THERE are different ways to consider the title above these words today. The ups and downs can refer to the optimism or otherwise of the writer – and also to the daily graph showing how many people have been reading Man On Ledge.
Sometimes there is a connection between the two.
You see, writing a blog almost every day is great fun if you enjoy batting words and opinions around. To a former newspaper columnist once confined to a weekly outing, this is giddy stuff: you can write as much as you like every day!
And as the ‘owner’ of the blog, you can also see that graph. Each day you learn how many visits to the blog there have been, how many people have read that day’s entry (or searched back to an earlier blog), and the country they were in when they were reading. Most countries I can work out. Old friends in Sweden, Canada or Australia, say. But Kazakhstan? Who the hell was reading me there?
Over a number of days this graph of vertical bars shows the ups and downs of success. More people read when I write about Airbnb guests or about some gloomy new development at my old newspaper, for instance.
Some days I write a piece that seems good to me and yet not so many people read.
This is where the curious mixture of arrogance and insecurity comes into blogging. Let’s pick over those two states of mind. It is arrogant to assume that anyone might wish to read what you have written – but never mind, because nothing anywhere would be written by anyone if writers became sensitive about that. All you’d get would be a humble silence and a blank page/screen.
So you deliver your words in a tap-tapping rush of egotism and then wait. That’s where the insecurity comes in. Will anyone read me today? On a newspaper in the old days you only knew you’d been read when someone sent in a letter, often a rude letter. With a blog it’s instant. You write, the words are out there immediately and people read them within minutes.
Or they don’t. Mostly they do. But there are those ups and downs.
In my laptop life, I sit here reading and writing on this neat PC. I was late to laptops but do love the thing. You can run your life through this small screen. One of our guests did just that. He was a Brit who lived in Luxembourg and ran a property business in Sweden. ‘This is me working,’ he said at breakfast. Shorts, T-shirt and flip-flops and a laptop was all he needed to start his working day.
How cool is that I thought. There are downsides though. Throughout the day I check those statistics far too often, while also logging into two email accounts, Facebook and Twitter, and a newspaper or two. It is easy to become jittery and obsessed about that graph. The other night I found myself checking the blog statistics while watching a news report about migrants. Suddenly I was annoyed with myself. My little bruised ego seemed a pathetic thing when measured against such human misery. So I switched off and concentrated on the news. Turned on again though before bedtime, just to check.
Also with a laptop I do what I used tease our daughter about: sit and watch television while also glancing at the other screen in my life. This is the split role that newspapers used to have, and still do when I grow irritated with myself and switch off.
After all, making unnecessary remarks half-hidden by a two or three feet of printer’s ink is a long and noble Dad tradition in this house.
I paid for this laptop from the redundancy fund. It has since earned back more than it cost – although nowhere near enough to pay for a life. Not even close, and this is a mounting worry.
But on I go. Writing the blog, rewriting the thriller, applying for jobs, Tweeting this or that, and wandering along the friendly, time-wasting corridors of Facebook.
All from this neat PC. There must a phrase for such a life. Laptop dancing, perhaps.