THE BLOG

Secrets and Lives

01/09/2014 13:20 BST | Updated 31/10/2014 09:59 GMT

It started with a look at the preview of the week's TV. On one, exciting and revelatory evening, three sets of secrets: Dogs: Their Secret Lives. The Secret Life of Books. Super Sense: The Secret Power of Animals. No-one has any secrets left unrevealed, it seems, in these times of selfies and self-promotion. But what of bloggers? We who reveal our thinking now and then, to be read by anyone or nobody, friends or total strangers?

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It takes courage, someone commented to me once, to send your observations out into the ether of the blog. Anyone could read it, whether they know you in 'real life' or not, and judge you or criticize you or think you're very strange. Almost worse, perhaps, nobody will read it at all... those thoughts and words you've considered and tinkered with so carefully might go unread, unremarked, ignored. Maybe you feel invisible already in real life, and you're writing to find yourself a voice, only for it to be left unheard too...? The Secret Life of the Blogger includes these agonies of anxiety. The fear of what people might think only just outweighs the fear that they might not think anything at all. Like that time on the pathway by the beach, when you were walking that Sunday morning, admiring the light across the sea, and the family of tourists just kept coming, six abreast, so that you thought you might have to climb across the railings to the sand to have space to walk... what you've written might just be unseen prose.

It's hard to judge whether seen prose would be better. There's that moment when you see the comment box has been ticked, and someone's said your words are simply rubbish. When someone you know in 'real life' reads it and gives you that appraising look... and you know they're judging you and it isn't good. When you read what you wrote last week, and cringe. That regret at a turn of phrase or an opening of the heart. That moment when you wonder if the semi-stranger in your town might have read your deepest ramblings, without ever having spoken to you for real...

But it's not just about other people's reactions. Reading involves interaction with the writer, but writing involves interaction with your own thoughts. Finding words to reflect on the everyday means becoming an observer of your own life... standing on the sidelines of what you're doing, thinking at the same time as living. It's funny. It's not always a conscious thing, but the secret life of the blogger involves a sort of endless multi-tasking, a little bit like that childhood experiment where you have to pat your head and rub your tummy all at once. I always used to get the two mixed up. Sometimes, when real life things happen, or when I read something or see something on TV, I'm so busy storing the memory away or noting it down for future reference or expostulation, that it's almost as if I don't quite look the moment squarely in the eye. I'm analysing and interpreting, thinking of comparisons and reading between the lines. The TV schedules are more thought about than watched; the shopping trip more notable for snippets of overheard conversation or observation of the defining 'types' who hang out in each shop than for sensible purchases made. Making yourself laugh in Urban Outfitters as you imagine that a convention of hipsters has exploded, so that the sales assistant gives you a funny look and you feel that you should leave. Despairing of your tendency of habit in Jo Malone, as you try this season's new fragrance but go back to the same old faithful yet again. Standing to one side so much that, when the assistant in Paperchase asks you if you're waiting and you say you are (implying 'waiting to be served'), she shrugs and serves someone further down the queue. If you're living the secret life of a blogger, you file it all, observing every experience from the sidelines, annotating the experience in your mind and setting it aside to muse upon...

We're strange creatures, bloggers. Often deeply introspective, on the fringes, not the centre of the group, yet publishing our thoughts more openly than the eagerly emoting party-goers which most of us could never be. Often nocturnal, often looking tired, always desperately hoping that someone will like what they think and maybe 'get' it. Or 'get' them. And that acceptance can mean more than a thousand words of meaningless small talk.

My secret and 'real life' as a blogger is one of standing on the sidelines of what I write, thinking from the sidelines of what happens, and wondering what people read between my lines. I'm writing about writing. Blogging about blogging. It's like those meta-picture pictures of mirror images and everlasting repetition of reflection: visible so many times that I find invisibility in wondering whether any of it exists.