Why we love to write about our lives less ordinary – and won’t stop

Scheenagh Harrington looks at why, despite criticism from commentors, writing about everyday life for the internet is no bad thing.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014, was something of a red letter day, as James had an article posted on The Guardian US and UK websites. If you’ll forgive the shameless self-promotion, you can find it here.

As we squealed, beamed in delight and watched the comments – positive and negative – roll in, one in particular caught my eye. It wasn’t particularly kind, and its author accused us of being “middle-class”. Whether this was supposed to be a slight or not, it definitely gave me the belly laugh of the day.

I have to say, as a working-class girl, I have always yearned to be middle class. My definition of it, at least. I love Laura Ashley and stripped pine. I have worked my socks off to ditch the horrible Hull accent I grew up with (it only creeps back in when I say “errrr nerrr”…. bleugh), and I am a dedicated follower of rugby union, the game of the middle classes (so I’m told).

I can, however, confirm I was still chortling about that particular comment as I hauled myself out of bed at 4.45am a day later, and made my way to work: a private gym that I clean every morning, from Monday to Saturday. I’m sure I’ll still be able to raise a smirk when I bank my monthly paycheque, which isn’t enough to cover our food bills, never mind the rent.

Middle class… I wish!

But this slightly moody pondering has at least given me good reason to explore a subject I’ve been chewing over for a while: as a freelance journalist, trying to make a living writing about everything and anything that allows the muse to descend, is any part of my life off limits?

My husband (and to a lesser extent, I) was pilloried in some quarters for discussing one small aspect of our domestic bliss, it suggests some folk out there think we crossed some line. But I disagree. Everyday life is an interesting mix of the brilliant and the banal, the dull and the dramatic. Normally, we share these little ups and downs with our friends, but as journalists, we can also – when circumstances (and kindly editors) allow – throw open our lives and those of others to a wider audience.

Sometimes that audience is hostile, sometimes not. It depends on what we have to say. But our goal is not just to earn money. It’s also about sharing our thoughts and feelings with the wider world – generating an interest. Opening a debate. Starting a conversation.

Yesterday’s reaction(s) gave me a small insight into what I think it’s like to be at the centre of (an admittedly very minor) social media storm. It was exciting and thrilling and a little bit edgy – making me wonder if we’ve had a small hint of what it feels like to be famous.

For a few hours, it seemed the world and his wife were talking about us, and while the attention was fascinating, it was like taking a holiday – it was a nice place to visit but I’m not sure I’d want to live there.

It won’t prevent either myself or James from using our own experiences to generate material for this blog or other features. Yes, our motives may be mercenary, but any trolls out there can rest assured that, until this writing business pays enough to keep the wolf firmly from the door, I’ll be rolling up my sleeves and scrubbing the gym for the duration.

Who knows? In the not-so distant future, I may finally be middle class enough to be the one using it, rather than cleaning it.

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