In my magazine journalism class the other day I was discussing with two students their future plans, and the possible need to have an online presence for themselves if they want to go into any communications, journalism, PR role.
We were discussing what types of blog they read and write. One of the fears of blogging is to do with how hard it can be to maintain the motivation and momentum: blogging every week or every day, keeping an audience. It can seem like a real burden. So the idea of time- or post-limited projects has become quite interesting, e.g. 40 Days of Dating, or closer to home, 144 Acts of Writing. Discussing this, one of my students mentioned he used to read a blog called 400 Before 40 – that is, a blog counting down 400 days until the blogger became 40. I sort of laughed, but something fizzed inside me. Why?
Because when I got back to my office — I thought so — the student has mentioned it to me on the very day when I had 400 DAYS UNTIL I WAS 40. Freaky? You bet. I was a little freaked out for a few days there. Until, strangely, or not so much, a 40th birthday dinner with a friend, when we discussed its arbitrary nature. Of course, Irvin Yalom and the existential psychotherapists don’t think so — every anniversary or ending such as this reminds one, or rather resonates, with the fears of growing older and of death. I’ll admit, it got me thinking, and not in a positive way.
But then I was also thinking, all along… and what could I blog about until I was 40?
It wasn’t until I attended the excellent Animal Machines symposium at Sheffield University that it all sort of clicked. That is, I want to enter into the field of Vegan Indie Media (as the people at Our Hen House call it) as a writer; I also want to write about veganism in some sort of academic frame. Meeting people such as Matthew Cook and Richard Twine, who are doing just that, helped me begin to shape together some ideas.
Richard Twine is working on vegan transitions, interviewing people about their shifts towards vegan living, and, using Practice Theory, interrogating the meanings, materialities, and competencies that one requires to become adept at anything, include ‘being’ vegan. Discussing our own vegan transitions later with a colleague at Sunderland, the idea was then almost on the tip of my tongue. And then, later that evening, looking at the Vegan Before 6 (VB6) book on my shelf, given to me by a friend, it came together.
Vegan Before 40.
So here it is. The beginning. A tracking, an archive, an exploration, an intervention into a new vegan world. And blogging about it as a means of thinking it, as Lauren Berlant puts it in a recent interview with Jennifer Cooke about the uses of her own blog, Supervalent Thought, to develop her theories, they “are thought by way of writing, and not just thought in writing” (Berlant and Cooke 2013: 969). Or in Twine’s terms, of developing new skills (the articulation of a personal vegan ethos) as well as understanding the meanings of veganism, and perhaps, developing new materialities as well (networks of other vegan writers/readers?).
Berlant and Cooke (2013) ‘Transformations and challenges in politics, teaching, art and writing: An interview with Lauren Berlant’, Textual Practice 27:6, 961-970.