The transition...

posted on: Friday, 24 February 2017

Years back, when I started blogging I used to observe the 'big' bloggers conduct a move from Blogger to Wordpress. This was like the holy grail of blogging; a point at which your readership warranted the commitment to move to your own domain (own your brand!) and the transition to the big-boy, serious web design tool that is Wordpress. I catalogued this experience under 'never going to affect me' and continued very happily on my free, basic blog template. Now though, over 800 blog posts later I am making the transition myself.

For lots of reasons:

1. What on earth was I thinking with the name 'Lou, Boos and Shoes'?! I opted for this adage in a moment of haste when I set up my first ever blogpost: my name is Lou, I had young children who I optimistically call 'Boo' and I like shoes! Hah. That was it. It took me all of about two minutes. That was the landscape then, there were quirky titles galore and very few bloggers used their own names. This when writing anonymously under a pen name was 'the thing'. I suspect I felt the medium of blogging was new and frankly, mildly embarrassing, it had an undercurrent of neediness to it. Women with time their hands sending their inner most thoughts into the Internet ether. I look back on that time fondly now; it was a time of friendship and kindness and I wouldn't change it for the world. It's when I did my blogging apprenticeship. But the name always troubled me; I grew up and it didn't.

2. Then Instagram came along. The irreverent, faster, quicker, cooler little sibling of the blog; micro-blogging. This changed the landscape though I didn't know it at the time. Blogging shifted, less time to read posts (why take five minutes to read an essay when an image does the same at a glance?)

3. Then Pinterest came along. Much of what I used to blog about what accompanied by beautiful images. Before Pinterest there was nowhere to keep said images so I used to post them, in great long lists of scrolling loveliness. With few words.

4. Then I started to write more. Commenters started asking for more essays, they liked the content, I found a 'voice' on the issues I was facing. Readers were loyal and followed along. I wrote about motherhood and women and whatever preoccupied me. It was an outlet and this is how over the course of seven years I produced no less than 818 posts which had 2.7 million hits (!) on whatever the hell was in my head.

5. I started a Masters in Creative Writing and Publishing. The publishing part has been this year's concentration of study - along with working on the draft of my novel - and it's been a revelation. It's all very well writing a book but I needed to learn about the industry in which I want work. I've worked in publishing before when I first graduated university; it's as complex and avant garde as any other creative industry, be it the art world, media, film and so on. So I got busy absorbing the nuances. Where does blogging sit within this industry?

6. It felt like the right time to change. There are elements of what I write here that I wish to move on from. It is exactly the same as when you read an old diary from your teens; things you thought about/wore/felt keenly at that time are no longer your focus now. And they can seem faintly ridiculous. I am OK with that; you can't walk away from your history. But looking at it every day isn't necessary any more.

So to conclude, I am making the transition to a new blog/site. It's not ready yet - learning to use Wordpress is like learning a new language and me and computer coding are not happy bedfellows. BUT...I am forcing myself to put into practise everything this blog has taught me. It's become my portfolio of work so those 818 posts have, in my new space, been whittled down to just over 100 and I feel so much better! I have stripped away all the dross and instead I now have a bedrock of content that is reflective of where I am right now; a burgeoning writer who writes about the things that affect her.

When the time comes to move across, I will of course let you all know and do something clever with the code so that people get redirected. I hope you'll come with me.

And in the beginning there was...

posted on: Thursday, 9 February 2017

Yesterday I went to a blogging workshop; my first ever. I have written a blog for over seven years and there I was, sitting around a table of contemporaries, talking about this strange thing I do when the thoughts in my head overspill. Blogs are such interesting things. For those of us who did it way back when (as I find those who read blogs tend to write blogs) there's a nostalgia; pre-Instagram, pre-Pinterest, when a blogpost could illicit seventy comments and there were blog awards and guest bloggers and a rarefied few who had 'made it' but an underbelly of many who hadn't. There was much forward-thinking. Blogging is a release for people who have something they want to say. And as terrifying at that is, launching your thoughts out in to the ether, it's been a rewarding and fascinating 'journey'. The word 'journey' was used a lot yesterday.

My friend Amanda took the session, along with the founder of the beautiful boutique 'Hero', Laura. It's Laura's brainchild and I have to say she's entrepreneurial in an admirable way. In the same day I chatted over text my other blog friend Simone and then in the evening messaged my other American friend Robin to talk dresses and politics. Then woke this morning to a message from my Australian friend Sophie (who incidentally also mentored my daughter in photography, long distance) suggesting a place where I could do some book research about houseboats! None of these women would be in my life had I not written a blog, so I think that is amazing and humbling. The world can be a small place. It's a modern phenomenon.

Yesterday I found myself describing how my blog had historically been something I have kept hidden from people in my 'real' life; it seemed to me that there was something about it that I wanted kept back, so I never publicised it. I never monetised it. I just wrote it. And then that portfolio of work became what I used to get onto my Masters degree; I had years and years worth of 'diary' entries to submit. Albeit a slightly quirky hybrid of my inner thoughts, theories, fascinations along with occasional doses of shopping guilt, home renovations, parental challenges, teenagers and most of the preoccupations that face a British 42 year old woman. I suppose the point is you never know where things might lead you.

One element I thought was interesting, when we analysed it, was that the quality we liked most in a blog was honesty; the absence of an agenda. A certain self-deprecation. This is my life, read about it if you like, if not move on to the next, no commitment necessary. The same applies surely to all methods by which we absorb information.  The media, friends, relatives, books, TV - we want an authenticity to it that feels hard to find. People don't say what they really think. The beauty of writing an anonymous blog is you can say what you think, so I generally do, tempered with some pretty pictures. And don't even get me started on what a 'flat-lay' is!

Of course there are exceptions and of course there is a degree of scorn, there are those who judge and belittle it as an activity. I remember my friend Mary telling me that someone had (rather offensively) described her blog as a 'little hobby' or such like. Infuriating! It is a little hobby but it can also be so much more. Judge at your peril but what I see is a group of diverse women making their way, thinking about stuff, getting things done, influencing habits, proliferating good.

Long may it last.

image via the elgin avenue


posted on: Thursday, 2 February 2017

There's a delinquency in me; I can't blog as often as many. I ponder this as I drive my kids to school every morning and think: I will write a blog today. And then the day takes hold and I do all sorts of other writing - college, admin, endless Whatsapp to my buddies, writing in my head when I walk the dog and then I find that none of these are blog-related. Sigh.

These are testing times, winter is getting me down and there's so much on. I lament the decisions we've made about sending our children to challenging schools that challenge them (and me) and wonder if I should opt out and move everyone to the Outer Hebrides to live on samphire. I love the word samphire. If I ever see it on a menu I order it. Likewise with creamed spinach (Popeye-style).

The world seems to have gone mad and I have to steel myself to read the news. There's nowhere to take comfort, even the protesting that is going on, the amazing solidarity that has emerged between like-minded groups, even that has a desperation to it that I find hard to absorb. It feels like a time of huge uncertainty, unprecedented almost. Then I think how silly that sounds, think of the people who lived through World Wars. I am sure it's not unprecedented at all, I suspect I was just not part of the group who previously didn't like the status quo.

I was ill for a few weeks in January and it's taken a long time to get back into things. I went for a run today for the first time since before Christmas and that felt good, although it won't tomorrow. My muscles are already in revolt. Residual fitness is low.

I've discovered yoghurt that is made from coconut. This I like.

I bought a new hat.

I have an unhealthy interest in the clothes and hair of Anine Bing. (See above)

I long for palm trees. It's drab here.

But...the future beckons and from a work perspective it looks good. I'm getting my head around what I have to do to finish my degree this summer and the book is coming along, editing, editing, morphing it into something that will be publishable. It's slow-going and I am conscious that if I talk about it too much here then readers might be thinking: come on, you've been talking about this book for years. If you're interested in my writing process then there is an instagram account that you might like. Come have a look...

I got overzealous on the JCrew website and now I am shamefacedly waiting for the delivery man with a box.

Days turn to night and we snuggle up, waiting until Spring comes. Hurry up please.

Two thousand and seventeen...

posted on: Friday, 6 January 2017

I welcomed the new year in the French Alps, eating the obscure menu of a French banquet which included a steak which I am sure never saw the heat of the pan; the French like it rare. Do I like it rare? Less so, but we embraced the experience. New year in the mountains is a thought-provoking thing, I find myself pensive now that we are back.

Christmas was a storm of jolly activity. I received one of the best ever gifts from my brother; a pure white ceramic pineapple. I heart it. We ended up hosting both sides of the family and had, in amongst this, booked two trips to London so there was shuttling back and forth in the days that followed the festivities. I was so ready to go away. Skiing, though not my best ever thing is a curious convergence of stamina and beauty. I still believe that unless you are a very good skier it remains a pursuit that requires Herculean effort and yomp; getting up the mountain, all the kit, those stupid boots, ski lifts and mountain conditions, the snow (or no snow!) then that sublime shoop down, all over so quickly. I find that it has the same affect on me as yoga though, I concentrate so hard that I can think of little else and the result is that my mind clears for a few days. Coming home and it's filled up again and now my inner monologue wails plaintively: I have so much to do! Then followed by: what shall I do? The indecision of my life troubles me. I am sure that busy and indecisive are the worst bed fellows. And don't get me started on the cheese fest that went on in the Alps. I ate so much cheese in so many forms I could now leave it for another year.

So here we are again.

I face January with the knowledge that I need step it up in my work, this Masters degree is not going complete itself. There are plans buzzing around my mind about what I might do afterwards and whether I can get this book published. As the edit evolves there is a darkness to the novel that I hadn't anticipated. I hadn't planned on writing a dark book, but dark it is. I find this interesting. Whenever I write the blog there is a conscience on my shoulder saying make it light and breezy. No one wants to see the dark places of your mind. Yet whenever I have shared the shadows here I get the biggest response from readers. Isn't that so very human? We like the darkness, that is what pulls us in, but we want it presented in a fictional form so that we can re-enter the light when we need to. I have written the book about life and marriage and parenthood yes, but also about those nuances of human interaction, the inner thoughts we have - at least that I (my characters) have. It's not me of course, but it comes from me if you see what I mean.

People often say they have a book in them. I suspect we all do. But getting it out is not for the faint-hearted and that is why relatively few make the transition from mind to paper. I consider whether I could have managed it without the academics to back me up. For re-entering the academic world has reminded me of where I started; by learning. To learn is to open the mind. To study is to immerse. Both of these disciplines have helped me unlock the book in me. So I continue to toil away, even though the editing process is so much damn harder than the writing process of last year. To edit is to make it better, to make it perfect. Therein lies the problem; it never feels good enough. So I adopt what I used to do in my previous profession and to some extent with this blog. I press 'send' and hope for the best. I have to have faith it's good enough.

On a more binary level it's midwinter, I am swathed in wool and daily I long for my palm trees and the sun. Where is the sun?! School is still not back so my children are in the holiday stupor of sleeping in and asking for/eating shit food and we all go along until the next milestone of the term starting next week. My daughter is revising, it's exam year this year. To study is to immerse. Do you see the theme?!

I am trying to resist the sales, to turn my back on the emails that come each day promising further reductions. What I want to do is to buy all those bits I have had my eye on all season but couldn't afford but what I am instead do is talk myself out of it and wish I'd saved some money. Story of my shopping life. I am, it seems, the person who buys full-price at the start. Oh well...

Lovely to pop in here, speak soon...