RSS Feed

Tag Archives: WordPress

For Whom Do We Write and Why and How?

Writing’s paradoxical. Write for yourself. But have the reader in mind. But write for the sake of writing. But make sure it’s good enough to be read and (hopefully) published. Of course, that’s creative, fictitious writing. What about blogging? Blogging is extra egotistic. You can say whatever you want, about whatever you want and publish it by yourself as easily, and as quickly, as you can click a button. And then you actually expect people to read what you’ve written. People you’ve never met, who know nothing about you and have no reason to care about what you have to say. People who really have no business caring about whatever problems you’re either making light of or melodramatizing for their reading pleasure.

Blogging is probably, for me, the ultimate combination of writing for others and yourself at the same time, from the moment your fingertips touch the keyboard. On the one hand, it’s very much a thing of vanity, in the same way self-publishing is often referred to as  vanity publishing. You do it so you can say (and/or feel), hey look, there are people who read what I write — don’t I feel special for having readers? Aren’t I such a great writer? I’m published, on the internet, for the whole world to read! But, while it is very self-centred in one sense, you also tend to be be very aware of the fact that people will read what you’re writing — and very soon. You’ll “publish” it as soon as it’s “perfect” or sometimes just “good enough” and people will read it (if they do at all) somewhat immediately. It doesn’t have to go through any third parties. No one has to validate what you’ve written. No one censors it. No one even looks it over for spelling errors. This sounds pretty powerful, but in itself, it isn’t. Because you need readers. Readers are what makes it powerful. Without readers, you’re just some loser, sitting at a keyboard. Writing for yourself.

Credit: students.washington.edu

But what about “real” writing? Fiction writing? Fiction that you don’t plan on self-publishing online? Who do you write it for? For yourself? Or for your readers? Who knows if you’ll ever even have readers? Who knows if it will ever even be published? And if it is published, so what? What then? Will it last? If it’s in a magazine, will it ever be read more than once, before the magazine is tossed to the side to make way for the next issue? If it’s a book, will it sell? Will it survive? Or will it shortly (or even not so shortly) go out of print — which to me sounds like the most horrible, tragic thing imaginable.

And what matters, anyways? Success when a book is published, during the author’s lifetime? Or a book that doesn’t go out of print for years and years, even after the author has died, but didn’t have much acclaim while the author was living? Of course, I’m thinking of literary fiction here. In principle, I think that’s all that really counts. That’s all I think is worthy of a writer’s time. I know this probably sounds very snobby, and I’m probably stepping on a few feet (something I tend to accidentally do literally). But I stand by that. Because, while I’m on this whole, existential, why do we write, “to be or not to be” style rant, I may as well throw the literary vs. “mainstream” fiction debate into the mix. I mean, yes, sure, people who write bestsellers must enjoy their vanity-filled, money-making fifteen minutes of fame. But then what? What happens when those fifteen minutes (or in some cases fifteen years) of fame end? Some may argue that those few authors are pretty damn happy, sipping champagne from the top of their piles of money. “Who cares that they’ll be forgotten?” some people say. Well I think, that if they’re real, introspective, insightful writers, then they should care. What about leaving a legacy? Don’t people care to change to world? To leave something behind? To touch other’s lives for longer than the time it takes them to get from the front cover to the back?

I probably sound like a bit of a naïve, idealistic teenager. But I know this, which tends to get in the way of that wonderful, youthful idealism. In fact, this idealism takes a hit from reality quite often. And, perhaps because of the way I cleave to this idealism, reality tends to come at me like a slap in the face and leave me sore for days. I sit up on my (very) high horse, criticizing authors like E. L. James (the woman gave the world the pleasure of Fifty Shades of Grey), whose work I would never condescend to read, and yet I often wonder who am I to criticize? At least this E. L. James woman has taken pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard) and had enough discipline to sit down and get out enough words to fill three entire “novels” (if they’re even deserving of that title). And yet, here I am, criticizing myself for criticizing her, and I can’t even do that without poking fun at her and her books.

I’ve been focussing my writing energies on blogging lately and with less feeling I should be doing it and more just doing it. But then I feel as though blogging isn’t real writing. I feel as though it “doesn’t count”. Because, after all, who’s going to read my blog a hundred years from now? Is there even anyone who’s still reading my posts from a month ago? The awesome, brilliant posts that I put so much love and effort into and care about with all my heart and soul?

And so, with this slightly pressing upon the back of my mind, and feeling a little unsettled that I haven’t written any fiction in the past few weeks, I opened up a notebook, hoping to try out a writing prompt. When I opened the notebook, I found a little sketch I had been working on recently, but abandoned (or got distracted from) after about a page and a half. It was a great idea. Very meta-fictitious. Very satirical. Very awesome. So I started adding to it. Tried to move it forward. But I couldn’t. Because I started thinking too much. What was I going to do with it? Who was going to read it? Could I really make it good enough for people to actually get it? For people to actually enjoy? Could I really pull it off?

Cartoon credit: offthemark.com

My problem, and I assume it’s a very common problem and why there aren’t even more people who have written books, is that once the initial excitement wears off, after the moment of inspiration passes, I get tired of it. I can’t seem to keep going. I get bored of what I’m working on. No, bored probably isn’t the right word. What I get is stressed. I do this thing where I forget how to breathe. I forget how to keep my butt where it is and keep going. I imagine that I’ve forgotten how to write. Because, instead of focussing on writing, I’m focussing on editing the only three words I have until perfection. I’m focussing on what’s going to become of what I’m writing once it’s written. I’m focussing on how certain people may perceive the sentence I’m about to write, but haven’t even gotten onto the page yet.

Writing is a paradox. You need the idealism. You need the inspiration. But you need to be realistic. You need to be persistent. You need to sit down and (very unromantically) get some words onto the page. You have to sit for hours. Sometimes you have to avoid people. And stay away from the internet. But, funnily enough, I think the idealism, the naiveté, the total abandon is most important while you’re unromantically plowing through pages, cranking out some words, trudging through the first draft. It isn’t how you’d idealize the writer’s life, but it’s what needs the most idealism. That’s when you have to stop caring what will happen to it and just write. Write for yourself, write thinking of the best possible fate for your darling brainchild or write thinking nothing at all.

Then rationality and reality can probably return when you edit. Then you can set the inner critic loose and think about what’s going to become of it. All the hoops you’ll have to jump through. All the revisions you’ll have to make to your precious baby. But by then, you’ll have something. And you’ll be proud of it. And (after some time has elapsed and you can look at it realistically again and not as a peace of perfection that’s just emerged from your brilliant brain) you’ll be able to make changes. I’ve seen copies of (and original) manuscripts from classic, brilliant authors and they’re all the same. The rough drafts all crossed out and rewritten and scribbled over so much, you can scarcely see the original text. I imagine very little of what we read was written the same (or even included at all) in the first draft. And yet, there was once a first draft. Even writers whose work is being read years after they died started as a terrible, awful rough draft. And those masterpieces couldn’t have been edited and become what they are now without those original drafts, because without those drafts, there would have been nothing to edit.

Of course, realizing and writing all that was the easy part — now all I have to do is internalize it and try to take some of my own advice. What about you? Do you have any sage wisdom to share? Why do you write? Who do you write for? How do you get through those first drafts? And, most importantly, do you think blogging counts?

Advertisements

Shakespeare, Brave New World and Wireless Internet Access

I’ve been in London for the past two days. And I’m very excited. But not because I was in Stratford-upon-Avon today and just got in from seeing Julius Caesar there. Yes, of course that’s immensely exciting, and it was one of the most wonderful days of my life. I was really going to post about my trip to Hampton Court Palace yesterday. I really planned on blogging about the performance in Stratford. And I should really tell you all about my trip to Shakespeare’s birthplace. Instead, I have a far more concerning and interesting thing I want to talk about in this post. A thought that totally relates to Shakespeare. The reason I’m excited, is because I finally figured out how to get internet access on my laptop in my hotel room. Which is a bigger deal than it would normally be, because I haven’t been able to track down a “Micro SIM” for my iPhone, so I’ve been effectively cut off from the entire world. Family, Friends, WordPress and Twitter all just outside my reach. They say true ignorance is not being aware of what you don’t know. Well, true agony is knowing what you don’t have (especially when it’s something you used to have), but knowing you can’t get to it.

Mercure The Shakespeare Hotel, Stratford-upon-...

Stratford-upon-fricking-Avon Photo credit: Wikipedia)

But hold on a minute. What!? I was at Stratford-upon-Fricking-Avon today and what makes me happy is that I have access to the INTERNET!? But…But… Isn’t the whole point of the internet to google Shakespeare and Jane Austen? I was in their backyards today!! So why do I need google? I got the full experience — in, like, 4D!

Sure, sure. There are PLENTY of justifications. I have them all down pat and completely believe these sweet little ideas by now. I need to be in touch with my family. I need to be in touch with my friends. That’s totally  legitimate! All we have is human connection… right? That’s what’s most important, right? How can I have fun and enjoy myself without sharing my joy with the ones I love and letting them know all the pleasure they’re missing out on? More importantly, I need you guys! What’s the point of thinking of witty things to say about all the amazing things I’m seeing if I can’t tweet those condensed thoughts? I have all these insights I want to share about all the amazing things I’m seeing, but I haven’t been able to develop and share those thoughts here on my blog. If you think of something awesome, but can’t communicate it to your followers, was it a valid thought? (Yes, I know that last line sounds ridiculous and of course it’s meant to be tongue in cheek, but, however flawed, that’s my legitimate thought process of late.)

Switching trains of thought, but still heading towards the same destination, I read Brave New World  months ago for school. It didn’t overtly change my life, but it was certainly not a book which lost its tight grip on me the moment I finished the last page and closed the cover. It’s horrifyingly relevant to today and anyone who tells you otherwise is probably way too tightly entangled in our brave new world for their own good. They’re probably a card-holding member of the stupid, fickle masses. And now for the Shakespeare connection: there are LOADS of references to Will and his works in Brave New World. Many of these references are in reference to the lack of Shakespeare and his works in “Civilization”. John the Savage is completely turned off by “Civilization” and thinks they are doing things all wrong. One of the major areas of dispute is Shakespeare — John is passionately in favour of the Bard, while the Controller is (rather dispassionately) against Shakespeare and his works.

The Controller’s problem with Shakespeare’s works are not with the works themselves, but with how they fit in with “Civilization”. His plays are banned, but, what’s more interesting, they don’t even have to be. The government has taken care that the citizens have never heard of Shakespeare. Even if a citizen somehow came across one of his works, they wouldn’t even bother with it. They simply wouldn’t understand. John suggests they make “something new that’s like Othello, and that [the citizens] could understand” (ch. 16). However, the Controller explains that “if it were really like Othello nobody could understand it, however new it might be. And if were new, it couldn’t possibly be like Othello” (Ch. 16).

The inability to understand comes not from Shakespeare’s crazy (beautiful) language, but from the content and themes. One of the major premises of Shakespeare’s plays is desire for something one doesn’t have and can’t easily attain — money, power, a man or woman’s love, just to name a few. These themes are completely moot and incomprehensible in a society like the one in Brave New World. Those men and women (or grownup infants, as John sees them) have everything so easily and never have to worry about anything. They live in complete comfort in every way, but they are deprived of the suffering that is necessary to reach deeper understanding, meaning and humanity. They live comfortable, healthy lives, but for what? What’s the point of each superficially happy days, if they lead to nothing more than many years of such days? Their society is stable only so that it can continue being stable. Anything that risks that stability is outlawed, but what’s the point of stability if nothing meaningful or productive is being done with that stability? Life is so easy for them, that it makes you wonder why they even bother. The only way they can find any sort of “contentment” is by getting high on soma; sleeping with whoever they want, whenever they want; and going to the “feelies”, because they can’t even conjure up their own emotions. I call it contentment not happiness (and put “contentment” in quotation marks, at that) because obviously their mindless, superfluous entertainment can’t lead to true happiness.

I think that we, like those in the Brave New World society don’t have to try hard enough for anything — “nothing [figuratively] costs enough here” (Ch. 17). This was made glaringly clear to me upon reflecting on my experience at the phone store today. We went to go get SIM cards in Stratford. I was almost as excited about getting to the phone store as I was about being in Stratford, as my iPhone had been more or less obsolete for an entire day because I didn’t have a data plan yet– I think I’m experiencing withdrawal. When the guy at the store told us they were out of Micro SIMs, the very special and apparently less readily available SIM card that iPhones use, I was a little bit enraged. I remarked to my father (with whom I’m travelling) that it was an atrocity in proportion to a Shakespearean tragedy. Reflectively (at least now that I’ve gotten my internet fix) I think that the real tragedy is that I thought such a minor, superficial issue can be equated with a beautiful work of literature in which everyone has died, been brutally murdered or committed suicide by the final page. The Controller says that “you can’t make tragedies without social instability” (Ch. 16), and it’s ridiculous that I equate my (relatively) minor issue with social instability. Even more ridiculous that this is my biggest problem. I think that since people aren’t dying in the streets anymore, we (I) make a huge deal out of little, stupid problems, because there are few bigger problems.

While retaining our humanity seems to entail suffering and risk, human nature seems to want what comes easily. As the Controller says, “we prefer to do things comfortably.” But John wants more than that. Following our human nature comes easily, chasing after our humanity is far more difficult and he wants the latter.

“But I don’t want comfort,” [he says.] “I want God, I want poetry, I want real danger, I want freedom, I want goodness. I want sin.”

“In fact,” said [the Controller], “you’re claiming the right to be unhappy.”

“All right then,” said [John] defiantly, “I’m claiming the right to be unhappy.”

Sure, in principal, so am I. I want the right to be unhappy. That sounds very noble and wise. But in practice, if I look at myself objectively and realistically, I have to confess that all I want at the moment is my right to a data plan on my iPhone and wireless internet in my hotel room. And I think being brave enough to admit that (and accept the fact that I’m only human in wanting that) is the first step.

Laughing at Spam

Lately it feels as though I’m taking my blog way more seriously than I should and contemplating life and writing and my silly little problems more than is healthy, so today I’m just going to turn off my brain (and the incessant internal monologue) for just a moment so we can all have a good laugh. I’m sure all you bloggers who are reading this get plenty of your own ridiculous spam comments, and I assume that you (like me) have filters to weed out those comments so that they don’t end up on your site. But I’m not sure if there’s anyone else who likes to get a good laugh by going through that spam folder. I know I do and today I’m going to share some of those strange, laughable comments.

Before I do, I need to take a moment to contemplate spam philosophically (just for a minute! I promise). I’m just really not sure what the point of spam is. Yes, I understand that it’s mostly for self-promotion and the likes, but it’s so transparent that I wonder how it could possibly be effective enough to even bother with. I mean, most of these comments are computer-generated or home-made with so little sophistication that they get weeded out immediately by filters and never even see the light of day (or at least never grace the bottoms of enlightening posts). And even if these comments do get posted, what purpose do they serve? They are so obviously spam (as opposed to legitimate comments) that I doubt anyone would bother clicking the links. I mean, my readers rarely click the links post, so why would they click a link in the comments? Although, I guess some people must click these links. I imagine that the same people who believe they’ve won a million dollars for being the trillionth viewer of a random, sketchy website would be the same ones who click the spammy links. Additionally, who are these links trying to hook in anyways? Me (reading them in my spam queue) or my readers (reading them at the bottom of my posts)? Most of them seem to be directed at me, but you never know…

Photo credit: cartoonstock.com

Okay, now that I’ve gotten that out of my system, here’s some spam (minus the sketchy links) along with my make-believe replies.

stays on topic and states valid points. Thank you. 493862

No, thank you, for that insightful and original feedback!

I didn’t know bad teachers were reading my posts and marking them. That has got to be one of the most generic, “rubric-style” comments I have ever seen. I’m sure it’s true of my post about the differences between dissecting pigs and dissecting poetry, but if I find out that I have a reader who legitimately wasted their time writing that, I will be very surprised. (And I’ll apologize for making fun of his comment.) Also, what’s with the numbers at the end? Is that my grade? Is that a percent? Or is it out of 500000 marks?

Desensitizing Your Horse To Objects That Spook It at Horse Shoeing:[…] discoverhorses.comHorse Training Videos – Horse Training Tips – Horse Training DVDGetting Back on the Horse // 0) { //0==expires on browser close var cdate = new Date(); […]

It seems as though there’s a link to my blog on a site about horses. Or a site selling stuff for horses. I’m not sure and I don’t particularly care to find out. This ping-back is on my post Getting Back on the Horse. I’m (mostly) using that as a metaphor and that post has (almost) nothing to do with actual horses. Not sure how my post would be any help to people who want to “desensitize [their] horse to objects that spook it”. I actually think this is pretty cool though. Someone has obviously gone to the trouble of placing his spam in an “appropriate place” based on some fancy computer program that searches for certain keywords. (I assume. I may be making that up. I have no idea how computers or spam or fancy computer programs work.)

I had similar comments on my post Literary Baby Names. If I remember correctly, the links in my spam queue for that post wanted to sell me diapers. Clearly the fancy computer technology didn’t understand that I was referring to naming fictitious characters and hypothetical babies. And obviously fictitious characters only need fictitious diapers (if they even need diapers at all) and hypothetical babies only need hypothetical diapers (if they need diapers at all).

Thank you for the good writeup. It in reality was once a amusement account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable from you! However, how could we keep in touch?

No problem. I’m sure it was “once a amusement account it”. By the way, what language are you speaking? Is that supposed to be English? Because I think you’re doing it wrong. Those two middle sentences, for example. Are you just throwing words around and hoping they form an original idea? Or is there some method in your madness? If there is, I’d love to hear about it sometime. However, let’s not keep in touch, because, um, WHO ARE YOU!? Don’t we have to be in touch in the first place in order to keep in touch? Is your expectation that I’ll respond by giving you my number? Or were those some randomly flung words, that just happened to fit together to form a somewhat legitimate thought?

hgbzmbtpmjubszsbncmf, [sketchy, gibberish hyperlink], [another weird, sketchy, gibberish hyperlink], [a third link; equally weird, sketchy and nonsensical as the previous two] atfwkghszi

Well ertyulkjhcxdfghjk and trdhyfcj,vj,yfyufk to you to! I will most certainly check out those links, because you asked so kindly and you aren’t being needy with your excessive linkage at all.

If you want to get social bookmarking backlinks that will help skyrocket your website search engine ranking straight to the top, check out this site [site has been omitted because I don’t think any of us should be checking out rude spam sites].

I don’t even know what “social bookmarking backlinks” are. And to be honest, I don’t particularly like your use of the word “skyrocket”. It sounds like an outdated cliché. Also, WHY DO YOU CARE about my search engine ranking. Dude, you’re just being weird.

Of course, there are plenty more about my SEO ranking. I’m not fully aware of what that means, but I feel secure in my understanding that writing good posts is more important than trying ridiculous things to fix my poor SEO ranking. That’s because regardless of how high I rank, no one will keep reading my blog once they get here unless the posts are actually good.  (Or so I’ve heard from non-spam sources that actually want to help bloggers such as myself.) And I’m sure that even if you don’t get a kick out of reading your spam, you know all about these comments heckling you about your poor SEO rating and have either tried to do something about it or decided you don’t care.

My final thought is about a couple of comments I got a while back, which I deleted right away. They were both supremely creepy and supremely entertaining in about equal proportions. The commenters’ names somewhere along the lines of “F***buddy” (those are my asterisks) and the like. I think these awesome spammers wanted to know if I was interested in “having a good time”.

My response would be: Nope. I’m already having a pretty good time. Here. Writing on my blog. Faarrr awwayyy from creepers like you. Thanks for the offer though. I’ll be sure to let you know if I change my mind.

Do you ever go through your spam folder? Find anything worth sharing? If so, tell me about it in the comments, I’m always up for a good laugh! (And if anyone would like to answer any of the questions I raised  in my intro– that would also be awesome.)

Another Award! Another Award!

Hey blogosphere friends! (I cannot believe I just used the word blogosphere… Am I even spelling it correctly? Should it be capitalized? Italicized? Put into quotes? Does using this “word” make me sound stupid? Because I’m not, pinky swear!)

What have you been up to lately? I’ve been busy finishing up the last few weeks of school, which I blame for the scantiness (yes, that is a word — I even checked) of my posts lately… But have no fear! In just a few weeks I’ll be free, which will mean more posts, more frequently! The good news is, I’m already done the first million assignments on my to-do list, so now I only have the other million or so to finish up. And the way my school works, I only have two exams, because all the other classes I take are all assignments. Be happy for me, this is awesome (or at least it’s awesome now, once I’m finished with most of the assignments. When I was in the middle of all that work? Not so much.)

Anyways, in today’s post, I’d like to thank Wilhelmina Upton, whose blog you can find here, for passing along the 7×7 Link Award. It is so kind of you and I am so flattered. Especially as a relatively new blogger, it always makes me so happy whenever I get likes, comments, followers and especially these fun awards.

So, as always, there are just a few rules.

1. Thank the person who nominated you

2. Share something about yourself that you’ve yet to tell the Blogosphere (there I go, using that silly word again)

3. Link to 7 of your previous posts

4. Pass the award on to 7 other blogs

(Get it? See why it’s 7×7?)

Hmmm, one unknown thing about me? This is tough, because I tend to tell you guys everything (that’s a bit of an overstatement, if  I told you everything you probably wouldn’t want to come back. I mean, this isn’t twitter; you don’t care what time I went to sleep last night or what I ate for breakfast this morning…) Actually, that’s a good idea! Breakfast! Isn’t that one of those ice-breaker games, which are supposed to reveal something deep and meaningful about you as a person, without the risk of getting too personal?

Okay, so, breakfast. I have to wake up pretty darn early for school, and I am not a morning person on any level. So I sleep in until the last possible minute and then I have to rush out of the house, with no time to eat breakfast at the table. Besides, eating breakfast on the way to school is what cars are made for, right? Additionally, due to my not-a-morning-person-itis I find eating real foods a daunting task before 8:00 AM. Which is where smoothies come in! Delicious, nutritious, easy-to-drink in the driver’s seat and possible to ingest in a semi-conscious state.

The smoothies I drink in the car DO NOT look this enticing…
Photo credit: shopnaturalegreenonline.ca

Great, so now you know something new about me, which will perhaps help you see deep into the workings of my mind, body and soul.

Seven Previous Posts. Am I supposed to pick my favourites? How can I do that? I think they’re all pretty awesome, you know, in my humble opinion… Well, anyway, here it goes:

Welcome to My Shiny New Blog

A Competent Number of Nursery Maids

Literary Baby Names

Much Ado About “The Vow”

My Life In Books

Dear Me, Let Us Be Elegant or Die

Happy Birth(and Death)Day To The Bard!

Now, about this whole pass-it-on concept. I have something to admit. And it’s going to make you think I’m a really terrible person. In fact, I probably am a really terrible person. The thing is… I’ve yet to read and follow that many blogs. I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry. Whew! Okay, now that that’s off my chest, the guilt has lifted and I feel so much better. School’s just been crazy since I started with WordPress, and I’ve been spending the little time I have for blogging on the writing of the blogs, as opposed to the reading of them.

Once school ends, this will hopefully change. I want to pass this on the a whole bunch of amazing blogs, and I will, just as soon as I have time to read those amazing blogs!

Okay, well, since I’m temporarily copping out of step four, I guess this is it. Thanks again Wilhelmina! You’re the best!

%d bloggers like this: