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While the cat’s away...

…be careful if you leave your iPad unattended

By Jon McKnightPublished 3 years ago 8 min read

If you were expecting this to be yet another of those long-winded stories from Jon McKnight, I’m sorry to disappoint you - though I suspect that’ll come as more of a blessed relief.

He’s popped out to buy some more litter for my tray (one likes to keep up standards, you know) but he made the mistake of leaving his iPad running with the Create Story button on Vocal just asking to be pressed.

Not so easy when your paws are as furry as mine (is that really what you call ergonomics, Jonny Ive?) but I’ve just about managed, as you can see.

I was going to treat you to some extended metaphor about what happens when the cat’s away, etc, and I was planning to bring in references to mice and playing with them, but his iPad’s the sort of computer that doesn’t use a mouse, which rather ruins things.

At least his absence gives me a chance to get a word in edgeways. If it weren’t for us cats, the web would hardly have any content on it - never mind Facebook - yet how often does anyone give us a voice on it?

If there were any justice, that logo at the end of this story wouldn’t say “Jon McKnight” and have that silly little pic of him looking so pleased with himself; it would say “Tallulah” and have a shot of me looking my most superior.

But there’s bound to be something in Vocal’s guidelines that says stories mustn’t be written by cats - and, in any case, I wouldn’t get paid as I don’t have a Stripe account.

Probably get a lot more Reads than he does, though.

Jon Bloody McKnight can spend half a day crafting a piece, drawing on his 40 years of experience as a professional writer (he does go on about that, the pompous git) and then he’ll end up with a dozen Reads - a whole dozen! - two-thirds of those being from his “friends” in those Facebook groups The Vocal Creators’ Lounge and the Vocal Media Creators’ Hub (note the apostrophe after “Creators”, you so-called writers!).

Tony Hancock got the measure of him before he was even born. Heard it on a repeat of The Radio Ham on BBC Radio 4 Extra.

Standing in front of a bank of radio gadgetry, Hancock explained that, as a radio ham (an amateur radio operator), he had friends “all over the world”.

“None in this country,” he admitted, “but friends all over the world.”

And so it is with the likes of Jon McKnight, tip-tapping away on his Bluetooth keyboard thinking that people on Vocal are going to want to read his outpourings and innermost thoughts.

If he looked at his Stats page more often, he’d take the hint and give up.

He started this lark thinking he could earn $6,000 a month like Vocal says in its Facebook adverts, but he’s only just cleared six dollars in six weeks despite writing 21 stories and drawing on, yes, all that over-touted experience of his.

Fat lot of good it’s doing him. But no probs: all he has to do is work about a thousand times harder than he has, and he’ll get those million Reads and claim his six thousand dollars.

Can he do it? Not a cat in Hell’s chance, if you ask me. And I should know, being a cat.

Sure, he can be sensitive occasionally, like the piece-from-the-heart he wrote in response to the suicide of an 18-year-old girl he’d never met.

And he can even be funny (well, funny-ish) once in a blue Moon, like when he imagined the difficulties a spiritual leader from 2,021 years ago might have had in getting his religious content past Vocal’s moderators.

Wasn’t bad, must admit. Enough to make a cat laugh, actually. But I digress.

He just doesn’t get it. Nobody wants to read what he writes. And I can’t blame them.

He burbled on in one piece for what seemed like forever about energy drinks. Energy drinks! I ask you! Not how to save the world, how to survive the pandemic, or even how to treat your cat with the respect and deference it deserves, but energy drinks.

Pity no-one could summon up the energy to read it.

Same when he wrote a piece about landing a job at the age of 59. Good for his age, he thinks he is, but he’s really not. Oh, the things I could tell you!

Yes, he might have beaten thousands of much young job-seekers to the post - God knows how - and that ought to be reward enough. But no, he doesn’t half go on about it.

Ego-trip, I reckon.

Take the story about going the distance when writing your novel. Who’s he to give writing tips, for God’s sake? And does anyone read them? Not according to his Stats, page, they don’t.

Sticking a great big pic of him at the top can’t have helped. Who wants to see that over their cornflakes - be honest?

Now if he’d used a pic of me instead - like on this story - loads more people might have been interested enough to take a look. And who could blame them?

Instead, he uses a pic of him (taken some years ago, I might add) and a close-up of his book cover. Is he really giving writing tips or secretly hoping some poor buggers will be duped into buying his novel on Amazon, here in the UK or in the USA?

The New York Times best-sellers chart will be the decider of that.

His other two pieces on writing and how to do it - one’s about getting started and the other’s about choosing your voice - are written for all the world as if actually knows what he’s talking about. Seriously!

The oddest story, perhaps, is his piece about being cloned by an Artificial Intelligence robot. If it‘s that intelligent, what on Earth did it want to make another one of him for?

And imagine if the two Jon McKnights met: they’d have so much in common that they’d never stop talking (or, God help us, writing) and it would be the nearest thing to perpetual motion we’d ever seen.

Damn you, Michael Pitre, for making him plural. Wasn’t he singular enough?

The piece he wrote on optimists having a much better time of it was, well, optimistic. At least, it was if he thought anyone would be bothered to read it, because hardly anybody has so far.

Thought he was being clever writing a story about humans’ relationship with the telephone. Trotted out the old joke, I see, about how difficult it must have been for Alexander Graham Bell to sell the first telephone because the buyer would have had no-one to ring.

But his phone hasn’t rung, either. Could that be the Editors of The Daily Mail, The Daily Telegraph or The New Yorker ringing to offer him a lucrative column, so fascinating are his thoughts and so sparkling his wit?

Er, no: it’s an ambulance-chaser asking about an accident he might have had and hoping he’ll “remember” all sorts of uncompensated-for injuries it caused. If he had the imagination, that is, which he doesn’t.

He banged on and on about the e-mail from Hell he accidentally sent to a writer he was supposed to be encouraging - an entry for one of Vocal’s Challenges, I believe (see “optimism”, above) - but what he didn’t say (or, perhaps, didn’t realise) is that I sent it, not him.

He was off using his own litter-tray, or whatever those humans do in there, and I just felt a trifle mischievous.

What would happen if I just pressed Send, I wondered - and guess what? He managed to squeeze another piece out of that for Vocal. Lucky you.

His one foray into fiction so far was the story he wrote for his first Challenge, the Little Black Book one that offered a $20,000 prize and sucked so many people into joining Vocal+.

Did he win? Did he Hell! The title, to the surprise of nobody, proved to be prophetic: “So near but yet so far... from $20,000.”

His second story did better. Made a Top Story. Given pride of place on Vocal’s Home page. And for all that promotion, it only got 150 Reads on the first day, and still hasn’t reached 200 in the endless weeks since.

It’s all about how consumer competitions used to be so much better in his day. Won a car, apparently. And don’t we know it! Jon-and-on-and-on.

Quite impressed, though, by his piece on the death-by-Covid of one of his in-laws. Rather moving, people have said.

Ditto, his cri-de-coeur about the way men treat women. Talking of which, if each of Henry VII’s wives had read his piece on being trapped in a loveless marriage, they’d have doubled his Reads.

Shocked to my very paws that Vocal published, word-for-word, his open letter to its CEO, Jeremy Frommer, and wasn’t at all fooled when he penned a follow-up that purported to highlight Vocal’s good-points but basically slagged it off again, albeit eloquently.

And talking of biting the hand that feeds you, have you seen his piece on having lunch with a cannibal?

No wonder nobody read it. Is there anyone left on the planet who hasn’t already hear him wittering on about it?

Blah, blah, blah... cannibal; blah, blah, blah...risk-assessment; blah, blah, blah...tastes like chicken. And so on, for paragraph after endless paragraph.

The only thing he’s written that’s done even moderately well (and I emphasise the word “moderately”) is the piece on how the film It’s A Wonderful Life saved his life.

That probably frightened off a lot of people who’d always thought of the film as a force for good until then, but just over 200 more tolerant souls managed to wade far enough through it to clock up a Read in Vocal’s terms.

Poor, deluded chap. Writing away for hours on end for an imaginary audience that’s just that: imaginary.

Don’t understand it myself, but he’s even received five Tips from Vocal readers. They can’t all be his friends, because he hasn’t got that many.

Same as the people who’ve given his Stories hearts. What on Earth possessed them? It only encourages him.

But why should I play Boswell to his Johnson? It’s not as if anyone’s remotely interested in him or anything he writes, anyway.

I’ve a good mind to delete this before he gets back. But what’s that button up there? “Submit Story”.

I mustn’t press it. I mustn’t. But it looks so—


About the Creator

Jon McKnight

I have left Vocal.

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