Monday, 1 December 2008

More thoughts on writing, this time for posterity.


As those of you who follow my blog will know, writing has always been an important part of my life. From school essay writing, through teenage diaries with their 'will he, won't he' 'does he like me or not' entries amongst the notes of current fashion trends, anecdotes about my friends, snippets from my own life and so on, right through to more recent years and my success with short stories, dozens of social and local history features, my novel,and the daily journals I have been keeping for the last twenty odd years, writing has been something I have always enjoyed. I find it easier to write than talk sometimes, so important things I have wanted to say to family or friends, have often been said in the form of a handwritten letter. This gives me time to gather my thoughts, put them down in a cohesive manner, make sure they cannot be misconstrued, that there are no lines to read between for the recipient. I read them several times over, correcting a word here and there maybe, until it is just as I want it to be, and the message I want to get across is there, plain and simple.
But as well as all this, since the early Eighties, I have been a contributor to the Mass Observation Archives. Now there may be some of you who have never heard of these, so here is a potted history.
They were founded in 1937 by three young men who recruited volunteer writers and observers to study the day to day life of ordinary people in the UK. The M-O archive holds all this information at the University of Sussex and their work continues today. When I joined I was given the option of keeping a daily diary, answering questionnaires, or doing both. I chose to answer the questionnaires, and this I continue to do. They arrive about three or four times a year, and cover a wide range of subjects, from world events, events here in the UK, and less serious matters, all aimed at getting an idea of how people think, live, work and play.
Several books have been published about the M-O, and using some of their material, though I should point out, that rather like in the cult TV series, 'The Prisoner', you are known and filed as a number, not a name. There is complete privacy, and where work has been published from the material held in the archive, it has always been with the express permission of the person whose original work it was. One book which is perhaps the most well known in recent times, has been 'Nella Last's War', which was made into the television drame 'Housewife, 49' starring Victoria Wood. 'Housewife 49' refers to the occupation of Nella and her age when it was written.
If anyone is interested in writing for the M-O they are always keen to hear from people, and the best way to approach them is via their website, www.massobs.org.uk where you then follow the link 'Writing For Us'.

14 comments:

Arosebyanyothername said...

I had heard of the MO Archives but had never 'met' anyone subscribing to them before. Very interesting - I might contact them when I can see a clearing in my activities. I always enjoys your blog, PFG.

Calico Kate said...

I'll have to look that one up PFG as I love doing questionaires I currently do quite a few but I suspect that this one would be more interesting that face creams or makes of cars!
CKx

Mid Life Hopes said...

You do have a way with words my dear pfg!
I love reading anything that you write.:)
I will explore the mentioned site.
X0X0 :)

Exmoorjane said...

How fascinating. I'd never heard of them. Bit of a questionnaire fan here too....
I often think I make a lot more sense with the written word than the spoken (though that's not saying much!)....

Tattie Weasle said...

I write for a living but dry factual stuff when it comes to writing stuff down, until I started blogging I was always rather scared of it, thought it a bit self indulgent. Now of course it's for my sons so that they know, even if I do not always show it, that I think of them lots and lots and that I'm not nearly so differnt from them as perhaps it seems to a five year old!
I never knew they still did the old MO!

LittleBrownDog said...

I've never heard of the MO archives - sounds fascinating stuff! Will definitely look that up.

Frances said...

Well done to you on being part of this project. I am unaware of any similar project underway over here in the States. It is possible that there might be some more locally organized archives on the state or county level.

Please do keep filling in those questionnaires!

I be that this post will encourage others to begin contributing.

xo

Lesley said...

That's so interesting — but slightly bewildering to think of all the information the MO project must have compiled over the years.
I've never been much of a one for keeping journals or daily diaries. The blog is about as much of a record as I've ever kept of my life.

Sheridan said...

Delighted you have gone public with your MO writing. To the people who replied I should add that these are NOT questionnaires (Calico Kate) and we are currently only recruiting younger people (though we treasure the existing older ones). We especially want writers from areas other than the southeast and London, and more men!
Dorothy
Director, Mass Observation Archive

pinkfairygran said...

Sorry if you were all confused by the word QUESTIONNAIRE... that is a simplistic way of describing them... they ask for your views, thoughts and so on, on a wide range of subjects and are properly called DIRECTIVES. I stand well and truly corrected and sorry if any of you got your hopes up, but I wasn't told there were limitations on age, area and so on when I asked if it was all right to mention the Archives.

ChrisH said...

Hmm, so with you on finding writing easier than talking sometimes!

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