Friday, 27 April 2012

In which I attain clarity, and make a resolution

Posted by Tania Kindersley.

All right. I’ve worked out what it is. As long as I can work out what a thing is, I can deal with almost anything. What I hate is opacity and mystery; then I am at the mercy of unknown forces.

Yesterday, I could not understand why I was quite so upset about a reader being bored. I do have a morbid dread of being dull, but even so. I cannot tell you how doleful and heartsore I was for the whole day. It was such a small thing, in the great wide scheme. (As some of the Dear Readers sternly and sanely pointed out, with, I thought, a faint air of surprise.) Yet I was quite undone.

Then, just after midnight, I figured it out. It is because this is my safe place. That sounds so nuts I am hesitant even to write it. How can something that is out there on the internet for anyone to read be safe? And yet, that is what it has become.

Because it is not professional, because there is no money, no pitch, no editor, no critics, no bean counters, it is the purest, most untrammelled writing I have ever done. That is thrown into particular relief when I am really struggling with a book, as I am at the moment. Here, I do not have to poke and prod into a recalcitrant brain; I do not have to worry constantly about deadlines and publication. This stands just as it is: a thing I do for love.

You see, the thing that I love is writing. I adore putting words on a page. I have an idiot passion for the semi-colon. I like listening for rhythms, throwing in unexpected words, running off on little riffs. I even like the physical act of typing, the sound of the tap tap tap as my fingers dance over the keyboard. When, in my real work, the fingers are not dancing, but stomping through mud, here they shall still do the damn tango.

My agent would kill me for saying this, but I hate everything about writing which is not to do with writing. I hate the pitching, the meetings, the compromises. I particularly loathe the promoting of a book. I like to be alone in my room, thinking thoughts; I don’t want to go out like a huckster and sell myself. I can’t bear the dog and pony show aspects of being a writer, they feel so bogus and phoney.

That is fine, because everyone has part of their job they don’t like, but if you gave me a million quid, I should be very tempted never to go into book form again. I realise that all the ambitions I had when I was younger, of being on best-seller lists, or winning prizes, even getting the admiration of my peers, seem faintly meaningless to me now. I think how shallow all that striving is compared to the important things, like love and trees. All I really want is to be able to write a good sentence.

That is what I can do here. I may throw language up in the air and see where it falls. I may dance.

That’s why I became so sad. I had slipped the surly bonds, and then suddenly, there were all the things I had avoided: demands, criticism, suggestions. A suggestion is a tiny thing; it should not cause a storm of grief. But in this context it felt like a mighty invasion. That was why I lost perspective, and fell into a brown study.

This, I should stress, is what the shrinks call my stuff. It has nothing to do with the poor Dear Reader, who quite unwittingly hit a most fragile and vulnerable chord.

So, here is the thing. I love and respect the Dear Readers; I am keenly aware that you give your precious time to come here; I am profoundly touched that you do. I get a thrill of excitement when I turn the computer on and find that comments have come from New Zealand and Wales and North Carolina. But I say this with all humility and politeness and no edge or side or rancour: I am not doing it for you. (I wince as I write that; it goes against all muscle memory.) There are very few places in life where one gets to be completely selfish, and I’m afraid to say that this is one of them. And I am damn well going to milk that for every last drop of self-indulgent joy.

It turns out that I don’t want a huge, popular blog, which gets put on lists and turned into a book deal. (I might once have dreamed of that, when my dander was up and my competitive spirit was running riot.) I realise that idea ruins the whole point. If I lose readers, I lose readers, and that does not matter a whit. I don’t want a worldly success, in which I may count the mounting numbers, and stare beadily at rising graphs; I want a tiny, private thing, where I may do tap dancing if the mood takes me.

So my resolution is: I am going to stop apologising. I am bored of that. I suspect that is the dullest thing for you too. Fuck it: I am going to have the courage of my convictions. I am going to write about anything I want. You have the lovely, joyful choice of not reading.

One of my lines in Backwards was about following your own goofy little star, and bugger the consequences. I must follow my own goofy star, and, as some of you know, sometimes it is very goofy indeed.

I have lost a lot of loves in the last year; the two current loves of my life are my mare and my Pigeon. If I have learnt anything from my season of grief, it is that the loves must be celebrated, while they are still with us. If I put them down on the page, then they are kept; one day, when they are gone, I may take down the book, and slowly read. So I shall write about them, and I am not going to apologise for that.


Today, there was a glimmer, the faintest promise, the teasing glimpse of sun. I squinted and gazed in awe and wonder, and ran to get the camera.

Red's view:

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The little pony:

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She is so pretty I think we may have to show her in veteran's classes. Surely that face is too good not to share:

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And talking of beautiful faces:

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I love it when she gazes out to the horizon like that. I never quite know what she sees, but whatever it is, it is quite fascinating.

See the noble profile:

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She is so much happier now she has her little friend. I cannot tell you the difference. She is all dozy and dopey and relaxed; I hardly need the headcollar at all, she just follows me about like an old dog. Amble, amble, amble we go, as if we have been together forever. My heart expands, as if to fit all the new love into it.

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And talking of hearts:

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One of the things that amazes me about this dog is that she is almost fourteen. Fourteen. I cannot quite believe how gracefully she ages. And she still chases her ball about like a three-year-old:

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THE HILL. THE HILL. After five days sulking in the cloud, she is back, in all her stately glory:

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I hope you have a lovely Friday, and get a glimpse of sun.


  1. That is the most excellent post I have read (anywhere in the blogosphere) for a good while. If more people just wrote for themselves, there'd almost certainly be far better things to read out there. x

  2. Blonde - how lovely you are. Due to my ghastly tendency towards wanting to please all of the people all of the time, I found it quite alarming to write. But liberating too, perhaps. :)

  3. "But I say this with all humility and politeness and no edge or side or rancour: I am not doing it for you."

    When I read that, I wanted to say in reply: "Good! Because I don't read it for you. Now we can both relax and get on with it."

    The way I read your blog is completely selfish. I don't recall paying any sort of subscription, anyway, and there have been countless times when I've enjoyed a post and then clicked away without commenting to at least say: thank you. (I occasionally have a pang of guilt as I do it)

    So perhaps it's best that you write it selfishly, I read it selfishly (albeit with the occasional 'thank you') and we can all enjoy the happy way the system works!

    In all seriousness though, I hope you find liberation in today's resolution. It sounds like the sort of thing that should make a person feel a lot lighter, having decided it.

    1. Hannah - most excellent point; I had not thought of it. Liberating for reader AND writer. Very much like that idea.

  4. I thoroughly approve that you have turned all this around and found what matters for you. It has been a revelation for you, I guess, that the blog isn't menant to be competitive so you can perhaps shed the occasional reader without shrivelling up inside.

    But if your younger competitive streak still needs a touch of pandering to, I can happily tell you your chives are WEEKS agead of mine, here in their shady spot in the Northern Home Counties (Wales is not yet our full-time home, we must still return to deal with business in Herts on occasion). There! Will that do?

    1. Goldenoldenlady - the chive thing is making me laugh and laugh.

    2. Two typos, yet again. GGGRRR! Why do they always escape my eye before I hit publish? LOL!

    3. Then we are quits, as most days you make me laugh, whatever the topic, and that is why reading your blog is on my To Do list every day. Please kiss The Pidge on the nose for me, and give yourself a hug while you are about it.

  5. I am dismayed that someone found you boring. Maybe they don't love horses and dogs or maybe, in finding your personal musings boring, they have no real sense of their own reality, as you do; they certainly don't understand reflection and contemplation. That seems to me what your blog is. Incidentally, on the subject of contemplation, I, the 'nice Jewish girl' take comfort from wandering around our lovely village churchyard and I shall say hello to your Dad.

    1. Oh Karen - what a very lovely thought; thank you.

  6. Goodness gracious, I put off reading your blog once because I was much too tired and felt it an insult to just skim through, and I miss the first bit of scandal! As someone who is constantly being told by their mother to stop wearing their heart on their sleeve before they'll bleed to death, I completely understand how the comment put you in such a state. I always tell myself when I feel silly about my emotions that I wouldn't feel them if I wasn't meant to. Sure, we live in civilized society and we must act accordingly, but the body and the mind seem to be a well oiled machine and if we don't address these emotions and get them all out, well you can bet they will raise their now far uglier head sooner or later. Case in point is that your reaction yesterday lead to your realization today. So I say it is a far better thing that you felt what you felt and addressed it, instead acting if as it didn't happen, because now you have figured something out, now you and your blog have grown.

    As for the comment itself, I feel like there are two kinds of blogs. One which is selfish and personal, and one which serves a purpose, a certain subject, and gets ads and interviews and such. I feel that the latter is the only one which the readers are allowed to comment and have a say in what is being written. You are most definitely the former, and therefore the relationship between you and the readers is more of a friendship rather than a business deal. Do you know how many times I've listened to my friend go on about something which they hold dear or has troubled them and engage in it just because I love them and anything that interests them, somehow ends up interesting me? This is your space and you must be doing something right because the out pour of comments yesterday proves it. Just keep on keeping on, I say.

    1. Danielle - what a wonderfully wise and thoughtful comment; thank you.

  7. I have pretty much viewed this as more of an online "diary" or an ongoing "conversation"...and that's one reason I keep checking in, more or less on a regular basis.
    And, frankly, I appreciate that you are (or seem to be to me) so willing to put yourself out "there".
    Finally, I don't have to agree with you to enjoy what you've written...

  8. As a newish reader who hasn't previously commented, can I say a) how much I enjoy not only your writing but the range of topics you choose to write about, b) that the previous post concerned me (though I understood) for the amount of emotional energy you were willing to give one disgruntled reader, c) that your 'resolution' statement above on the subject of choice delights me. Please carry on as you were!

  9. Halfway through today's blog, I could have shouted out with joy. What a relief that you have regained your sense of what you are doing on your blog and what a relief that I can carry on reading and loving it. Thank you from a Brit in San Francisco.

  10. Always happy to be able to wander in here to see your dog, your horse, your hill. Always delighted if you wave back, but expecting nothing more.

  11. YAY!!!!!!! Tania is BACK! :) Red, and the pony (White?) and the Pidge. So happy to 'see' you upbeat.... :)

  12. And, what is the lovey white pony's name. Although White Pony seems adequate. Little Pony is good, too.

  13. Bloody good for you! Of course you are completely and utterly right. I am so glad. Lou x

  14. Soo, so glad you will just keep on and not be apologizing anymore. As you said yesterday, too many apologies can be very tedious for others after awhile. I don't come here for any particular subject, just love your writing and how you always are able to express just what I feel, but sooo much better.

    Lovely pics today, especially love the one of Red looking away, and the one of Pigeon from the side. She looks so much like my old girl, but never more so than when you show her from the side. Almost like having new photos of her. Can't tell you how happy it makes me that she is still chasing a ball at almost fourteen years old.

    Oh, and I am going to make the presumption of suggesting a blog name for the pony, which of course you may IGNORE at your pleasure, as this is YOUR space. The pictures of her today make me think of Merrylegs from Black Beauty, a book I loved as a child.

  15. Wonderful post Tania. Full of vim and vigour and passion. I've been loving the posts about Red, my mother rode, but we did not, so it has been fascinating to learn a little bit of that world. I think that the addition of Red to your brood is such a positive way of keeping all your memories of your father, and the things he was passionate about, close, and current and alive, if that makes sense?


  16. Oh, and my chives never ever get as far as flowering. I am envious. I long for their little purple puffs!

  17. Bravo! All sentiments exactly right and your sentences, as ever, elegant and beguiling. So onwards and upwards, with a little bit of [poetically fallacious?] sunshine to show you are on the right path.

  18. Brava, bravissima!! I love the idea - that you don't write for us and we don't read for you! And I also applaud the idea of dropping apologies - when you apologize for a long post, I say, goody! here comes a full cup of tea post! and the only thing that I ignore is the apology! I teach wonderful women graduate students in biology and the MOST important thing I do is not allow them to apologize - they can say whatever they want, but they CANNOT apologize first! It's a rule in our lab and it's amazing how women (not a problem with most men) just roll up their sleeves and get down to making their point when you rob them of this back door.

    Your fan in California

  19. I think criticism makes us stronger. It upsets and we get defensive and generally feel bad. After a while I realised that it wasn't worth getting upset about everything people said and today I can say 'okay, you have made your point' and then be back on my way. It takes a while to think like that and it doesn't always work.
    I read your blog because I enjoy your writing and like reading about your life with a horse and a dog. I know nothing of horses but does that matter? I only follow a few blogs and not because they put weekly fashion tips or giveaways up but because they give me a glimpse of somebody's life. The more different from mine the better. There are no expectations but only surprises.

  20. I am so annoyed . . . I had an entire comment (long, as usual) written out, and my cat leaned on the keyboard. It is like the child's explanation, 'I'm sorry, but the dog ate my homework.' So I am reconstructing it here, with the hope that it makes some sense.

    Your fifth paragraph, the one which begins 'You see,' says so much and resonates so far. That is why, in my opinion, your blog is your best writing. (And may I add, it is that rhythm trick that sets you apart the most; so few writers really 'get' that.)

    Don't take this wrong, but I actually like it when you have an off day. Don't recall your ever writing a poor post, but every now and then, when you are sick or tired or just on general drain, one piece won't sparkle quite as much as its fellows. It's rather reassuring to know that even the best columnists, and now bloggers, don't just turn on thoughts and words like a tap.

    May I make a suggestion? Not for the blog, but for you. You write here that one day you will read again what you have written about the Pigeon and Red and your loved ones. We are privileged to read about Red and the Pidge now, but quite rightly you don't get too personal about the people in your life. Only your dad, now that he is gone. I hope that somewhere, for yourself, you are recording little snippets of memories about the people dear to you. One day they will matter so much.


  21. Hurrah for you! You have a really enviable gift of writing what you care about that day and making it fascinating for everyone else. Giggling about Bird's cat on the keyboard. Rachel

  22. Wonderful post. I got in the saddle last week for the first time in 3 years. Pure, pure bliss. I still need to find my seat, but the rather chubby, laid back quarter horse I am taking lessons on is a fantastic teacher. If you must write, then write. If you must ride, then ride. We are foolish to not follow are bliss and listen to fools instead.

  23. I love your blog and it has cheered me up through dark times.Your enthusiasm for your friends - animal and human- shines through. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your wonderful photographs.

  24. Please continue just the way you do. Such a lot of pleasure, for me an education in horses and gardens and lots of things! Have a wonderful weekend. Its almost the end of sunday here.

  25. Thank you, gods; I was getting a bit worried for a while. We "give our precious time to come here" because this is where we want to be. I love your blog. You are a truly gifted writer; funny, emotional, clever and wise, and I for one am extremely grateful that you want to share your life with us. It is very brave and brings me joy in a rather difficult time of life I am going through right now. So:10 points from Finland and lots of sunshine to you and yours. (If you want 12 points you must get a Welsh Corgi Cardigan and publish lots of pictures... just kidding.)

  26. Write whatever you feel, and we can focus on what we like. The writing about the dogs and horses is actually about relationships and very interesting and enoyable. I know little of racing or keeping a horse, and like learning more about it. Oh, and the white pony--looks like she walked out of a storybook, so glad Red has a nice friend.

  27. So, so many incredibly kind and encouraging comments; so sorry not to reply to all individually; sending out huge heartfelt collective thank you.

  28. Apart from a couple of years of horse riding lessons when I was a little girl and the very occasional gentle pony trek on holiday, I'm not a rider nor do I consider myself a 'horse person' whatever one of those might be. But I have loved reading about Red and your experiences together. When the writing is so good and honest, it is always interesting and you can find in it what is relevant and meaningful for you. So do please write about whatever you like! Fx

  29. I stumbled on your blog today, having been given "Backwards in High Heels" by my former staff at the boutique that I ran in New York City. They all inscribed the inside of your book, and one of my staff members wrote "If ever a book was written with you in mind, then this is it."...I have loved the book from the moment I received it. I felt today, as I sit in a Chicago hotel having been here 2 weeks for business, that you Tania are my long lost twin:) Every word you speak out and write mirrors my thoughts. Although in the past year I have lived in Texas, New York, and now Seattle Washington - having gone through the loss of a second marriage, and involved in work that I'm not quite sure how I got here but for some reason as a manager I am now managing other people's work lives, at 38 years old I'd love to have a quiet room, a horse, a Pidge of my own, and peace. Thank you for writing from your heart. I've read at least 100 of your posts today and felt a huge sigh come over if sunlight came in and I felt not so alone in my thoughts and views. I count you as my long lost sister. Best to you...


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