Writing is a Battle

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I’ve got less than four months to go on this year of blogging challenge. I wish I could say I was still stoked on it, but I’m not. I’m happy with a lot of the writing. Most of it is about what you’d expect from a fire hose full of completely un-spellchecked first drafts.

For a while I used to say I had no idea what writing would and wouldn’t resonate with people, but now I have a pretty clear idea. People love reading about politics, especially when you’re mean. And they love reading self improvement pep talks. I guess I have a knack for that latter style and readers seem to appreciate that I have an unusual, foul mouthed approach. I have a feeling if I really concentrated on that style, I might be able to bounce the page views up, but that’s not really my goal.

That said, everyone who writes wants to be read and I’d be dishonest if I said it didn’t matter at all. It does. I’d like to have killer page view numbers, and sometimes I do. You don’t get to decide what people like. Unless you’re Anna Wintour.

The main goal of this 365 day challenge was to get used to the pace of putting out a lot of content while also getting better at writing in general. No matter how good you are, you can get better. I feel like I’m just starting to get good, and I want to be better.

I definitely have noticed an improvement from posting everyday, but it’s not the most effective way to write better. As Stephen King says, to write better you have to do two things: read more and write more. He recommends four hours of each, which sounds like a dream. I do about an hour of each, not counting stuff I’m working on at my 9-5. I make up as much reading time as I can on the weekends.

The reading thing has been going pretty well as it usually does. I haven’t been cranking through as many tomes as I’m used to, though. Part of the reason for that is the podcast has been taking up a lot of research time and most of the writing on the films we cover is online. I’ve also been spending a lot of time watching video essays, which are just getting better and better in general. If I had a little more technical proficiency, that medium is something I’d be very interested in.

You’d think writing a blog everyday would cover “write more.” However, I think there’s a concept from marathon training called “junk miles” that can be ported over. Junk miles are basically low effort miles you run that have no other purpose than to log miles. While it’s important to be on the road, you’d make way better gains by training in specific heart rate zones, doing speed drills, weight training, and pushing harder paces. You can definitely do ok just trotting along, but if you want to make real gains, you have to be smart and purposeful.

As much as I shit on them, I could benefit from a bit of the type of structure you find in MFA programs. I’ll never go because they are the most overpriced degrees and have an incredibly low ROI. However, working with someone external would be interesting. I thought I’d have more active readers engaging with me as interlocutors, but this blog doesn’t seem to bring it out of people. Getting a writing group together always sounds like a good idea, but it often ends up full of people who are far less committed. Same thing with UC extension courses and such.

I’ve recently started doing morning pages again from The Artist’s Way. I’m about four days in and I can already feel a difference in the way I approach the blog. It’s always seemed a bit flakey and new-age, but this is an incredible resource for writers. I have no doubt I will get more progress in 12 weeks of that program than an entire year of junk blogging. The only real downside to it is there isn’t much of a focus on technical improvement. There’s no sentence analysis or plot instruction. It’s just about getting yourself inspired and moving your hand across the page, which is really 95% of it.

My creative batteries are definitely beginning to run low. This is typical for this time of year. I’ve been very busy with work, projects for friends, and Scary Thoughts. The best thing to do for recharging is go on a solo adventure. The Artist’s Way’s second practice is to take yourself on “artist’s dates.” They’re essentially short duration adventures you take yourself on to get out of your normal routine and experiences. I’ve been a bit of a homebody and haven’t explored Oakland much at all since I’ve been over here, so there’s a lot of things I can do to recharge, like ride my bicycle around. My plan for this Saturday is to ride my bike up around Lake Merritt and maybe get myself a library card.

After work cools down a bit and I get through the last 127 days of blogging, I’m going to look into some writing classes in the area. Most of the ones I’ve taken have been terrible. I’m hoping I can find something cool and inspiring.

This whole idea for writing a blog came from cornball marketing guru Seth Godin. I don’t think Godin tells people to blog everyday to get better at writing, it’s more about building a brand for him. I kind of turn my nose up at that sometimes, but ultimately, you need to do it these days if you’re writing for a living.

To hear Godin tell it, all you have to do is bloviate everyday about the thing you want to be known as an expert for and, poof, an audience will magically appear. This may have been doable back before YouTube and podcasts came on the scene, but brand building requires an enormous amount of work across all available channels now. What I’m learning from producing and promoting the podcast is this is an enormous time suck. It’s cool to do and seeing your followers and fans rise is certainly enjoyable, but it’s not what I’m into. I’m into writing better, and all this shit takes time away from writing.

It’s enjoyable, though. The Scary Thoughts Instagram page is pretty damn funny and there’s a total thrill in having strangers find it and respond to it. However, I actually just stopped in the middle of writing this blog post to attend to some conversation about the podcast online. This is exactly the danger of social media for writers. I’ve completely lost my train of thought. Hopefully no one notices.

Some people who spend a lot of time writing and creating stuff on the internet call themselves “content producers.” I can definitely vibe with that idea and might even fit into that category a bit, but it’s very important to me to think of myself as a writer first. All that other stuff is cool, but I can’t imagine having the same reverence for a Pepe the Frog meme maker that I have for Hunter S. Thompson. Maybe, I mean, millennials are weird like that.

 

 

 

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