Category: Blog

Blogging At The End Of The (Twitter) World

I have been on Twitter since 2009. It was a very different place in those days. There was no retweet button, but retweets existed, in the form of copy-and-pasting somebody’s tweet with the words “RT @[their username]” beforehand. You couldn’t upload pictures, either; you’d have to upload them to TweetPic and include a link. The pace was slower, the numbers smaller; nobody you knew from real life was on there, so it had an air of unreality about it. Well, nobody if you were, like me, thirteen.

Sometimes I think about growing up Extremely Online and what it’s done to my brain. It has, for the most part, been a positive thing: it’s brought me friends and opportunities, and allowed me to stay connected to others even as my health began (and then continued) to fail. Twitter alone helped me find Author Mentor Match, which brought me my mentor Rory Power and my friendship with fellow AMM mentees; it helped me find my agent via DVPit; it connected me with other debut authors. It is the reason I have a community of writer friends. It has also given me other opportunities: it’s because of Twitter that I appeared on Motherfoclóir; it’s through Twitter that most people discover my blog or my YouTube videos; it’s alerted me to conferences and calls for papers and academic opportunities that have worked out for me. All of this happened in adulthood, but the groundwork was laid by my adolescence online. I joined Twitter because it was where the writers and publishing people seemed to be, way back in the day, and it’s probably the only reason I know anything much about publishing.

But growing up online also has its downsides. As an adult, I’ve been taking steps to recover some of my privacy, but it remains true that nothing online is ever truly deleted, and I lived a lot of my adolescence in the public eye. I came out online, twice, writing lengthy posts about my identity. I shared so many of the deeply personal moments of my adolescence and early adulthood with total strangers, and gave the world my vulnerability to do with as it pleased. I can only be grateful that I was such a spectacularly boring teenager, said public eye was largely uninterested in me and my audience remained small, else this could be a very different post.

But the internet in 2009 was a different place to the internet in 2023, and I fear for the teenagers who grow up online these days, with their real names and faces attached to so much of what they do. In my day (I say, feeling thirty years older all of a sudden), the internet felt like a separate world, somewhere to escape from school and ‘normal’ life; now, it feels like an extension of it.

Anyway, Twitter is dying.

I suppose that’s what this post is about, really. Twitter is dying. Elon Musk has catastrophically polluted the garden we were playing in – poisoned the water cooler where we’d been gathering for a decade and a half – peed in the swimming pool, etc etc. Was it perfect before him? Of course not. Twitter’s had its toxicity for years, and for years I’ve told myself, I need to get off this website, but I never really considered leaving. Until now, with friends leaving in droves and trolls taking over the space left behind. Until the threat of AI being trained on everything I’ve ever posted (which, yeah, was probably already happening to some extent, but it’s worse to know about it, ain’t it?). Until the loss of basic features, the unreliability of others, the general sense that the platform’s days are numbered…

Look. I don’t want to flee this sinking ship. But I also don’t particularly see the value in going down with it. I always thought I’d stay until the bitter end, but, I mean, what am I trying to prove, at this point? Yes, there’s FOMO – I don’t want to leave until everybody else does, because I don’t want to be left out. I don’t want to leave until my friends have all migrated to new platforms for group chats. Bluesky is starting to feel like a viable competitor in some regards, but without DMs it’s never going to fulfil the specific function that has kept me on Twitter this long, and while it remains invite-only, there will always be people watching from the outside, feeling excluded.

I tried Mastodon, but struggled to find any sense of community or conversation there. I will not be trying Threads due to privacy concerns. I remain active on Tumblr, as I have been for over a decade. I’m still (slightly reluctantly) on Instagram, rarely posting other than to my Story, which has become my go-to platform for inane observations. I am fracturing into dozens of social media-shaped pieces, and none of them is quite doing for me what I want them to do.

Anyway. If you’re on Twitter, or were on Twitter, you know this first-hand. If you’re not, or weren’t, it’s likely you don’t care. This wasn’t intended to be an opinion column about the decline and fall of everybody’s love-to-hate social media platform, but I fear it’s turned into one.

What I’m getting at, in the end, is that this feels like a time of transitions and decisions. More for me than for many, I suspect, since I’m leaving my job and starting a PhD and coming to the end of work on a trilogy I’ve been writing since I was 18 and thinking about my next writing/publishing projects – my life is on the verge of changing significantly. And as such, when I think about what I want to do with social media and the internet going forward, my decisions are coloured by these life changes. Am I trying to be an author online, or an academic? On what platforms can I most effectively be both? Am I looking for professional connections, for friends, for readers, for support? What do I want from any of this?

I come back, as I always do when I’m growing dissatisfied with the modern internet, to this blog. The place where I lived my overly confessional adolescence, although that archive has been consigned to oblivion these days. The comment sections where I used to have lengthy conversations with internet friends, now generally quieter. The work involved in maintaining a network of independent blogs: having to seek people out, read their work, comment on it. It’s a higher level of effort than the internet friendships that social media offered us, which is why it’s decreased in popularity, but we’ve lost something, with the decline in Weird Niche Blogs Written By Weird Niche People.

(And, on a sensory level, I do not think the internet has been improved by everything being fast-moving and ad-ridden and image-heavy and video-focused. Give me a nice simple text-based website any time. Does my blog look outdated these days? Yes, and I keep it that way on purpose; I’m tired of everything taking half my data allowance just to open a single page.)

But I’ve got myself stuck in a rut of 3k semi-academic blog posts, and I don’t have the stamina to churn those out on a regular basis. I need to do something a bit different, experiment a bit more, figure out what I want this site to be. (Do I say that every year? Probably.)

With that in mind:

It’s September now, and the events of The Butterfly Assassin run from 17th September to 5th December. (The days of the week will not, alas, match up until 2029.) I cannot, in the year after publication, take a Dracula Daily approach and actually send out chapters of the book according to their dates, because of copyright and so on, but I was thinking of doing a kind of ‘readalong’ in real time. I would write blog posts commenting on individual chapters (chatting about the symbolism, the writing process, the past iterations of that chapter…), while you would read or reread the chapters, and share your observations in the comment section.

It could be fun, right? It could be a dialogue, a chance to make this blog into more of a two-way process. It would be an insight into my writing process and approach to the book, such as I’ve sometimes shared on social media in small increments, but one where the archive would stick around, and you could read it back whenever you liked, and we could talk about this.

I don’t know if this will work. I had originally thought of this as something to do on Twitter, just a handful of short tweets about each chapter, but I’m not sure I’ll still be on the site come December, if it’s even still functioning. Moreover, the algorithm and the way the site works means that spoilery tweets could easily be shown to those who didn’t choose to see them, which wouldn’t be ideal. I want this to be an opt-in situation, with the bonus of not requiring membership to a specific site. You can even forward email subscriptions or send links to friends.

Maybe this will fail spectacularly and embarrassingly (which is to say, fizzle out immediately without a single comment); perhaps it’s too early in this book’s life cycle to do something like this, and I should wait until I have more readers clamouring for bonus information. But I don’t know how else to talk about my writing on here, and I would like to try it. The posts would be shorter than my usual essays, with a view to encouraging more interaction in the comments, but might involve excerpts from previous drafts and other similar behind-the-scenes info that could be quite fun.

Shall we try it? See what happens? The glory of an experiment like this is that it doesn’t really matter if it crashes and burns, because it’s my site to experiment with, and I can do what I like. I’d need to have written most of the posts in advance, because some of those chapters fall on consecutive days and there’s no way I’d be organised enough to keep up, but I can do that.

Once I’m in, though, I think I’m all-in; I don’t think I can start the book and not finish it. So this is a commitment. It’s not that I couldn’t write other blog posts during that 2.5 months, but I can’t imagine having the time or energy to do many of them. I would be taking a leap of faith by starting, and committed to following through on it regardless of how well it was working.

And this won’t work without you, or some of you, anyway. None of this has ever worked without you, but this more than most would need your help. Your participation. I know that some of you have already read The Butterfly Assassin; maybe some of you even started reading this blog because of it. Others might have been waiting for the motivation to pick it up, and I’m here to say: this is that sign. Now’s the time! We can read it together! You can ask me what I meant by XYZ because the Internet is the death of Death of the Author, for better or worse!

And – and this is crucial – you can talk to each other. That’s something we’ve lost, in this internet era. Back in the day, blog readers would start conversations in the comments, make new friends from posting on other people’s posts, add to each other’s points and commentary. Sometimes, people would show up months later to add to a conversation, and start it going again. I don’t see that these days. It’s far more limited: the commenter’s conversation with the post’s author. Why don’t we change that?

But the majority of this blog’s readers still get here via Twitter referrals, and the majority of comments I receive happen on other social media sites, rather than on the posts themselves. For many purposes, this is fine, but for conversations between readers and an ongoing record of that discussion, it’s a barrier. So to make this work, we need to change that. Email subscriptions, WordPress notifications… they’re a relic but a useful one, in this era of change. And that comment section down below this post… let’s test its capacity, shall we? See if we can get some conversations started.

If this whole project sounds like something you would be interested in, please leave me a comment to let me know that you’re there and reading. If you want to warn me away from it, because of Problem I Haven’t Thought Of, that’s also a great reason to leave a comment. And if there’s something else you want me to do with this blog that I’m not doing… well, you can see where this is going, can’t you? Comments! Comments for everyone!

Otherwise, you know, this is going to be wildly embarrassing for me, and… well. Don’t do that to me, lads. Please.

Obviously, step one in this project working would be for you to buy The Butterfly Assassin, or request/borrow it from your library. I love libraries. Love to see my books in them.

Introducing: The Blog Bodies

One of the things I’ve been struggling with about blogging, and the reason that it’s been so quiet around here lately, is the sense that I have nothing to say which hasn’t already been said by somebody else, probably more eloquently. I’m sure this kind of self-awareness is good for you, in small doses — it’s an important part of growing up to realise we’re really not that special, and that probably, nobody wants to hear the most mundane details of our lives — but in large doses it can be paralysing.

It’s also strange, because every time I try and tell somebody about this fear, that there’s nothing unique or interesting about me and therefore nobody will be interested in anything I have to say, they laugh and point out that I’m a complete weirdo. I’m doing an MA in Early and Medieval Irish. My closest friends are a bunch of huge nerds who live and breathe obscure medieval nonsense. I’ve had a number of unusual hobbies, I write novels, and on top of that I’m queer, trans, and disabled — which has to be good for something, right?

And, well, I’m not sure I live a particularly interesting life (particularly at the moment, when I do literally nothing, because there’s a pandemic), but it’s true that my interests are fairly niche, and that I know more about medieval Irish literature than your average person. And while I’m not about to start posting large chunks of my research on the internet, for a number of very good reasons, that’s something I can talk about where I do have something to say and a unique perspective.

I think I get caught up sometimes in the idea of being marketable, having a brand, trying to keep things tidy online. I write YA thrillers about assassins, so I can’t let my online spaces get too academic, because that doesn’t fit, etc. But by trying to keep all the parts of me distinct, I just end up silencing the biggest parts of who I am. I’m not here to market myself. I’m here to share thoughts and ideas and information that I think is cool. I’m here to be myself, and if me being myself is interesting to you, then I hope you’ll stick around to watch me do it. I’m pretty sure that’s more what you want from a blog you follow than me attempting to Have A Consistent Brand, after all.

And if I’m going to blog about the things I’m thinking about and the things that interest me…? That’s going to be medieval literature.

And yes, I know, you’re thinking, “Okay, how is this at all different from what you’re already doing?” Because it’s true. I already sometimes blog about academic topics, like my post about why we need queer theory in Celtic Studies, or the one that’s a thinly veiled excuse for me to throw my emotions about Láeg mac Riangabra and Horatio at you.

The difference is that I want to talk about being a medievalist, not just about the material itself. I want to talk about how I ended up studying weird stuff that I have to explain every time I tell someone my degree title, and some of the challenges that entails, which might not occur to people who’ve never encountered it. It’s the kind of thing I’ve shied away from talking about too much on here, and I’m not entirely sure why. Because it feels like an interview? Because there’s something self-centred in assuming anyone would be interested in why I picked my degree subject? Except that people are interested; it’s usually the first thing they ask when they hear what I’m studying. So why not talk about it? Why not lean into the one thing that’s genuinely unusual about me?

I also want to start talking more about my reactions to medieval-inspired media — retellings and adaptations, for example — from the point of view of a medievalist. Although I drifted away from doing general book reviews a while ago, I’d like to start seeking out some medieval retellings to review and discuss. I’ve got a couple on my list to start with, but I’m taking suggestions for more, especially new releases. I don’t want to do this from a nit-picky “here’s what they got wrong” perspective, though; it’s easy to drift into that, but rarely much fun for those on the outside. I want it to be a more positive, “here’s where this comes from!” kind of approach.

But the biggest difference is that I don’t want this to be only my perspectives on things. Like I said: my closest friends are big nerds. They have stuff to say, and are willing to say it, and I’d love to share this space with them. So while this will remain my personal blog, where I post my extended thoughts about my experiences and interests, I’m also going to be varying things a little bit more. Bringing in some guest posters, some discussion posts and collaborations, that kind of thing.

I realise this is the kind of thing that people start podcasts about. Discussion about medieval-inspired media from the point of view of medievalists? There are probably a bunch of podcasts on that exact topic. There are even probably a bunch about how people ended up in their niche area of study. However, I am allergic to podcasts, which is to say that my ears and my brain are not friends and I would always 100% choose to read a transcript instead, so we won’t be doing that.

Nope, we’re doing this the old fashioned way. On the blog. Like it’s 2010 again. It’s like if a podcast had a transcript but then there was also no audio and you could read it on your phone while listening to music or something. Feels like a radical innovation these days, but I think there’s room in the internet ecosystem for the old way of doing things.

And we — me and the Blog Bodies, as the team is currently nicknamed* — hope you’ll join us. (And yes. We probably will end up talking about The Green Knight, when the long-awaited summer of Dev Patel finally arrives.)

But don’t worry, the ‘usual’ posts (if such a term can be applied when I write them once in a blue moon) will still be here too. Hopefully I’ll have some writing news to share with youse before long, and I still maintain hope that I’ll get back to dance eventually and will have things to say about that too. This is an addition to the blog roster, not a replacement.

It should be fun. We’ll see how it goes. And don’t forget to drop some medieval retelling/adaptation recs in the comments if there’s anything you think I’d enjoy.

*This is of course a reference to bog bodies, aka bodies preserved in peat bogs, chosen because I think all of us secretly dream of becoming a bog body one day. As a friend put it: “It’s time. Peat me up, boys.”

To support the continued existence of this blog and its new directions, please consider buying me a coffee.

Hosting and Posting

Recently, I found myself in the position of needing to shift to a new blog host. It wasn’t that I was unhappy with my old host — SiteGround has been keeping the site running smoothly since 2017 — but circumstances have changed. Back then, I was getting nearly 30k hits per year, and I felt optimistic it would continue to climb. Last year? 3,000 hits. Suddenly, what had seemed good value for money had become a major expense that I couldn’t justify, and I needed to switch over to something cheaper.

I have a few ideas as to how this might have happened, and a lot of it’s on me. I deleted my entire archive in late 2019, which meant the pop culture-heavy posts from 2013 and 2014 that had been sustaining me with passive hits via Google suddenly stopped making a difference. And, of course, you can’t expect people to read your blog when you rarely post — since the re-start, I’ve only posted 19 times, which is barely once a month for the time that’s elapsed (and nowhere near as regular).

But also, the internet’s changed. It used to be full of small sites — blogs and badly coded personal websites and obscure, niche forums that sustained themselves on the same systems they’d been using for 15 years with no flashy changes to the UI. Now, it feels like everything has become far more dominated by big social media (Twitter, Instagram, etc), and there’s less space for those unpolished little corners.

And, I mean, I’ve been on Twitter since 2009, so I certainly wouldn’t want this to come across as a hypocritical lament or a tirade against social media. But sometimes I miss the world of blogs. I met so many of my teenage writing friends through blog chains like Teens Can Write Too, and some of them I’m still in touch with, all these years later. Blogs were a space that was ours, that we could customise and moderate and shape to fit what we needed. Those spaces are harder to find these days.

Though, of course, blogs self-evidently do still exist, or I wouldn’t be writing this; I don’t want to be like those people who say Tumblr is dead and nobody uses it while there are people like me who’ve been there since 2011 and have no plans to leave. But I think it’s fair to say the world of blogging has changed. Personal blogs are less of a thing, because it’s so much easier to give people updates on your life via Instagram. Professional blogs, expert blogs — those are still around. But let’s be real. I’ve never been professional a day in my life.

Anyway, what point does this musing have? Not much, except as justification for why I hopped hosts again. Since I am generally useless at remembering it exists, this does mean I don’t think I managed to transfer over my associated email account (finn AT finnlongman DOT com), so if you emailed me recently — and by that I mean in the last 3 months — your email might have been yeeted into the void, never to be seen again. I think we’ve all learned not to expect prompt replies from that account, but… well. I usually try to reply eventually. Even if it’s a year late. I’ll try and get it back up and running again, but I may have missed the point at which it was possible to recover existing messages.

Part of me feels the need to justify the continued existence of this site, too, so it’s possible having recently paid money to ensure that, I might be more motivated to post. But as Ireland continues its endless lockdown, I find I have less and less to say that isn’t thoroughly depressing. It’s very uninspiring, to spend your life in the same three small rooms, and never to see another person. Perhaps that’s why I’ve once again forgotten how to write poetry, though late last year it felt like I was remembering.

Those of us who live alone are encouraged to reach out and talk to others online, but — what is there to say? What can we talk about? I bought a different brand of tea this week, maybe. Or, my sleep schedule is now so disastrous that I may as well be living in a different timezone. I’ve heard it’s the same for those who’ve been locked down with their partner — after a while, you’ve had every conversation. There’s no news. Everything you’ve experienced, they’ve witnessed, because neither of you can leave.

Still, I’m British. When in doubt, there’s always the weather. And oh, the weather here in Ireland has been miserable. I know the stereotype is that Ireland rains all the time, but I think maybe as Brits we underestimate that. We think we know rain. We think, It can’t be that much worse than England. But the difference is, I’ve found, that the south of England (the only place I’m qualified to talk about) will rain for an hour, maybe two, during an overcast day; a particularly bad storm might last longer. When Ireland rains? It will rain relentlessly for six hours. The entire day will be lost to the downpour. It’s so persistent, and sometimes it goes on for days at a time.

It has not, as you can imagine, done my seasonal depression much good. Which combined with isolation and Regular Bog-Standard Clinical Depression has resulted in… some not-great mental health days, I will confess.

But today, the sun is shining, and while the signs of spring are few and far between, they’re there. So it’s time for me to turn off the computer and, for once, go outside.

If you’d like to support the continued existence of this blog, please consider buying me a coffee.

Making Peace With The Unfinished

So I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I kind of suck at blogging these days.

I’m not going to apologise for that, because frankly I’ve made excuses for it enough times that you all knew what you were getting into when you subscribed anyway, but I am going to say that radio silence for five months was not actually my plan for this blog. My seemingly productive lockdown gave way to, uh, clinical depression, so that wiped out most of the summer. Then I moved house twice in a month and now I live in Ireland. Surprise!

I guess that’s my biggest piece of news — I’m now doing an MA in Early and Medieval Irish at University College Cork, which some of you may have seen on Instagram or Tumblr or other places where I post things about my life. Being back in academia has actually so far been a super positive thing for my brain, and I feel like I’m buzzing with ideas in a way I haven’t been for a while. It’s just, most of those ideas are about medieval Irish lit, or queer theory. Which kind of brings me onto the topic of why I’m actually writing this post. See, I feel like the main reason I don’t blog is because I have absolutely no idea what I’m trying to achieve with this blog. What and who is it for? Who am I trying to be?

I know I ask this question a lot. I’ve yet to find an answer. These days, it mainly takes the form of wondering whether I’m trying to present myself online as a writer or as an academic — my Twitter oscillates wildly between the two. When it comes to writing, there’s not a huge amount to blog about. “Still plugging away!” I could say, on a weekly or monthly basis. “Hoping it’ll go somewhere eventually!”

Oh, I’m always working on new things, but a lot of the time I don’t want to talk about those until I know that might exist beyond the confines of my hard-drive. In recent months, insofar I’ve been working on anything at all (I had a few fallow patches…), a lot of it’s been mainly for my own curiosity — sequels and follow-ups to other WIPs in an attempt to help develop the worldbuilding. They’re hard to talk about without knowing whether the first book will go anywhere, because who knows if they’ll ever see the light of day?

And when it comes to the academic side of things…

Well. I’m niche. I know that. Medieval Irish literature is nobody’s idea of mainstream, and even within my own field of study I’m a bit of an oddity, since I tend to be heavy on the literary theory side of things (especially queer theory and related topics), which isn’t typical in Celtic Studies. Ironically, this seems to be the aspect that makes what I do most appealing to a general audience — unlike, for example, the detailed linguistic analysis or complex manuscript editing that often seems to dominate the field in academic circles.

But it’s still niche and nerdy and a bit of an oddity, so whenever I start talking too much about my academic ideas on the internet, I get worried I’m alienating the people who followed me for writing stuff. This happens a lot on Twitter, I think — people follow me for one thing or the other, but the overlap in that Venn diagram is fairly small, and a lot of people’s eyes must glaze over when I start banging on about medieval Irish lit again. At least my writing tweets (especially the struggles of editing, and procrastination) can appeal to an academic audience.

Despite that, sometimes recently I’ve thought I wanted to use my blog to share some of my ideas as a medievalist. Like, earlier I was working on a lecture I might be giving later in the semester, because I happened to be in the right headspace to start drafting it. Trouble is, I don’t actually know for sure yet whether I’m going to be giving it, but as I remarked to a friend, it wasn’t wasted work — I could always chop it up into a couple of blog posts and share those, with minor adaptations, if I didn’t get to give the lecture.

But would I actually do that? Would I dare? Because that’s the thing — it can be nerve-wracking putting my academic ideas out into the world, and connecting them to my real name, before they’ve gone anywhere in academia. If I want to turn something into an article and seek publication for it, do I dare blog about it first? They’re radically different mediums, and the approach I’d take wouldn’t be the same, but if I’m trying to present an idea as innovative, do I risk undermining myself if I’ve already posted about it on the internet?

Probably not. But I still worry about it — and beyond that, I worry about getting things wrong, and having future supervisors judge me for it. Or peers. Or total strangers who know nothing about me beyond what I posted on my blog one time, but have opinions on that and are determined to make sure I know what those opinions are. Even though getting things wrong is pretty much unavoidable at some stage in your academic career, and being able to develop beyond your initial ideas is important, and I’m sure most academics have early work they wouldn’t stand by anymore.

(Plus, like, I don’t even know if I’m going to go further than the MA. Who am I trying to impress, at this point? I’m already here, and this may well be the end of it. But it’s hard to be sure on that. There was a time when I was almost certain I would never do a PhD, but at that point I also thought I wouldn’t do postgrad study at all, and here we are…)

The upshot of all of this is that I end up not blogging at all. Too nervous to talk about the academic stuff, not enough to say about the writing stuff, and working on reining in the whole ‘oversharing about my personal life’ thing I’ve definitely been guilty of in the past.

And look. I said I wasn’t going to apologise. “I will not sit down and write a blog post that is just excuses for why I haven’t blogged in five months,” I told myself. But I did, didn’t I? Maybe there weren’t any apologies in there, but this is essentially a laundry list of Reasons I Have Not Blogged. I wonder what proportion of posts on this blog are just explanations for my absence? I suspect it would be embarrassingly high.

What I actually wanted to say is: this is the last time I’m going to write a post like this. For a while, anyway. Because I think I’m going to start letting myself have opinions again, even though that always scares me. I’m going to let myself share some of my early, exploratory academic thoughts. Maybe I will turn bits of that lecture into blog posts, and share those.

Why the change? I think it’s because I was asked to give that lecture (which would be for second-year undergrads, if it happens). At first I was terrified and crushed by impostor syndrome at the mere concept of doing any teaching at this stage in my academic career. I immediately went to the library to borrow a bunch of books and brush up, because I was convinced I didn’t know enough. But you know, the more I read, the more I realised I did know. And that I did have opinions and that I did want to share them. That, plus the willingness of the lecturer who asked me to admit the gaps in her own knowledge and defer to my specific experience, made a huge difference to my sense of being an impostor. Because actually, I do have knowledge that not everybody has, and maybe I am ready to share some of that.

It’s funny how the more I thought about teaching, the more interested I was in coming up with new ideas, because the idea of being able to share them made it feel like they had a point, and weren’t just me playing around with thought experiments inside my own head. I’ve always thought academia wasn’t for me because teaching wasn’t for me. But now that I think of all the informal pedagogy I end up doing on Tumblr and on YouTube, I’m wondering why on earth it didn’t occur to me sooner that I might actually enjoy that kind of thing.

So yeah, part of it’s that my impostor syndrome is no longer as crushing as it was a month ago (in fact, I’ve been amazed at how much more comfortable I feel in academic circles since starting my MA than I thought I would, which I might talk about more in future). But more than that, it’s because I’m trying to learn to admit when I get things wrong, and to be comfortable with imperfection, and not to be afraid to share things before they’re finished because the truth is, nothing is ever finished, and if you always wait for something to be Final And Never To Be Altered, you won’t end up sharing anything, ever.

I want to make peace with mistakes, with early thoughts, with ideas still in development, with the process of learning. I want to be able to look back at past work and feel only pride in how far I’ve come / how much better I’ve got, rather than shame that I wasn’t already there. I want to learn how to share complicated thoughts in accessible language, and not just in academic jargon. I want to share my ideas! For the same reason I make my YouTube videos — I don’t think access to ideas about or knowledge of medieval Irish literature should be limited to the tiny handful of people who end up studying it at an advanced level in formal academia.

So if you see some more academic blog posts popping up over the next few months, that’s why. But don’t worry, I’ll still be talking about writing, too. And dance, as and when lockdown lifts enough to mean I can actually do any dance. And what I’ve learned from moving to Ireland and how I’m finding postgrad life and thoughts on any really good books I’ve read recently.

And sometimes I’ll be wrong about stuff. But that’s okay. It’s a blog, after all. About time I started using it as one.

De-Inventing Myself

Today, I deleted nine years’ worth of posts from this blog.

Around 800 posts. Probably hundreds of thousands of words. Years of my younger self figuring out who I was, talking about my life, sharing my thoughts, slowly developing my skills as a writer and as a person as I continued to live my life almost entirely on the internet.

They’re not gone forever. I’ve moved them all to a password-protected blog so that if I decide I made a mistake, I can import them again. And nothing on the internet can ever be gone forever. Anyone who really wanted to know what fifteen-year-old me thought about something could use the Wayback Machine or something similar to find it; while I admit I’m partly motivated by not wanting all of my younger self’s ignorant, elitist, and otherwise problematic opinions immediately connected to my professional name, I’m also aware that somebody who cared enough could still find them.

The fact is that I have lived too much of my life online, for too long. It’s become harder and harder to keep sight of who I am. What’s the real me, and what’s the online me? Is the me on this blog even really me, or just an entire persona I’ve constructed for your benefit? I’ve often mistaken openness for honesty, and I sometimes think maybe I overshare without ever really being honest and vulnerable.

You don’t know me. You might have followed this blog for nine years, but all you’ve seen is a small part of me. And that’s okay. But I’m not sure the me that I was here is really the me I want to be.

I’m not re-inventing myself. I’m de-inventing myself. Stripping away years of self-creation through text. Can we just pretend it never happened? Can we start again, as though we’ve just met, and all the artifice is gone? Maybe you won’t notice the difference, but I’ll know, at least, that even if I’m dancing the same steps, I’m doing it in new shoes.

I made this blog in 2010, replacing an earlier one. It’s been through four URL changes, three site hosts, and dozens of themes and layouts. And I don’t regret that I blogged my teenage years, because there’s value in being able to look back at those posts and see the progress that I’ve made. Blogging brought me friends, gave me a voice, gave me a platform — even if that platform has seemed to shrink in the last few years. Blogging was the medium through which fourteen-year-old me learned to share my thoughts.

But I’m 23 years old now, and I want to start again.

Hello. My name is Finn Longman. I’m a writer, medievalist, folk musician, dancer, librarian, procrastinator, Quaker, reader — and blogger. I don’t know what I want to talk about yet, but this is where I’ll do it, when I know. It’s nice to meet you.