Tag Archive | writing

The Blogger Stands Alone

I’ve been blogging for close to two years, and something happened to me this week that has never happened before:  I wrote a blog post that got absolutely no comments.  NONE.  NADA.  ZIP.  I know there are a lot of bloggers out there who’ve experienced this before.  I’ve seen empty comment sections on countless blogs that I’ve visited…. and then scrolled passed without commenting.  But believe me, had I known how shitty it felt to put on a performance for an empty room, I would’ve taken the time to give you my two cents worth of feedback.  Probably.

I didn’t even get an obligatory comment from any of my friends or relatives – what good are you people if you’re not going to feed my ego and tell me that everything I do is awesome?!  Anyone who knew me back when my hair had its own zip code….

High School

is contractually obligated to blow smoke up my ass every once in awhile – especially when no one out in the cold, harsh world seems willing to do it.  Hey, I’ll probably be the one changing your adult diapers if/when you become too old to remember how to navigate the complicated world of indoor plumbing.  So, the least you can do is comment on one of my blog posts if it looks like it’s going to crash and burn.

Which clearly, this one did.  Okay, so point taken.  Obviously, none of my (almost) 1,400 followers had any interest in hearing about my writer crushes on David Sedaris and Jenny Lawson, or the fact that I’d love to know what it feels like to wear their skin like a suit.  Whatever.  You want to be all judgey about it – FINE.  How was I supposed to know I was the only one who got excited about tumors and children dressed up as dead fairytale characters?  It’s not like they tell you those kinds of things in the blogger’s guide to the galaxy.  I had to learn it the hard way.  But that particular lesson came at a pretty hefty price – now my ego feels a bit like week-old roadkill.

No, that’s fine.  Just paint right over me.  My shame looks good in speed-bump yellow.

No, that’s fine. Just paint right over me.
My shame looks good in speed-bump yellow.

Perhaps I’ve been a bit spoiled by the past two years worth of praise from other bloggers and the WordPress powers-that-be (I was Freshly Pressed.  Twice.  Yes, I’m totally bragging – give me a break, did you see the splattered remains of my ego back there??).  I know I can’t realistically expect to always be on top.  I also know writers need to have a really thick skin so they can withstand the public’s scrutiny, time and time again.  And yes, I know that I should be writing for myself, and not just to please the masses or get a pretty ribbon pinned on my shirt.

But here’s the deal – knowing all of that doesn’t make failure suck any less.  It also doesn’t silence the voice of doubt that creeps into my head while I’m sitting beneath a pile of my own stink; the voice that keeps wondering if I’m really cut out for all of this.  And if I wasn’t…. what the fuck am I supposed to do now?  Seriously – WHAT?!

I hope the future has karaoke bars.  If I’m going to be stuck working some shit job,  I’d at least like the option of getting drunk and singing show tunes.

I hope this exit has karaoke bars. If I’m going to be stuck working some shit job in the future,
I’d at least like the option of getting drunk and embarrassing myself in public.

Have any of you writers out there ever had any truly EPIC fails on your blog?  Please share your sob story with me.  Then we can have a few beers, a good cry, and sing a drunken rendition of Gloria Gaynor’s  “I Will Survive”.   It’ll be awesome.

Lipomas & Little Red Riding Hood

As an aspiring writer, I look to find pieces of myself in successful writers because it helps to fan the flame of hope (or delusion) that if they managed to prosper off of their talent, then maybe I can too.  It doesn’t matter how pathetically thin the connective thread is, I will cling to it like my life depends on it…. or at the very least, my sanity.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who does this.  Please, tell me I’m not the only one who does this!!   I imagine some singers look at Lady Gaga and think that because they both enjoy eating and wearing their dinner entrees, they have a chance of playing Madison Square Garden one day too; Or chefs who believe they can achieve Emeril Lagasse’s  level of success because they both use annoying exclamations like “BAM!” at the end of every sentence.

I look to find those little things I can identify with in humor writers like David Sedaris and Jenny Lawson because I stalk love them.  It makes no difference if these commonalities are completely inane or have no correlation with being a writer; I get giddy with excitement when I discover one.  Here are two of the most recently uncovered kindred spirit connections….

The similarities between David Sedaris and myself are (sadly) few and far between, except for our past love affair with cigarettes, and our mutual attraction towards gay men; which makes it all the more thrilling when I stumble upon a new one.  When his book Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls came out, I raced out and bought it, just like I had with all of his other books.  In his first personal essay entitled Dentists Without Borders he talks about the discovery of a lump on his right side that he described as a little deviled egg tucked beneath his skin.  I had made a similar discovery on myself, except my mysterious lump was on my back and more closely resembled a small marble – but let’s not split hairs.

Where we diverged was how we handled it.  Within twenty minutes of making the discovery, David had assumed the lump was cancerous, called up his doctor, and made an appointment to have it checked out.  Whereas I jumped headfirst into denial (for about a year), and assumed that the lump was just another lovely byproduct of turning forty, like moles and chin hair.  But our two medical mysteries ultimately intersected at the same diagnosis – a lipoma (a fatty tumor).  Gross, but harmless.  And even though my little lipoma might someday reach Quasimodo proportions, I grin every time my hand grazes it because I feel like it brings me one step closer to a book deal.

   IMG_3506_2     david-sedaris-27

Tumor twins!!!

The second recent parallel I discovered was with The Bloggess, Jenny Lawson.  In general, I think it’s easier to find things in common with Jenny (over David) because we are both card carrying members of the almighty woman’s club – very exclusive, only half the world’s population is allowed in.  And we have at one time or another, used our membership privileges (read that as vaginas) to create a person. Add to that, our mutual affection for cats and the word motherfucker, and it’s like we were separated at birth.

While reading this blog post, I found out that we also have equally dark and twisted offspring.  While other little girls dressed up as Disney princesses and over-sexualized superheroes for Halloween, our daughters decided to go the more macabre, Grimm’s fairytale route….

DSC09824   small-little-dead-riding-hood

Though I have to admit,The Bloggess really went the extra mile, and had her daughter collect (what I can only assume are) the tiny remains of competing trick-or-treaters in her basket; my daughter, Meghan, only had Laffy Taffy and Skittles in hers.  In all fairness though, with Jenny’s long-standing obsession with taxidermy (no really, you NEED to click on that link),  she’s got a really big head start into the world of all things creepy as hell.  So, it look’s like I’ve got some serious catching up to do if I want to call myself a published author someday.

Who are some of your idols?  Do you have anything in common with them?

Going Up?

This is in response to a daily prompt from WordPress.  Thanks for this one guys – I really needed it….

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As I was walking through the city, I felt inexplicably drawn to this one building.  When I lightly touched its smooth, mirrored façade, a small static charge raised the small hairs on the back of my neck.  I looked up to see where this architectural masterpiece ended, but from my vantage point it seemed to reach right up to the clouds.

Photo credit: Bill Haack

Photo credit: Bill Haack

I tried to peek inside the windows, but all that was revealed to me was my own awed expression.  I searched for a way inside so I could satisfy my nagging curiosity, and finally found a set of double doors.  I assumed that a security guard would stop me before I had the chance to set foot inside, but when I entered the lobby and looked around I was surprised to find that I was alone.

It struck me as odd that there was no company logo on the wall or identifying mark that helped allay the air of mystery that surrounded this building.  While most companies shamelessly promoted their logo on every pen, business card, and billboard within a 10-mile radius of their building, this place apparently needed no promotion.  It just was.

The stark white walls and metal fixtures gave it the appearance of a hospital, but despite the sterile environment, the room still radiated an indescribable warmth.  As I closed my eyes and soaked it in, I heard something ding off to my right.  When I turned my head to see what made the sound, a set of elevator doors at the far end of the lobby opened up.

Before my brain had the chance to weigh my options, my feet began to reflexively walk towards the doors.  It felt strange to be drawn towards something that would normally kicked my claustrophobia into high gear.  I stepped into the shiny, chrome box and the first thing I noticed was that there were no numbered buttons for the floors.  The only choices were up or down – buttons that were usually on the outside of an elevator.  Eager to see the view from the top, I chose up and waited for the doors to close.

elevator-up

From outside the elevator, I heard a man’s voice say, “Hold the doors!”

I stuck my hand out to prevent the doors from closing.  When I looked up to see who would be joining me on this enigmatic elevator ride, I saw a face I thought I’d never see again – my father.  He had passed away nearly three months ago, yet there he stood, right beside me.

The doors closed.

“Going up?” he asked with a smile.

I instinctively threw my arms around him and began to cry. After a few minutes, my sobs quieted and I reluctantly released him. My eyes and brain were at war with each other – my brain tried to make sense of the impossible, while my eyes gave proof of its existence.

How??” was all I could manage to ask him.

He smiled like he had a delicious secret that he couldn’t share with me.  “Hmmm, tough question.  Luckily, I’ve found out a lot of answers to some pretty tough questions since I died…. but I also learned that some questions don’t really have any answers.”

“So basically, you’re not going to tell me.” I said, wiping away the tears that had already started to dry on my cheeks.

“Doesn’t look like it.” he said with a teasing smile.

I giggled.  “I’ve had so much I wanted to say to you these past few months. So many regrets about all the things I was too scared to tell you while you were still alive.”

“Are you scared now?”  he asked with one raised eyebrow.

I paused for a moment – I felt nothing but peace.  “No.”

“Then tell me what’s on your mind.”

“Remember last summer, when I came to visit you at your house in Florida?”  He nodded. “Well, there was a moment when we were bobbing around in your pool and you turned to me and asked if I had had a happy childhood.”

“I remember.  You told me you did, for the most part.”  he said.

“That wasn’t the whole truth.” I admitted, and then looked down at my feet.

“So what’s the whole truth?” he asked, reached his hand out and tipped my chin up so I was looking at him again.

“The truth was, yes I had a happy childhood… but I also missed you desperately most of the time.  I can remember nights when I woke up crying out for you, but you were never there.” I said and felt the tears beginning to build up behind my eyes again.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t there to comfort you.  It wasn’t because I didn’t love you.  I know how you felt – there were nights when I cried out for you and your siblings too.” he said and a sad expression crossed his face as he remembered the past.  “In a perfect world, I would’ve been there, but as we both know, our little world was far from perfect.  So, we had to settle for seeing each other a couple of times a year – which doesn’t look like it was enough for either one of us, huh?”

“Guess not.”  Seeing his sad expression made me feel guilty that I had put it there.  I searched to find a means of erasing it and said, “But you should know that you were never far from my mind.  I had moments when I felt angry at you because I felt like you had abandoned us…. but I never stopped loving you.”

His face brightened.  “Thanks, that’s nice to hear – especially since I thought you spent most of your teen years hating my guts.  Eighteen years is a long time to go without a Father’s Day card.” He said and playfully nudged me in the ribs with his elbow.  I could see the teasing smile return to his face.

I smiled back, “I bought you a card last year, but then Amy and I went in on a gift and I never sent it.  I brought it with me to Chicago when I went to see you after you passed away…. but since there was no casket, and you weren’t being buried, I didn’t have anywhere to put it.  So, I brought it back home with me.”  I shuddered with the memories of that trip.

“What did it say?” he asked and put a comforting hand on my shoulder.

“It had a picture of The Wizard of Oz characters on the outside cover and said, ‘A good father needs brains, courage and a lot of heart’…”

“What did it say on the inside?”

“Fortunately, the ruby slippers are optional. Happy Father’s Day to a dad who has it all.”

“Yeah, I don’t think I could pull off ruby slippers.” he joked, and then we both started laughing.

51hv9lL+P3L

“Dad, I just wanted to say that I’m so glad we managed to close the gap over the years.  When I really got to know you, it felt like I had found my missing piece – the one I spent my whole life looking for.  No matter how many times I tried to shove somebody else in that space, no one else seemed to fit.  I saw so much of myself in you.  I didn’t know how it was possible to have so much in common with someone I barely ever saw.”

“You can’t fight genetics, Kiddo.”  he said with a wink.

“I tried for a little while.” I said with a chuckle and unconsciously reached up to touch the deep crease in between my eyebrows – the one that becomes more pronounced when I’m trying to work through a problem…. the one I inherited from him.

Just then, I felt the elevator come to a gentle stop – the ride had been so smooth that I had forgotten it was even moving.

“This is my stop.” he said.

I felt a rush of panic – I didn’t want to lose him all over again.  There was still so much that needed to be said.  “Wait!  Dad, please don’t go.”  I begged and grabbed a hold of his hand.

“I have to.  But if you ever find yourself crying out for me in the middle of the night again, this time, I promise I’ll be right there.” he said and put his hand to my heart.  “Always.”

Then he wrapped me up in a hug that felt like he was trying to make up for all the hugs we missed out on in the past, and all the ones we would never get the chance to have in the future.

When he finally released me he said, “I love you.”

“I love you too, Dad.”

“And hey – thanks for my Father’s Day card.” he said with a smile.

Then the elevator doors opened ….

SONY DSC

Beware the Followers Made of Spam

Have you seen a burst of new followers on your blog in the last couple of weeks?  Well, before you pop the cork on the champagne bottle and toast yourself for being master of the blogiverse, first you’d better go see if your new followers actually have a pulse.

Why is he just laying there??

Why is he just laying there??

I have a lot of shortcomings as a blogger – PR work is right at the top of the list.  I’m no good at reading other people’s blogs and commenting on them, and I’m even worse at following WordPress’ advice when I get a new follower and they suggest, “You might want to go see what they’re up to! Perhaps you will like their blog as much as they liked yours!”  I might WordPress, but most days it’s hard to see anything passed the big pile of facebook memes and status updates that I’m buried beneath.

Since I wasn’t checking out all my new followers and sending them a dozen roses and a new puppy like WordPress suggested, when I saw my follower numbers start to climb at an abnormally fast rate, it took me awhile before I realized something was amiss.  I just thought people were finally beginning to realize how completely awesome I am…. seemed like a logical conclusion at the time.

Somewhere after gaining over 100 followers in two weeks, a light bulb went on in my head – even I’m not that awesome (but if you want to refute that point, I won’t argue).  A rapid increase in my following happened each time I got Freshly Pressed, but that made sense because of the increase in traffic; I was getting thousands of hits a day, so statistically, I was bound to find a few people who wanted to jump on board my blog.  But now, my views were pitifully low – under 50 most days.  So what gives?  I decided to put on my Sherlock Holmes hat and sniff out the answer.

As it turns out, the answer smelled a lot like Spam.

I got out my trusty pen and paper, blew the dust off of them (because really, who the hell uses a pen and paper anymore?), and went to work sifting through all these so-called followers.  I made a “phony spam” and “real deal” column on my paper and kept track each time I visited a follower’s blog site.  Before I knew it, I had more spam than my Grandma after she accidentally visited a porn site…. it’s okay Grandma, we all know it was an “accident”.

Hot damn, that's a lot of spam!!

Hot damn, that’s a lot of spam!!

I found that my followers fell into four categories:

The dead end.  When you click on their web address, you are led to a page telling you that they don’t exist.  Well, where the hell did they go?  They were obviously there a minute ago.  Was clicking the follow button on my blog the last thing this person did before keeling over?  Perhaps finding me was enough to make them feel as though they could die happy now.  Or do my followers just have a shorter lifespan than most fruit flies?

R.I.P. Archangel.  Enjoy your travels to other side – bring me back a t-shirt!!

R.I.P. Archangel. Enjoy your travels to other side – bring me back a t-shirt!!

The used car salesman.  People that aren’t really people – they’re companies trying to sell you stuff.  Well, listen up assholes – because you got me all excited about having a new follower, and then turned out to be just another cog in the corporate greed-machine, I’d rather drive to Wal-Mart on black Friday to shop than buy anything you’re selling.

Bitch, I don’t NEED a name badge – I already know who the hell I am.

Bitch, I don’t NEED a name badge – I already know who the hell I am…. most days.

Ummmm….. what?  These followers are a tricky bunch because I can’t tell if they fit into the spam column or the real one – probably because I can’t understand a fucking thing they’re saying.  They look like legitimate blog sites because they have dated blog entries and followers of their own (most WAY more than me).  But because nothing is in English, I can’t tell if they’re writing about legitimate things or if they’re trying to sell me internal organs from the black market.  If it’s the latter, I could really use a new gallbladder guys – mine got cut out six months ago….

2,800 followers for naked bicycle riding articles??  I might have to rethink a few things….

2,800 followers for naked bicycle riding articles?? I might have to rethink a few things….

It’s ALIVE!!  Real people.  These followers are the reason I sit down to write everyday…. well, almost everyday…. okay, about twice a month.  The ones who read my stuff, and decide that they want to read more of whatever I write about in the future.  When they click my follow button, it’s because they think my problematic chin hair is hysterical, and they can’t wait to see what other gross things happen to my body as I get older.  I LOVE YOU GUYS!!

You guys should follow her – her name is Bel, and she’s very funny… and Canadian.   What more could you ask for?

You guys should follow her – Problems by the dozen
Her name is Bel, and she’s very funny… and Canadian.
What more could you ask for?

Lovely, faithful (REAL) readers aside, these fake followers have managed to suck one of the true joys out of blogging – the excitement of watching your follower numbers climb.  Every time I gained a new follower, it was an affirmation that I’m a good writer.  But now, that number is meaningless.  I know I earned the first 643 of those followers, but every one after that is a mystery.

WordPress, you do such a fantastic job of blocking spam comments from making their way onto our blogs, can’t you do the same for spam followers?  Please find a way to protect my innocent eyes (yeah, right… who am I trying to kid?) from having to see any more pictures of naked people riding bicycles.  PLEASE!!  And restore the kid-on-Christmas-morning joy that used to come from seeing our blog audiences grow.

A new blog follower just for ME?   Thanks, WordPress!  It's just what I always wanted!!

A new blog follower just for ME?
Thanks WordPress, it’s just what I always wanted!!

Six Degrees of Intimidation

There are people out there who set a course for their life early on, keep their sights fixed on that goal, and never waiver.  My husband, Kevin, is one of those freakishly focused people.  He knew the answer to the question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” when he was in the third grade.  I think that fact bears repeating – THE THIRD GRADE.

When all the other little 9 year-old boys were dreaming about becoming astronauts, magicians and professional baseball players, Kevin knew he would grow up to be a math teacher and from that point on he pursued his studies like a demon.  He landed his dream job when he was 22 years-old, and has been happily teaching in the same school district for more than half his life.

Now let’s take a field trip to the other end of the ambition spectrum and visit me….

I wanted to be a Harlem Globetrotter in the fifth grade.  I never took into account that I was about 4 ½ feet tall and had the athletic ability of the Pillsbury doughboy.

I wanted to be an Olympic gymnast like Mary Lou Retton in the sixth grade.  Still not paying too much attention to my athletic ability, but at least my height would no longer be an issue.  And I could do a mean summersault.

I wanted to be a veterinarian during my middle school years.  Although I was a C student in school, I thought my love of all things fuzzy and cute would surely make up for my lack of academic acumen.  I really just wanted to play with puppies and kittens all day long.

In high school I took my love of animals one step further and decided I was going to save the planet…. maybe not single-handedly, but I was going to lead the charge against animal cruelty.  I wanted to join up with Greenpeace and become a marine biologist.  Save the whales!!

I wasn’t really allergic to water…. just dying.

In my second year of college, I came up against a harsh reality – in order to save the whales, I would first have to sit through a lot of REALLY boring science classes.  I spent an entire semester in a class called phycology.  Do you know that that is?  You shouldn’t.  I sure as hell didn’t.  Phycology is the study of algae.  And as titillating as algae can be, I nearly fashioned a noose out of seaweed by the end of that semester, unsure of whether I wanted to hang my professor or myself with the slimy green rope.

I suffered through those science classes for nearly two years, barely scraping by academically.  After my first organic chemistry class, I decided enough was enough – the whales were going to have to suck it up and save themselves.  I marched myself up to my academic advisor’s office, changed my major to psychology, and never looked back.  Save the psychotics!!

No one told me that without a Masters degree or a PhD, my BA in psychology was about as useful as the decoder ring found at the bottom of a box of Cracker Jacks.  So I worked on the outskirts of the psychology field for a few years, and then did what any sane person with no goals or ambitions would do – I had kids and became a stay-at-home mom (cue PTA mom hate mail…… NOW).

Don’t get me wrong, I love being a mom and gain a lot of satisfaction from molding my kids’ young (thanks to me, probably also warped) minds.  But my cup-of-joy was far from running over.  It needed a little something extra, but what would make me happy?  Normally I would say a shot of tequila, but I didn’t think that was going to work this time.  Though I did give that option a try.  Repeatedly.

I like my cup-of-joy with salt and a little lime.

There was one thing that always made me happy – writing.  Even though I had many pursuits in my life, writing was my only true passion.  I wrote it off as a hobby for years because I thought I had about as much chance of becoming a professional writer as I did of becoming a ballerina…. and that wasn’t going to happen because I look completely ridiculous in a tutu.

In the past, I pacified my writing bug by keeping a diary, writing insanely long emails, and composing clever facebook status updates; all the while telling myself that I didn’t have the self-discipline and perseverance to sit down and write everyday.  What a dumbass.

But the older I got, the more my dream of becoming a professional writer kept needling me.  There was one serious problem I couldn’t get past though – in my mind, I wasn’t a real writer.  Between all the professional writers of the world and me, there seemed to be six degrees of separation intimidation:

  1. Real writers get their degree in English literature from ivy-league colleges.  I already told you about my Cracker Jack prize college degree…. what I didn’t tell you was that I got my degree in psychology because I wanted to get school credit for learning about serial killers.
  1. Real writers can dissect novels to find the deeper meaning behind the plot and characters.  The only thing I ever dissected was a frog in the sixth grade.  I don’t think there was any deeper meaning behind it.
  1. Real writers publish articles in influential magazines like Time and The New Yorker.  I don’t even read the articles in those magazines because they make my brain sweat.
  1. Real writers make millions of dollars writing boatloads of best-selling novels.  I wrote two half-finished novels then quit because I realized I have the attention span of a squirrel.
  1. Real writers count William Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, and Charles Dickens among their favorite authors.  I thought Stephen King was the only author out there until I got a job at a bookstore at age 27 and learned otherwise.
  1. Real writers live in trendy cities, wear trendy clothes, and eat trendy foods.  I live in the boring suburbs, wear boring “mom jeans”, and eat the same boring food I did when I was 10 years-old.  Sushi makes me want to gag.

I thought I was screwed because I had nothing even remotely resembling the qualifications of a real writer.  And without them, I was sure I would end up one of those sad, middle-aged people flipping burgers over at the local McDonald’s just so my husband and I could afford to put our kids through college (cue McDonald’s employee hate mail…. NOW).

 

Did somebody order the McBitchslap?

Then six months ago, I had a WTF moment – which is kind of like a light bulb moment, but feels more like a kick in the ass than an epiphany.  My thirties were coming to a rapid close, and before I hit the big 4-O next year, I wanted to stop all the dumbassery (Urban Dictionary says that’s a word), and start running down my dream.

A little inspirational Tom Petty moment for you.

I knew enough about myself not to attempt writing the great American novel, so I started a blog instead.  I’ll never forget the very first comment made by a total stranger– I squealed like a 10 year-old girl at a Justin Bieber concert and then danced around my living room.  Real writers probably didn’t do that either, but I couldn’t help myself.  It was a high unlike any other…. except maybe that one night of experimentation back in college, but that’s a story for another blog entry.

I didn’t think that high could ever be topped – until I got Freshly Pressed two months after starting my blog.  When I realized what had happened, I cried like I had won an Academy Award.  I gained 200 followers in one week, and I wasn’t even related to most of them!

But despite the outpouring of positive feedback from my readers, those six degrees of intimidation still haunted me and made me feel like my success was a fluke.  I reasoned that someone on WordPress must have gotten drunk and made a clerical error when they picked me.  It would definitely never happen again.

Then it did.

When I saw my blog on the Freshly Pressed page for the second time in six months, two things happened:  First, I nearly peed my pants…. okay I did pee my pants, but only a little.  Second, I had hundreds of people telling me that I was a good writer and for the first time, I actually believed them – that was a game changer for me.  In that moment, my cup-of-joy was not only running over, I was positively soaked from head to toe (the pee had nothing to do with it).

And I have all of you guys to thank for it.  Thank you SO much for believing in me before I was able to believe in myself.  Your words of praise and encouragement mean more to me than I could ever express in words.  Remember, I didn’t get my degree in English literature (like a real writer), so my vocabulary is really limited.  This picture kind of sums it up….

This was how I felt, but a little less Shawshank Redemptiony.

I came to a conclusion that day.

Even if I never get paid a dime.

Even if I never publish a best-selling novel.

Even if I never figure out what the hell William Shakespeare is talking about.

I am now, and will always be, A REAL WRITER.

With a Little Help From My Friends

Get Write Down To It has gotten its first blog makeover!  And I owe it all to my friend, Jeff – Buck, to those that know him best.  He’s a very talented graphic design artist and photographer.  Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself… go on… I dare ya….http://www.jdmcreative.com/index.htm

I met Buck my sophomore year of college, twenty years ago.  His easy-going nature and comical sense of humor drew me in immediately, and after only a few minutes, I felt like I had known him for years.  My major (at the time) was Marine Biology, and his was graphic design – which meant that while I was trying to memorize two-hundred different species of algae, he was making really cool looking dragons out of wire hangers.  Which, if you ask me, was monumentally unfair.  But I guess I shouldn’t complain because he also did stuff like this….

Much like the classical conditioning of Pavlov’s dogs,
Buck still gets severe hand cramps whenever he sees my face.

That’s not computer generated, folks.  He made that beautifulportrait of me completely by hand (just for perspective – it’s about 27 x 22), and gave it to me as a present for my 20th birthday – to this day, it’s one of the best gifts I ever got.  It now hangs in my living room for all to see… and think I’m a total narcissist.

Fast-forward twenty years…  (Marriages, mortgages, kids, careers, blah, blah, blah…)

When I started this blog, nearly four months ago, I immediately thought of Buck.  I ran to him, and pled my case of artistic ineptitude and techno-tardiness (What?  It’s totally a word).  And like the Superman of the art world that he is, he swooped in and saved a damsel in distress.

Buck said that he would play around with some designs for me, which I really appreciated because I knew he was already busy working long hours running his own business (http://www.jdmcreative.com/index.htm …. another shameless plug.  You’ll probably be getting another one of those in just a minute).  I didn’t give him much to work with – when he asked me what I was looking for, I said I wanted the design to have something to do with writing.  Could I be any more vague?  Probably not.

I only knew I wanted something that represented a writer’s blog better than the pretty blue flowers that were already up there (the “bouquet” theme on wordpress has pink, blue, or orange flowers that come preset).  Flowers don’t really have anything to do with writing, but when I set up my blog I knew I liked the color blue, and I liked flowers – see why I needed his help?

I think he did an amazing job!  The header is a glimpse into what I look like during my editing phase – have I mentioned I’m a compulsive editor?  I chew on my blog a thousand times before I spit it out to the masses.  If there are still typos in it when I’m done, it’s only because my eyes were too glazed over to see them.

Anyway…. back to the artsy stuff…

So, if there is anyone out there who needs help advertising their business (or blog!), Jeff does website design, brochures, videos, pictures and a whole slew of other artsy/ technical stuff that I don’t know anything about.  He’s also an awesome photographer.  He has the ability to make everyone that sits down in front of his lens appear photogenic.  I’m not sure how he does it…. I’m assuming he must have sold his soul in exchange for some sort of magical photography powers.  It’s the only explanation that makes sense.

If you visit his website and tell him Linda sent you, he’ll give you a free baby kangaroo!  I don’t know where he gets them… I try not to ask too many questions.

http://www.jdmcreative.com/index.htm

Click here for your free baby kangaroo

Confessions of an Emoticon Addict

I have an addiction for which there’s no twelve-step program or support group, making my hope of recovery dismal at best.  People sometimes ask me how my addiction got started.  Like most addictions, I suspect – in one brief moment of weakness.  I thought, “Hey, I’ll give it a try.  Everyone’s doing it.”  I didn’t see the harm in trying it, and I rationalized that I could stop whenever I wanted.  And in that one moment of keyboard experimentation, my emoticon addiction was born.

Long before I started texting, I was an avid emailer – that’s where my introduction to emoticons began.   At first, I used them sparingly; a single smiley face to emphasize a particularly funny joke.  I would sometimes go a couple of paragraphs without using a single emoticon.  Not ONE…. I know, hard to believe.  It’s been years now since my first emoticon, and I’m sad to report that my addiction has only grown stronger.

Only for emails?? That's just what the emoticons want you to think....

It’s gotten so bad that emoticons have nearly taken the place of proper punctuation when I write.  But in my own defense, what good is a period?  All it does is let the reader know that the sentence has come to an end, but leaves them wondering about the writer’s true emotional state.  For example:

“My grandmother died yesterday.”

After reading the above sentence, most readers would assume that the person is experiencing grief and depression at the loss of their beloved grandparent.  But what if Granny was geriatric hell on wheels and beat the grandkids with her cane every time they got within hugging distance?  A simple :- ) or :- ( placed at the end removes all doubt about the writer’s feelings, and spares the reader time spent on unnecessary speculation.  A smiley face at the end of that sentence might also save the reader money – no need to send a fruit basket or sympathy card if grandma was a total bitch, right?

And then texting came along, which only served to intensify my addiction – emoticons became my insurance policy against misinterpretation.  When you only have a sentence or two to convey your message, there is a lot of room for misunderstandings.  For example, you go out drinking with your friends, and you send your best friend this text the next morning:

“Quite a night last night, huh?”

Now your friend, who has a spotty recollection of the events that preceded their screaming hangover, is left to worry and wonder, “Oh no!  What did I do last night??”  Why not reassure them with a smiley face at the end of that sentence and let them know that they didn’t make a total drunken ass out of themselves?  With just a few extra hits of your phone’s keypad, you can make your friend’s blackout seem a whole lot less scary.

When I started texting with my thirteen-year old daughter, Meghan, about a year ago (click here for further details on that nightmare: My Two Left Thumbs), she took it upon herself to educate me about which emoticons were “acceptable for society” (yes, that’s a direct quote), and which ones weren’t.

The emoticon lesson came about because I unknowingly texted her an unacceptable smiley face that looked like this  :- ).  She actually rolled her eyes at me and said, “Mom, nobody makes them like that anymore.  That emoticon is SO old fashioned.”  Old fashioned?!  Seriously?  How can something that’s been around for less than a decade have a version that’s considered old fashioned?  It’s not like I’m making my emoticons out of sticks and rocks or painting them on cave walls.

When I asked her why it was old fashioned, she told me it was because of the nose.  So let me get this straight – just because teenagers are too lazy to make a dash for a nose, they decide to tell everyone that it’s not cool?  Brilliant.  I plan on implementing the same strategy with my family’s dirty laundry – I’ll tell my children that cool kids don’t wear clean clothes anymore.  Maybe if I roll my eyes and look at them like they’re stupid for wanting to wear clean underwear, they’ll believe me.

At the conclusion of my lesson, Meghan went on to text me ten or fifteen acceptable ways to show my emotions (to save me from future emoticon embarrassment).  Just to save you from the same, I’ll share her list with you (please note the lack of antiquated noses…. SO much cooler):

: )

:{ )   (the mustache smiley face, made cool by Victoria Justice – it makes me sad that I know that.)

: D

; )

; D

: p

: l

=)

=D

xD

Okay, I get it… just about any combination of eyes and mouths that the keypad can make, as long as the dash-noses stay the hell out of it.  But despite Meghan’s insistence, I still use a nose every now and then, coolness be damned.  One of the perks of not being a teenager anymore is the freedom to flaunt my old-fartyness without fear of peer persecution (though I’m sure I’ll still get progeny persecution from time to time).

Truth be told, I don’t use most of the emoticons on my daughter’s list, despite the apparent cool factor they bring to my text messages and emails.  I have more or less whittled my list down to three emoticons that I use for everything…. got stuck in an emoticon rut, I guess.  I think  : )   : ( and  ; )  pretty much cover all the emotional bases.  I tend to favor the winking emoticon because I know when I put it at the end of a sentence, I can be as sarcastic as I want and all will be forgiven.

I once surfed the web to find new emoticons because I was getting really bored with the three I was using.  I know…. I need to get a hobby.  But I was overwhelmed by the sheer volume of emoticons out there in cyberspace.  I knew when I saw smiley faces for Elvis, a priest, and a buck-toothed vampire missing one tooth, that I didn’t stand a chance in hell of EVER remembering any of the new emoticons.  After a few minutes, my brain shut down and decided that three was a really good number.  If you have a better memory than me, you can check out this  Ridiculously long list of emoticons.

Then in February 2012 my WordPress blog came along, and made my addiction even worse.  I didn’t think it was possible to depend on my emoticons more than I already did, but adding those stupid faces at the end of my comments has become an undeniable compulsion.  I wage a war inside my head every time I post a new comment or response – “Should I put a smiley face there?  No, I just used one two sentences ago!  It’ll look like I’m trying too hard.  But my last comment sounded kind of snarky.  What if they don’t know I’m only joking?  I NEED them to follow my blog!!  Screw it, I’m putting it in.”

I find that the compulsion gets worse if I’m writing to someone I don’t know well (especially on WordPress, where nearly everyone is a stranger).  I’m afraid that my teasing or sarcasm will be taken the wrong way, and I’ll accidentally piss somebody off.  But with friends and family, I know they’re familiar with my sense of humor, and won’t be as quick to think I’m an asshole….well….most of the time.

I think I may be too far gone at this point to even hope for a recovery from my addiction.  I can hardly remember a time before the invention of emoticons, a time when I trusted my words alone to express my feelings.  What the hell did I do back then to ensure that people knew when I was happy, sad, or only kidding??

My version of a confused emoticon.... this is why I'm a writer and not an artist.