Monday, September 5, 2011

Five Ways Not to Write a Blog

So I was sitting at my sister's laptop computer one fine day that would happen to be as of three minutes ago trying to think of exactly what I wanted to write a blog post about. I knew I had to write one, because I've been a lazy bastard this past month, but I really had no idea what to write about. Ideas were swimming through my mind like schools of angry piranha, but I either couldn't find the materials, or (most common) the motivation. There was also that pesky habit of mine to get sidetracked at the slightest interesting tidbit, which is really, really bad for somebody who wants to make a living sidetracking people with his slight tidbits. As such, I came to a conclusion: today I would teach all of you poor, poor aspiring bloggers how not to write a blog post.

1. Do not attempt a "five hottest" article

Most people would make the logical assumption that sex will sell absolutely everything there is that needs to be sold, and so doing whatever possible to get some kind of lewd imagery and the opportunity to smother yourself in sexual slander will be the easy way to the high road of Popularity Hills. Fashion magazines do it, gossip magazines do it, geeky gaming websites do it, and hell, even Cracked does it.

Ah yeah, baby. Easy Streeeet!
Now, I have personally attempted at least twelve different "Five Hottest" articles, all with different subject matter. You might even read a couple of them in the coming months, but I kind of don't think so. Each of these articles have been started, each of these articles are halfway done, and each of them are sitting in the compost heap of my brain and a small file on my external HDD. There is one real reason for that:

I'm a guy. And if you want to write an article like this, there's a good chance that you are also a guy. Everything will seem find and dandy at first. How hard can it be to find a good, sexy picture on the internet, right? There's two problems with this idea:

1) Suddenly every picture you find will seem ten times more perverted than it really is, and you're going to start wondering if people will think you're some kind of rapist because you posted a picture of Eva Angelina.

2) It is way too freaking easy to find sexy pictures on the internet.

Seriously, I was on Google for maybe three seconds.
You will find these pictures, you will get a boner. You will try with all your might to resist that boner for a number of reasons. Maybe you're currently committed, maybe your body is a temple, maybe you don't support pornography, maybe you actually realize that if you start doing the deed, you will never get that article written.

Unfortunately, I am here to tell you; you will never get that article written. At some point during your crusade through Googleland, you will stumble across some real, hardcore, completely naked, uncensored porn, and since your search term probably involves some fetish you like (anything as simple as "blond hair" is a fetish) this real person porn will tickle your fancy.

No, the fancy is not your feet.
It is inevitable. From the moment you saw that cheerleader getting drilled harder than a new batch of military recruits, you were going to click that image. You will end up watching that video, with your pants down, and you will feel like a guilty asshole the entire time. You will finish, the "I don't feel like doing anything" of after-libido loving will set in, and you will be so overwhelmed by the part of your brain that screams "You're a fucking bastard, you have a girlfriend" that you won't want to do anything but get on your knees and beg for forgiveness from whatever it is that rules this world.

And you haven't finished that article either.
My advice to you is to never, ever, ever attempt to write an article listing the five anythings you think will give other people a hard-on, because you aren't going to finish (the article,) and it will eat away at your soul like a stoner eats everything.

2. Do not let your idea sit while you "work on" it

This is an absolutely terrible idea. Of all the dumb ideas you will ever have during your brief tenure as a writer, this is the absolute Charlie Browniest of them all. You will start an article with vigor, blast out the first thousand words of your way-too-elaborate grand master post, and then let it sit while you go off to do something frivolous and unimportant, like watch Terminator or cook dinner for your kids.

They don't want to eat anyways.
When you come back to your computer, or your notebook, or your dead bird and your bloody inkwell, you will find that you no longer have the drive to write anything at all. You have shut off your writer's mind to switch into another gear, and by doing that, you have convinced yourself that you are done writing and no longer need to switch back into work mode.

The idea will bore you, the writing will seem bland, you will notice every minute distraction in the room and turn it into an excuse to get up and pace back and forth aimlessly. You will subconsciously do everything you can to avoid sitting down to write, all the while telling yourself that you need to sit down and write. You will torture yourself for an entire night, not wanting to actually do anything else because you know you have work to do, but not wanting to do the work because goddammit, it's work!

Wait... Writing is work? FFFFFFFFUUUUUUUUUU-
Oh, yes, you sad, strange, little man. Writing is work just like any other craft is work. Carpentry = work. Plumbing = work. Painting = work. It doesn't matter if you're being paid for the result of that work, it is work, and it doesn't matter how much you wrote as a hobbyist scrawling out novels for your own guilty pleasure. The second you get even a tiny audience, or the second you decide to make yourself a schedule, your hobby will become "work." Your brain will associate writing as work, and you will soon learn that your brain hates work, even if you don't.

Making a living out of your hobby is the great dream that everyone has. Absolutely everyone, and it is still a great dream to strive for. However, I encourage everybody to try adhering to a regular schedule with a certain expectation to how much of your hobby you must produce, because if you can't put something out on a regular basis, you are going to drown in your own paints. You might even learn that you absolutely hate your beloved closet hobby. (Hint: I still don't.)

3. Do not make yourself write in someone else's style

I can hear the lot shouting about pots and kettles, and the many jeers of "hey, aren't you the guy who rips off every writer from Cracked to have ever existed?" The simple and concise answer is: No, I haven't ripped off anybody. My humor is my own, and my style is wholly original.

Like how I use images and captions for sight gags.
Alright, maybe my style is a little influenced, but that is what makes up style in the first place. Your unique style is the culmination of everything creative you have ever witnessed and how your mind uniquely interprets that, so of course your style will have fragmented pieces of the styles of other creators, particularly those creators which have had the biggest impact or involvement in your interests.

What matters is that your style truly comes from you. The words you say must be said in your voice. If that means using emoticons every other line, typing in text talk, or elegantly smothering your sentences in poetically defined petals of prose, then so be it. As long as the style is what naturally leaves your finger tips, and not something you are attempting to force onto paper (or screen.)

A style that isn't yours fits just as well.


If you have to pee after reading the 1300 words above this point, go pee now.

I don't know if you noticed, but I had to disregard number two just after writing it because my younger siblings don't like when I turn them into anorexic skeletons, so I had to go make dinner. If you were wondering, they had sliced and fried hot dogs, broccoli, a couple of potato wedges, and blueberries for dessert. Normally, I wouldn't point out my own flaws, however it is useful for the educational purposes of this article. Notice how much less awesome number three was in comparison to the two above it? Let's see if I can get my groove back for four and five...

4. Do not write about Google's top keywords

Here's another common and perfectly logical thought when trying to strum up a little more traffic: "What I'm writing about doesn't pertain to the majority of the people. If I look at what people search on Google the most, and write about that, then I can get more traffic! Easy peasy!"

Whoa! Slow down, Mr. Peasy, because I've got a few thorns to shove between your ribs [avoiding cliches 101.] For starters, even if you do manage to squeeze the top keywords into your article, or the title if you want to go heavy on the shamelessness, the chances of you popping up anywhere in the first ten pages of Google search are slim to none. Even if you do manage to get a spot on page seven or eight, you're shit-out-of-luck, because people tend to rephrase their search if they don't get what they want on the first page. If they did get what they want, they're not browsing all the way to you. Sorry, bubs.

Stop cockblocking my magnificent marketing ideas!
Sorry, Tater Tots, but it's for your own good. Not only have I saved you the agony of expecting high traffic from a crappy Google listing, but I'm about to rescue you from the dangers of writing about shit you know absolutely nothing about for the sake of ratings.

That's right, writing about "tiki barber" (looking up Google's top keywords as of 35 minutes ago) is not going to do you any good unless you know about tiki barbers. The same for every other topic out there. You need to know about what you're writing, and if you take the time to research what everyone else wants to know about, you're going to be two months out of the loop by the time you're ready to write about it. In other words: write what interests you, not what interests people right this second or what Google tells you interested people half-an-hour ago.

If the topic doesn't matter to you, that will show through in your writing. You will be bland, boring, likely uninformative, and certainly not entertaining. Which is really what you want, even if you're being informative. If you do not entertain the audience, you will not get any information into their tiny little walnut brains.

Your audience is dinosaurs.

5. Do not force what comes out of you

If what you are writing, or what you want to write, is not coming to you more quickly than a bear to honey, then you're doing it wrong. Writing should not be like trying to send a pile of rocks through a paper shredder, it should be as easy as listening to an orchestra, licking a lollipop, or dragging your pen around in circles drawing what you will claim is a dust cloud.

It's Taz!
There's a common idea around the globe, one that spreads like a cancer because of the internet, that if you didn't endure hell writing whatever it is your wrote, scraping sandpaper against your brain to finish it, that you didn't write anything worth reading. This idea is a load of crap. What matters is that you didn't shoot yourself before you came to the end, and that you kept a tone that won't lull everyone and their moms to sleep. Granted, their dads will sleep simply to spite the modern writer, but hey, they're assholes.

Write what comes to you, write what you love, and you will write well.

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