Ragged rocks

“SELF-EMPLOYED …. Oh, shit, what have I done?” 

The enormity of jumping off the hamster wheel was still sinking in. The feelings of panic I kept in check by reminding myself that I could jump back on at any time. Still, the whole point of doing this was that there was no Plan B. 

Blog. Tick. Facebook page. Tick. Linkedin. Tick. Twitter … reluctantly … tick. Now, back to that damn blog. What do I put in it? Where do I start?

While foraging online, I had spotted the title of a talk that evening in town. The Ragged University … hmmm. So, in the space of the few hours left, deciding that I was feeling a little ragged myself from being holed up for days hatching my cunning plan for world domination, I forced myself. I had only a semi-notion of what it was about.

As I waited for the talk to begin, I chatted with another member of the audience I hadn’t seen in a while. It was good to get the craic. He asked me what I was up to.

“Well …”

I had had some strange reactions from people since I had stopped coughing the word ‘writer’ as if it was something I had to apologise for. But he didn’t bat an eyelid. Instead he told me that he was hoping to do the same. He reckoned the first thing to do was set up a blog, standard advice these days for authors, but he needed to find out more about it.

I guessed immediately that he might have read The Writers and Artists Yearbook, which these days tells aspiring writers that in order to put themselves out there, they need a blog. Only thing is, it doesn’t adequately explain why (although I am prepared to concede that I might have missed a bit!). I told him that the main reason for having one was to draw people to your website so that you were more likely to be found online, assuming, of course, that you were writing material that people liked. The other reason was that it gave you a chance to show people the quality and style of your work. I was about to add that it allowed you to chat with the very people who might buy your books when you finally got published, when the talk began.

The ragged schools, I learned, were a network of volunteers operating in industrialised areas in the UK from the middle of the 19th century. Rural areas had been getting the benefit of free community-based education since well before the time of Robert Burns. This is quite incredible, when you think that a formal universal education system as we know it only started in 1870.

The ethos of the ragged school philosophy was that everyone, regardless of social, economic or educational status, has a personal library of knowledge and experience as valid as that of the person standing next to them. In that sense, everyone is a school in their own right, exchanging information with other such schools on a daily basis – any time, any place, anywhere. There is no right or wrong way of thinking or doing things. People are free to take information or leave it as they see fit. Trial and error takes care of the rest. The Ragged University is a modern reworking of the ragged school philosophy.

It became instantly clear to me that the earlier conversation about blogging was a perfect example of a ragged school in action. And I knew straight away what my first blog article would be about.

TICK.

Copyright (c) M K MacInnes 2014