Saw Your Thing On YouTube

Added on 14 October 2008
It’s been about a year since I recorded some readings to put on the web. The original idea was to just do some sound recordings and post them on this site. The guys who run the site explained patiently to me how to do this. People who know how to create websites, as opposed to update them, are probably used to explaining the basics to computer muggles in the way that one explains things to very small children. However, despite having it all explained to me in bitesize, idiot-proof terms, the lesson in Audio File Placement for Dummies failed to work. I don’t think I got past Lesson 1, Switch on Your Computer, before I panicked. And in my panic I discovered that it’s more straightforward - presumably because a lot more people are doing it on a daily basis - to attach videos to web pages.

I decided to record myself reading, sitting there like a lemon in front of the webcam on my Mac.

Writers usually aren’t too brilliant in front of the camera. Obviously there are exceptions, but in general the writer’s id suits the behind-the-scenes, hunched over a keyboard, back to the world and wrapped in introspection type of thing. It’s not like I wrote the book on that, but I wrote one of the chapters. Or, at least, a couple of the sentences.

Still, I manfully sat in front of the Mac reading from a couple of books. It beats working in an office, as they say. I thought then, though, that the dilemma is what do you read from? Do you film yourself sitting reading the book? Do you hold the book just off to the side, and uncomfortably split glancing at the book and looking at the camera? Do you spend even longer on the project my memorising entire passages so that you can look at the camera the entire time?

I tried various things, including eating tea and toast while I read, but then finally settled on the routine I used for The Haunting of Barney Thomson. I told the story of the book, without actually reading from it, and without giving away too much of what actually went on. Spiced it up with every effect I could find built into the Mac, edited it down to a consumable level and it was ready to go. It’s not Brazil or Pulp Fiction or Iron Man, but I thought it wasn’t too bad.

Given that all sorts of crap gets posted on YouTube and then somehow manages to travel round the world, so that five days later the videos have been viewed by 15million people, I did hold out brief hopes of world literary domination, the Nobel Prize, the Booker maybe, and a prize from Ant and Dec on some trashy ITV awards show.

Inevitably, none of that happened and the best I’ve been able to hope for is that every now and again someone says, Saw your thing on YouTube, and then maybe has a brief chat about it.

I thought there were two types of people who say Saw your thing on YouTube. There’s the type who says Saw your thing on YouTube, it’s really good. I’ve sent it to my friends... This, of course, may be a downright fib, but it aids polite conversation. Then there’s the type who says, Saw your thing on YouTube, and then they smile, and you’re not really sure if that means they liked it or not, and since you’re a withdrawn, introspective writer, it’s not like you’re actually going to engage them in conversation about it.

At the weekend I discovered there was a third type of person who says Saw your thing on YouTube. This is the kind of person who says, Saw your thing on YouTube and then smiles. You wonder whether that means they liked it or not, but then, just as you’re about to get stuck back into your chocolate volcano they add,’re obviously not an natural...

I await the call from Ant and Dec with even more certainty.