Category Archives: Blogging

In Printed

I may not be a fan of New Years resolutions,  but it is a good time to dust off the ol’ bucket list.  One of the top items on my bucket list is to be credited both as writer and illustrator of my own published piece; likely a children’s book but who knows, illustrated spy dramas may become all the rage.  I’ve always thought that this would be the ultimate creative outlet for me despite what all publishers and submissions guidelines may say to the contrary.  They make it repeatedly clear that writers should steer clear of submitting artwork since they have their own collection of darling in-house artists to choose from.  To which I say “you’re not the boss of me.  I play by my own set of rules.  I write my own rulebook complete with illustrations drawn by yours truly.” To which they reply with resounding silence or a short, mildly polite rejection “Thank you for not following our submission guidelines.  Have a nice day”.

It would seem I need to be more professional in my approach.  I need to prove to them that I can offer value on both sides of the creative playing field.  I often wonder if they initially rejected the Wimpy Kid books because of submission guidelines or suggested Jeff Kinney’s clever stick drawings be redone by an in-house illustrator who previously specialized in cover art for trashy romance novels.  Now eleven books later with Mr. Kinney’s ability to essentially print money any time he needs a new boat, or a house in the Hamptons I’m pretty sure he’s given full creative freedom despite the fact that Greg and the rest of the crew bear no resemblance to Fabio or his bodice bosom counterparts.

Now a secondary bucket list item which is closely tied to the first is to read in print any reference to me or my creations with the phrase “wildly popular”.  There’s just something about that expression that tickles my sensibilities; “wildly popular”.  Not “mildly popular” or “really quite popular” but “wildly popular”.  It’s as if “scathing report” and “inflammatory remark” had a love child from an angry bout of make-up sex resulting in “wildly popular”.   I’m not sure if that’s better than going viral but it sounds a great deal more sanitary.

I am not under the delusion that everything I write or draw is solid gold masterworks worthy of worship.  This is still all a work in progress and the rants and ramblings contained herein are merely an exercise in creative expression.  My 5 views in a week is not “wildly popular” by any metric.  The ice cream man can achieve 5 followers by cruising the park on a mild spring day.  No, I may be just screaming into the void (which is slightly preferable to pissing into the wind and still more sanitary then going viral) but I can dream that one day the numbers will pick up and the small handful of views today will snowball into a wildly popular number,… like maybe 16 for instance.  And then, once I have my “wildly popular” blog to shove in the publishers’ faces they will have no choice but to bow to my demands and happily offer me a three book publishing deal for my series “Clifford the Big Red Spy Dog”.  Until that happens, I resolve for the New Year to either get at least one piece of fiction or two articles published by the end of the year,… or reach 16 followers, whichever comes first.

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10 Sexy Secrets for Outside the Bedroom

No, not really. However in this age of blogging bloat this is the type of topic that gets most of the blogging buzz; pithy lists and scandalous secrets. The once Wild West of the internet, where you need only hang out your shingle, has become an overpopulated strip mall struggling against urban blight.

I’m certainly not the first to be lured by the promise of expressive freedom, putting my voice out there for all the digital world to hear. While this notion of blogging is quite romantic in theory, in practice the sad reality is the expressive freedom you signed up for is little more than a message in a bottle; perhaps some lonely soul in China will find it one day and use it to practice their English skills but more often than not entries will remain undiscovered and unread.   If you think about it the number of available blogs out there is staggering. The amount of content created over the course of a week is overwhelming. Even if one were to narrow down their search to specific blog topic or theme there’d still be thousands of posts to page through. There are blogs about moms, kittens and geeks. There are blogs about how to blog. Hell, I even typed in “robot monkey” at random and got three blog results!

Like any start up business the biggest challenge of blogging seems to be luring people through the virtual front door and then sufficiently dazzling them so that they’ll return again on their own volition. In addition to the more technical strategies involving meta tags, search rankings (SEO), and a robot monkey strike force sent to disable the competition, the majority of this task comes down to shameless self-promotion like posting links and references on Facebook, creating a buzz among friends and family, and joining the blog community, commenting on other people’s sites in hopes that they return the favor in kind; Anything you can do just to get your name out there and, as my friend suggested, be a good “net citizen” (sorry robot monkeys, maybe next time).

Originally publications would handle the battle for viewership and then we the writers would battle for a small slice of their printed page. Nowadays we may cheer for the liberation of removing the publisher as middle man until we realize this drops the hard fought battle for viewership squarely on our shoulders. And this battle is not like a new NBC comedy pilot hoping to win market shares over “The Big Bang Theory”, this more like Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl competing against the actual Super Bowl,… if the Puppy Bowl was reenacted with sock puppets, filmed on your iPhone 3 and posted to YouTube.   The other inherent problem with this new battlefield perspective is that it even if we “win” it becomes increasingly difficult to define success.

What is the measure of a successful blog? Is it the number of views on a post? The number of subscriptions? The number of comments? Do numbers even matter? Does a singer busking on the street corner count success by the coin drop or the one person that mindfully changes course to cross the singer’s corner each morning? If that singer filled a coffee house with fanatic fans would that be more meaningful? What if she filled a stadium?

I recently came across a post from one of the daddy blogs (full post here) that I was checking out as someone who’d “made it”. As an excellent example of “the grass is always greener” this post perfectly illustrated the potential side effects of my perceived success; trolls. These are not the fictional trolls of Tolkien that I could go on about in far too much nerdy detail, this is referring to the online rat bastards that are the polar opposite of good net citizens. These are the individuals that like to leave the literary equivalent of a flaming bag of poo in someone’s comment section only to delight in the resulting shit storm that’s unleashed. Now I should say that other than the comments I intentionally solicited, my current count for valid non-spam comments is exactly one. I would often comment about how much I wish I had more comments. To me it seemed like a decent measure of success to not only have someone read a post but to be moved enough to share their thoughts. Apparently that doesn’t hold true when the comments turn vile. In the beginning a writer has only to contend with his own internal voices of doubt, which are hard enough to filter out. Once we add an external voice of scathing criticism I would imagine it becomes more difficult to press on with confidence much less a glowing feeling of success.

I wrote once about internal motivations and about how true artists supposedly create art for “art’s sake”. This is not a motivation I can cling to. While I do like the process of creating something I know that this comes from the anticipation that someone with eventually see it and appreciate it if not fully enjoy it. Like the question of whether a tree will make a sound if no one is around to hear it, does a post hold any meaning if no one is around to enjoy it? I prefer the way another inspirational writer put it, stating that if we do not create “we are keeping our gifts from the world”. This works better for me probably due to the “Jewish mom guilt” vibe, but the principle is important. We do not create for the random troll who think flaming bags of poo is their gift to the world, we are creating for the people who are open to finding creative expression all around them and will appreciate what we produce. So while I’m still unsure how to measure any endgame success (though it will be telling to see how many hits a bogus title gets me), I will be content for now to continue tossing bottles into the virtual ocean and hoping that one is occasionally rescued.  People need something to read while they recover from the latest top ten sex secrets.

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