter off, now, and it will stay off. You have your privacy back, and I will force out nothing else. I don`t need to know, and I never did. Not who you are, not how many you are, not where you are. Not whether we had a past, or whether we have a present, or whether we might have a future. It doesn`t matter. I write, you read, and the rest should just be as perfect as we imagine it to be.

I don`t want to destroy something beautiful by pulling it apart to see what it`s made of. I have done that to my heart already. I will not do it to my writing too.