Thursday, June 17, 2004

How am I doin'?

I was going to write about Barbie dolls tonight, but then realized that wouldn't make as much sense until after my column appears in tomorrow's Weekender. So the Barbie post is on hold until then.

Instead, I want to draw your attention to a great post over at Tony Pierce's site on how to blog -- a list of 30 things to keep in mind when blogging.

Now, I know it's not a question and answer kind of thing, but I want to respond to each of them anyway, because it seems like a perfectly good excuse for self-analysis.

Please excuse the massive chunks of pasted material.

Okay, here we go.

1. write every day.

I'm trying, and have maintained a pretty good average in the last few weeks, I think, after initially posting in fits and starts a few months back.

2. if you think youre a good writer, write twice a day.

Sometimes yes, sometimes no. For some reason, it feels overindulgent to write more than once a day. Maybe it's just knowing that I'm not exactly sucking in the visitors right now, and the more I write during this dry period means more catching up readers will have to do if they should stumble upon my blog in the months and years to come. Of course, that's assuming anyone wants to go digging through the ol' archives...

Besides, I'd probably write a lot more if my back wasn't to the door in my office at work.

3. dont be afraid to do anything. infact if youre afraid of something, do it. then do it again. and again.

This is a toughie, and a big part of the reason I was ranting about the joys of anonymous blogging awhile back. Still, this remains something worth working on, because I completely agree -- it's the stuff that we're afraid of saying that is the most important to try to communicate.

4. cuss like a sailor.

I'm fucking trying.

5. dont tell your mom, your work, your friends, the people you want to date, or the people you want to work for about your blog. if they find out and you'd rather they didnt read it, ask them nicely to grant you your privacy.

Once again, a concern covered in my rant about anonymous blogging. So far I haven't told too many people that I know personally about the blog, but I do advertise it in my column. Now, if only column readers come to visit, they're already people who know me only through words, so they'd be less inclined to try for an intervention if I were to really open up in this spot. A few people who know me personally have visited, but so far it's not so many that I'm worried about what they might think. Even knowing that I shouldn't worry at all about what other people think.

6. have comments. dont be upset if no one writes in your comments for a long time. eventually they'll write in there. if people start acting mean in your comments, ask them to stop, they probably will.

Comments, check -- first thing I turned on after the big Blogger redesign / update. I'm not getting tons, but at least the option's there for people, and that's the most important thing. And Internet site built around one-way communication is stupid and boring.

7. have an email address clearly displayed on your blog. sometimes people want to tell you that you rock in private.

E-mail address clearly displayed, check. Though, so far, no one's used it.

So, he, if you're reading this -- click on the e-mail link and send me a message, just so I know it works. If you're not sure what to write, just call me a jackass -- that's what I usually call myself when I e-mail my home-based account to work to remind myself what I need to do at home at night.

8. dont worry very much about the design of your blog. image is a fakeout.

As a graphic designer by trade, it's a little painful to *not* try to design a pretty blog layout. Unfortunately, by the time I get home, the last thing I want to do is more design work. So, at least for the moment, I'm sticking with this very functional blogger template.

Not sure if image is necessarily a fake-out, but I've definitely seen enough beautiful blogs with dreadful content.

9. use Blogger. it's easy, it's free; and because they are owned by Google, your blog will get spidered better, you will show up in more search results, and more people will end up at your blog. besides, all the other blogging software & alternatives pretty much suck.

Blogger? Check.

10. use spellcheck unless youre completely totally keeping it real. but even then you might want to use it if you think you wrote something really good.

Oh, this one I'm bad for, and I have no bloody excuse -- there's a stupid spell-check button right at the top of my blogger posting interface. I've just gotten lazy and used to having an editor for my newspaper column. Terrible, terrible excuse, I know. I'm such a lazy fucker.

11. say exactly what you want to say no matter what it looks like on the screen. then say something else. then keep going. and when youre done, re-read it, and edit it and hit publish and forget about it.

I haven't done this relentlessly, but there have been a couple of times when I've started out saying one thing and found myself, at the end, talking about something else entirely. It's a fun experience, and definitely one I should dig for more often.

12. link like crazy. link anyone who links you, link your favorites, link your friends. dont be a prude. linking is what seperates bloggers from apes. and especially link if you're trying to prove a point and someone else said it first. it lends credibility even if youre full of shit.

Another one I don't do often enough, and again there's no reason for it. Links are what makes the Internet go 'round -- I've known that for years. Need to start taking advantage of it more.

13. if you havent written about sex, religion, and politics in a week youre probably playing it too safe, which means you probably fucked up on #5, in which case start a second blog and keep your big mouth shut about it this time.

Not sure if I've ever written about sex or politics, and I only remember one entry on religion. So I guess I fucked up on #5. Which I don't think surprised me, even when I was at #5.

As for a second's still an issue that's gurgling around in my head. It's tempting, just to be able to let loose on any issue I want to talk about without any fear. Unfortunately, I've always believed that those are the very ideas that you should be able to sign your name to.

More thought on the second blog issue to very likely occur in the next few weeks.

14. remember: nobody cares which N*Sync member you are, what State you are, which Party of Five kid you are, or which Weezer song you are. the second you put one of those things on your blog you need to delete your blog and try out for the marching band. similarilly, nobody gives a shit what the weather is like in your town, nobody wants you to change their cursor into a butterfly, nobody wants to vote on whether your blog is hot or not, and nobody gives a rat ass what song youre listening to. write something Real for you, about you, every day.

Never done one of those stupid quizzes, thank God -- well, I've never posted my results, at any rate.

Never wrote about the weather, my site doesn't change your cursor, and I'm not on a blog hot or not. But goddammit, I want to let people know what song I'm listening to! I don't even know why! But I WANT to!

15. dont be afraid if you think something has been said before. it has. and better. big whoop. say it anyway using your own words as honestly as you can. just let it out.

If I've never read the piece that the idea originally appeared in, then I have no qualms about repeating somebody else's idea. As long as I can feel like I'm communicating an original idea for the first time, that's all it takes to keep me happy.

16. get Site Meter and make it available for everyone to see. if you're embarrassed that not a lot of people are clicking over to your page, dont be embarrassed by the number, be embarrassed that you actually give a crap about hits to your gay blog. it really is just a blog. and hits really dont mean anything. you want Site Meter, though, to see who is linking you so you can thank them and so you can link them back. similarilly, use Technorati, but dont obsess. write.

Crap, why couldn't I have read this last week? I was looking for a counter service, and ended up opting for StatCounter. Anyone know if there's a big difference between them? Because if Site Meter is that much better, I'll switch over.

17. people like pictures. use them. save them to your own server. or use Blogger's free service. if you dont know how to do it, learn. also get a Buzznet account. several things will happen once you start blogging, one of them is you will learn new things. thats a good thing.

No pictures as of yet, though I posted a whack of them on the Studio Theatre blog. I opted to do my own hosting instead of going through Buzznet, just because I like the notion of having control over where they go and how long they stay there.

18. before you hit Save as Draft or Publish Post, select all and copy your masterpiece. you are using a computer and the internet, shit can happen. no need to lose a good post.

*VERY* good advice. I've nearly lost a post a couple of times now, and nothing gets my teeth grinding like losing data. Thankfully, in each case the post as ended up surviving. Unfortunately, because I've enver actually lost anything, I haven't actually learned to stick a copy in my clipboard just to be safe.

19. push the envelope in what youre writing about and how youre saying it. be more and more honest. get to the root of things. start at the root of things and get deeper. dig. think out loud. keep typing. keep going. eventually you'll find a little treasure chest. every time you blog this can happen if you let it.

Been trying, as much as I can in a non-anonymous blog. Still, this is again something to work on.

Actually, next week's Stick Figure Drama will probably the most honest I've been in any published medium in a long fucking time. Not sure if that's a good thing, or incredibly, incredibly sad.

20. change your style. mimic people. write beautiful lies. dream in public. kiss and tell. finger and tell. cry scream fight sing fuck and dont be afraid to be funny. the easiest thing to do is whine when you write. dont be lazy. audblog at least once a week.

Haven't fucked with my style too much. It's just too easy to write in my own, natural voice. Of course, the important word there would be "easy," I think.

Funny? I try it now and then. It's not for me to decide how successful or not I am.

As for audioblogging, just got it set up. Waiting for another excuse to take it out for a spin.

21. write open letters. make lists. call people out on their bullshit. lead by example. invent and reinvent yourself. start by writing about what happened to you today. for example today i told a hot girl how wonderfully hot she is.

Great suggestions. Haven't done any of them yet.

22. when in doubt review something. theres not enough reviews on blogs. review a movie you just saw, a tv show, a cd, a kiss you just got, a restaurant, a hike you just took, anything.

Again, haven't done much in the review department -- wrote a review in my column for this week, which I could just copy and paste over to this here spot, but that'd be cheating.

23. constantly write about the town that you live in.

This is one that really got me when I read it, because I don't think I ever really have, which is weird, because it should be so obvious. Pretty much I've restricted myself to writing about what's going in my head instead of what's going on outside of it, in the word around my head. It's so painfully obvious, but I just didn't see it!

24. out yourself. tell your secrets. you can always delete them later.

I once met a stripper / escort on an online dating site, and took a roadtrip to meet her for a date. She didn't like me much, I don't think, and I never heard from her again. She was hella-hot though. Which I guess comes with the job.

There. That's a secret I don't think I've ever told more than a tiny handful of people.

Whew, that felt good. Gotta do that more often.

25. dont use your real name. dont write about your work unless you dont care about getting fired.

My real name? Crap, too late for that.

I mean...what, Todd? No, don't be silly, that's my...ah. pseudonym. My real name

26. dont be afraid to come across as an asswipe. own your asswipeness.

Not sure if it's ever occured to me to be afraid of coming off as an asswipe. Also not sure if that's because I was legitimately not afraid, or because avoiding asswipeness had somehow become an unconscious thing...

27. nobody likes poems. dont put your poems on your blog. not even if theyre incredible. especially if theyre incredible. odds are theyre not incredible. bad poems are funny sometimes though, so fine, put youd dumb poems on there. whatever.

No poems, ever. That's a promise.

28. tell us about your friends.

I have a few. Don't see them very often right now. Not much to talk about. Well, except for work friends, but apparently they're second-class friends.

No, they're not, not really -- I was just reminded of something my ex-wife said years ago. I'll tell you about it some other time. Long, ugly, complicated story.

29. dont apologize about not blogging. nobody cares. just start blogging again.

Good advice.

30. read tons of blogs and leave nice comments.

Gotta work on the leaving comments thing, but I'm reading as much as I can, always.

Okay, that's it, done. I'm not going to go back and count, but I feel not too bad about how I'm doing so far. There's definitely room for improvement -- isn't there always? -- but I'm sure I hit more than 50%, maybe even as many as 70%.

Now, let's get the fuck out of this monster-sized post, okay?

And yes, for the record, I amping up the cussing thanks to suggestion #4. Can't fucking hurt.

PS: Just ran blogger's built-in spellcheck on this post. Any idea why blogger's built-in spellcheck doesn't know the word "Blog"? Seems kind of weird.

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