BBC Radio 4’s Today programme ran an item this morning on self-publishing in the digital age. Apparently some giddy optimists think the proliferating opportunities for self-publishing now make it much easier to get their work appreciated and recognised by a wider audience. Since I was at that very moment lying there in bed wondering whether to get up just to see how many hits I had had on my blog during the night, it was an opportune prompt to reflect on reality.
As one of the interviewees commented, “Content is more abundant than ever, but attention is scarce.” Oh, so true. I set up my first online presence through a website because I had to provide an online address for a group show I was in and didn’t want to use my home e-mail. For the first few months I assumed no one would visit it, and I was amazed when they did. For a couple of years after, I still resisted the idea of blogging partly because I genuinely thought it would be a pointless exercise in terms of achieving an active readership. With so much material on the web, who would ever find me, and even if they did, why would they want to read anything of mine when there was so much more fabulous stuff out there?
It was a revelation to me when I attended a Reach Further workshop, and discovered the online world of social media with all its behaviours, modes and workings. Once I understood more, I threw myself into it all enthusiastically and the last five months have been quite extraordinary.
But I remain a realist in this world of abundant content and scarce attention. I was thrilled yesterday to be freshly pressed by WordPress, and I’m delighted to welcome all new readers to Life and Art. I am truly appreciative of the time taken by everybody to read my blog, and I hope most of the time you check in, you will find something of interest. I am conscious though, that just like my art practice, it is a bit of an eclectic mix. The social media gurus advise that if you are determined to build up readership you need to maintain focus and keep on topic, so people know what they’re getting. I admit I sometimes think it would be easier to have a defined focus, but that’s just not me. I’m interested in everything, and the older I get, the more the absurdities and quirks of life delight me and catch my eye and inspire me to write.
Which brings me neatly back to self-publication. A few years ago I made an epic train journey from Leeds to China with my husband and four children. We all kept journals of the trip in a terribly competitive way, and I’m still in the process of editing them all. The funny thing is that five years ago, everyone who found out about them said we must get them published. And now, suddenly, five years on, self-publication seems such an obvious and realistic thing to do. Give it a couple more years, and I can hand the whole project over to the kids.
In the meantime, today’s illustrations are a couple of extracts from another book I made on our return home from the adventure. Made in a limited hand drawn edition of one, it has rarely left our living-room. Today, finally, publicity.