Monday, 27 January 2014

From tiny acorn to tiny acorn.

I write a lot. On iPhone, on tablet, on laptop, wherever there's a QWERTY keyboard I'll sit, stand or lie and tap away at it. Sometimes it makes sense, sometimes it doesn't. More often the latter in all honesty, as, I'm sure, my Twitter feed and the inane ramblings contained within this blog demonstrates. It's almost an O.C.D. and isn't restricted to the buttons on my keyboards either. Any button will do. I can't resist feeling the satisfying click beneath my fingertip, even if it does nothing. If you put a button on the coffee table that was connected to nothing I would sit happily click-click-clicking away until the cows came home. In fact, if that button was connected to a battery and, in turn, that battery was connected to my nipple causing, on random occasions, me to suffer a mild to medium electric shock that rattled my fillings I would still click it, over and over again.

This, of course, is the one and only reason that I've distanced myself from politics and am not in charge of our fair nation. All it would take to cause the devastation of an atomic war would be for me to close my laptop after checking my emails from the other world leaders, all keen for me to solve the problems of their own nations, and realise I had nothing to do. I would look around, huffing and suddenly bored, notice the big red button on the desk in front of me and that would be that. Click, whoosh, BOOM. Bye bye Soviets, take that Korea, have at you Frenchies. Before the end of my first day in office the Earth would be reduced to a smoldering, toxic lump of iron and deceased biological matter.

But, as is usual during these entries, I digress. Back to the clicking of buttons.

With the advent of the internet I found an easy vent for my addiction. At first there were the chat rooms on Yahoo. Suddenly able to speak to people, near and far, free and easily I became addicted. I would spend hour after hour in those chat rooms, wasting time that wasn't wasted since I enjoyed it. After a while my life changed significantly (See my blog entry "Just do it" for details) and I spent a while away from my keyboard. Once my adventures were complete and I had settled back into my old life I discovered the world wide web had changed significantly. Myspace and Facebook were, at that point, fighting it out for who would destroy Bebo. I chose to continue my mundane meanderings on Myspace and later, having realised I had backed the loser, Facebook. I would spend hours now throwing virtual farm stock at random people, flicking through photographs of folk I'd never meet and updating my status as regularly as I was able.

Along came smart phones and I was able to remain connected to the matrix 24/7. Facebook became filled with inanity as more and more people swelled the ranks of Zuckerberg's disciples and I discovered Twitter. My keystrokes now filled boxes of limited size with silly jokes and meaningless chit chat and I developed an ever increasing lust for followers.

My followers list swelled over the years, bringing me into contact with people that, in an earlier age, I would never had been able to connect with. People that shared my opinions and values and, more importantly in some ways, people with whom I had absolutely nothing in common. Even people whose opinions I disagreed with or detested, all were (and remain) welcome and every interaction, whether positive or negative, was a pleasure.

Then came the blogs. One hundred and forty characters is all well and good but sometimes, rather than interaction, I just like to rant. Uninterrupted and without the restrictions of the character limit I began writing full words, using punctuation and losing myself for hours, mesmerised by the blinking cursor on the clean, white, back-lit screen. Soon, though, that wasn't enough either.

At about the same time that I began blogging one of my Twitter followers (I love being able to say this...) Mr Stephen Fry  began promoting a new website,,  described as "A new space for writers to share, read and distribute". I signed up and began writing silly stories. The stories on Jottify are provided free of charge and so, after a short while, I had amassed a number of highly flattering comments on my small collection of witterings. Ego boosted I began to write a longer piece, which evolved as I wrote it into a short story and, later, a long story. It was aimed at entertaining my new Granddaughter and before I realised it I had written a children's book, a tale of a little girl, her friend and their magical adventures, "The Ballad of Kissy Sizzle". People read it, people liked it and people told me I should make it available on a wider platform. A friend of mine then pointed out that this was actually a very easy thing to do. Sign up to Amazon, upload your work as an ebook and hey presto, you're technically a published author. Self published, but published nonetheless. The sad part was that Amazon is only there to make money and so I would have to put a price on my work. I thought long and hard and decided on ninety eight pence.

I didn't for one minute believe that anyone would pay to read my jibber-jabber but vanity persuaded me to have a go and so I did it. It cost me nothing to list it on there so the fact it would remain unsold and unloved made not an ounce of difference. I was incredibly excited when I saw my book appear in the Amazon listings and I bought a copy for myself. The one and only copy I thought I would ever sell.

A week or two later I got an email notification from Amazon telling me someone had left feedback. Someone had bought my book! With trepidation I logged in to my account to see what they had said. As it turned out they had liked it and had left a lovely little review. Whilst still logged in I took a look at my sales figures. I had expected to see two sales but there, in black and white, was a little box telling me that eighty-six people had actually bought it. Eighty six random, anonymous people had taken the time to download something that I had created. I didn't get any money for the sales, the way Amazon works doesn't make it easy to earn anything, but the creation of wealth hadn't been a motivating factor in my writing the book and so this wasn't much of a disappointment. I'm more than happy that people, both in the UK and overseas, have paid for, downloaded and (hopefully) read my words. I'll never be rich from it, but I've now been able to add and immediately cross out an entry on my bucket list.

One thing that is a small disappointment to me is that I used a pen-name. Given that the book is aimed at children it wouldn't have been a good idea to have "by Johnny Bastard" plastered across the front cover. But I know I wrote it, my children and granddaughter (To whom it's dedicated) know I wrote it and now, dear reader, so do you.

And so my internet evolution is complete. From "pinging" random strangers around the world on yahoo, through checking out new bands on Myspace, past hurling virtual sheep on Facebook, following miscreants on Twitter and blogging inanity on here I have reached a point where I can say that I have actually done something worthwhile. Nothing important, nothing Earth-shattering, but one day, after I'm gone, maybe my Granddaughter will have a daughter or son of her own and will sit down with her or him one night to read a story that was written by her not-so-great Grandfather. Maybe she'll like it, maybe she wont. But I did it for her, and that makes me happy.

The book is a small acorn that will never become a majestic oak. This acorn wasn't meant to be planted, it was intended to fit snugly into a little girl's pocket and, hopefully, make her smile whenever she sees it. Oak trees are massive and acorns are little things, but you know what I always say about the little things.


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