Do people live their lives differently to fulfill their obligations to writing? Is contriving you life to be Tweetable acceptable?
Mathew Paris’s melodic voice was easily called to mind as I read his recent article in The Spectator. In his soft-spoken lilt he detailed a moment of pique on the London Underground, the subject of his ire TfL’s decision to close the connection between Bank and Moment stations in one direction, a rule enforced by an escalator that conveys passengers up but not down.
Our protagonist struck a blow against the system by refusing to return to street level to make the connection, as those without Mr Paris’ anguished relationship with public transport might, instead dashing down the escalator the wrong way. Paris may have stood on the right previously, but on this occasion commuters must have been surprised to see him descend on the left.
I had imagined that he may have struggled to make the distance, fooled by his soft voice and gentle demeanour; I now discover he is in fact the fastest living marathon runner to have sat as an MP. He was, he stated, fuelled by a burning sense of injustice.
But I think he was also fueled by something else – the need to write an article for The Spectator. It would be too much to imply that petty rule breaking is the only means for a man with Paris’ talents to conjure an article, at the same time I don’t doubt that the same journalistic bent must have automatically packaged this handy anecdote into 800 words as he battled against the receding treads.
Without conferring the pejorative term annecdotalist on anyone these types of stories are the meat and potatoes of much journalistic writing – no news there. Having to come up with a bite sized morsel of zeitgeist on a regular basis must cause one to be constantly alive to the possibility that your weekly topic lurks in the article you are reading, the post office queue you are in or a conversation you had at the school gates. You must, I would suggest, encourage journalisable events to occur, at least on a subconscious level.
And surely, if this is the case, as more and more people have a quota of written output to fulfil, more and more people will live their lives in this way. I’m not referring to an increase in the number of professional writers, which certainly isn’t on the cards, but many people have a responsibility to a Twitter account, a regime of Facebook updates to keep up or even a full blown blog to maintain.
Next time you see an unreasonable argument in a restaurant, a petty provocation of social norms or perhaps even a novel act of kindness then you may be witnessing the need to construct a life makes good reading. Now Virgin Trains have introduced WiFi on trains perhaps we will all have something sensational to read on them. And there again, perhaps not.Google+