This week’s interview is with one of my Scottish blogging buddies, Lisa-Marie Ferla, aka Last Year’s Girl. She’s a massive supporter of Scottish music both on her own blog and on The Scotsman’s Radar blog to which she regularly contributes.
In addition Lis writes about travel, cinema and everything in-between, always with a personal and heartfelt touch, and is an accomplished photographer (though she modestly claims not to be!)
Let’s hear what she’s got to say for herself.
Please can you describe who you are and what you are up to at the moment?
I’m a redundant legal journalist and editor, currently working in retail. I’ve been blogging since before the word was even invented – according to Wikipedia – and have been famous on the internet since 1999 (but not quite as famous as Neil Gaiman).
I take photographs with little skill and lots of enthusiasm, and write about bands with a bit more skill and even more enthusiasm for anybody who’ll have me. Seriously. I go on like a hyperactive five-year-old. Don’t ask me about The Hold Steady.
Did you always know what you wanted to do (creatively) or has it been a process of trial and error to get to the point you’re at now? If it’s the latter, how did you decide what to focus on?
It’s probably fair to say “trial and error”. I mean, I always wanted to be a writer of some description; whether I was scribbling down stories in recycled school jotter in the bathroom when I should have been asleep, or stirring up my little brother and sister into a frenzy so they’d make some contributions to the magazine I put together on my teeny toy typewriter when my mum went away for the weekend.
Even at an early age I knew this was never going to be as lucrative an ambition as becoming a teacher like the rest of my family, which I suppose is where “journalist” entered into the mix, but in the late 1980s none of us could have foreseen the ways in which technology would change that particular profession, rendering it almost unrecognisable and increasingly difficult to make a living from.
I guess I’ve stumbled into many of the opportunities I’ve been given. I don’t mean to belittle my achievements, because I have worked incredibly hard, but there has certainly been an element of “right place, right time” to many of my adventures.
From a professional perspective, although my MSc in Journalism continues to impress I would never have been given the opportunity to edit and grow The Specialist Paralegal magazine had it not been for my law degree. The vast majority of my extracurricular activities have come about through my reputation as a blogger.
Honestly? I still have no idea what I want to do when I grow up.
Have you organised your life in a certain way/made sacrifices in order to continue to be creative?
Not really. The unfortunate fact of it is, and it’s particularly true of life these days, is that one still has to pay the bills.
I have a terrible habit of saying “yes” to absolutely everything I can despite a history of mental health problems, which tends to result in burnout and periods when I get home from work and would rather stare at the ceiling than turn on my computer.
It’s something I’m working on. I know what inspires me. I need space, good music in my life and long train trips staring out of the window. It’s not always possible to make that kind of time.
What in your opinion are the positives and negatives of technology when it comes to both creating and promoting your work?
Well it’s blogging that I’m known for, so without technology my work wouldn’t exist! Or, at least, not in the same form that it does now, and certainly without the same audience… if you are the sort of person who finds the urge to create, you will find a way to do that regardless of the resources that are available to you.
The truth is that I am never happier than – and I feel I do my best writing – when I am scribbling my travel journals down in some notebook or other. And, without the distractions of Twitter and Facebook, I’m far more likely to get things done.
Do you collaborate with others or prefer to work alone, and why?
At the risk of sounding like a bit of an arse, the personal nature of my writing – even when it isn’t supposed to be personal, see every music-themed blog post I’ve ever written – means I prefer to work alone.
Saying that, I take much of my inspiration from others -snippets of overheard conversations, debates with my friends…
Is community important to you – either local or online – and if so, why?
Definitely. Perhaps because I’ve been doing this for so long, or maybe because of the nature of my work, I find it difficult to make a distinction between the two. Over the last year, particularly, there has been an incredible “online into offline” crossover between the Scottish music blogging, photography and performance community. It makes all the difference in the world – and gives you so much motivation not to quit – when you know you’re not alone.