1) Jack asks: Question from FB-land. Do you think you should be writing every day (as seems to be your philosophy) or that "your story will come out when it wants to"/"when you're ready, you will write" as is the theme of some of the memes you post.
I don't think these ideas are as mutually exclusive as you might suspect.
So first of all, I post quotes and shit I don't necessarily agree with 100%. Unless I really dislike it or it's got something really overt in it that is harmful (racism, classism, ableism, etc), it'll probably go in the queue. I run through a lot lot of macros. I can't afford to be super ideologically picky.
That said....there's still some overlap. You may write for years before the story that wants to come out makes you serious about coming to the page every day. And wanting to tell your story out doesn't mean you're going to have the skill to sit down and write it tomorrow. You might have to work a while at your skill set.
An awful lot of people start their writing journey because of a story they want to tell, that they then try to write, fail, write other things, establish themselves, and then return to many years later.
2) Catherine asks: How do you figure out your value as a writer?
You never will. You will always be wrong.
Most days you'll undervalue yourself. You won't believe the people who tell you how much you matter to them. You'll think the compliments are sweet but undeserved. Positive feedback will fade into a din and only the crack of criticism will penetrate. Other days you will be ten feet tall and no one will be able to convince you that your shit stinks.
Knowing that you'll never, ever, be right, the best you can do is hang on to that little voice that says you have something worth saying, and try to ride out the imposter syndrome.
3) Umeko asks: I am trying to start my own blog for sharing my webcomic, art, and poetry. How often should an artist ask for money?
Well, I can tell you what I do, and it's got my bills (barely) paid and about 2/3 of the way to not needing side gigs to keep my cell phone and car insurance. People tell me I could probably ask more often, but most of them are either already giving me money or are pretty supportive. I don't want to deluge people with nonstop messages so I try to thread that needle between asking too much and not enough.
Obviously there are the Paypal and Patreon links at the top of the page on the left and right where they're kind of hard to miss. I do some sort of appeal once a month––once directly to the social media where I share posts and once in the blog itself.
4) Olive asks: Why don't you make your longer FB posts into blogs? [Note: this is about my personal page.]
Kind of for the same reason no one tries to pay their bill with a paper napkin sketch. Oh wait.....
Sometimes I do. Many are the posts there that become a kind of "proto-draft" that ends up going into something I put on the blog later on. Maybe because I refine the idea or maybe because I just didn't expect how hard it would resonate.
But right now I'm down to three posts a week here and I write on FB a lot. That is just going to be where some of my more "fire and forget" writing lives and dies.
5) Anonymous asks: Can every single fucking social justice post you write that isn't actually about writing really be explained by "the narrative"?
I mean, I hate to be flip. I know what you're getting at. Sometimes I shoehorn that shit pretty hard to make it fit the theme of this blog and "the narrative" is like the lubricant that makes those square pegs slide right in to the round holes. (Metaphor frappé, anyone?)
But yes. Human beings tell stories. In really really real ways, human beings ARE stories. History is a story of how we got here. Politics is a story of who gets what and when. Polemics is a story of what we ought to find important. Most human beings exist as the main character in a story about their lives. Everything is stories.
So stop for a moment and consider just how fucking powerful it is to have CONTROL of those stories. To tell the stories you want. To be able to silence the ones you don't. To simply ignore the stories of the people you don't want to listen to. To be able to tell your story about an event and never let the person contradicting you tell theirs. To be able to make a person unsympathetic, even antagonistic towards what your story has established as a value. To dismiss a story as "fake" and have that be the end of its full consideration. To frame a whole group in one particular way or another––victim or aggressor (or whiner if they dare to try to tell their own story). To elevate one group's values, aesthetics, and THEIR stories as much, much more important than any others'. To frighten people into action by repeating stories of things that simply ARE. NOT. TRUE.
Yes, every single fucking social justice post can be explained by "the narrative."
6) Many ask: Can I take you to lunch/take you out to get a cup of coffee. Will you share your Amazon wishlist/Steam wishlist/Something wishlist.
You can BUY me lunch. That is to say you can drop the cost of a meal or cup of coffee or a drink into my Paypal and I'll be super grateful. If you're ride-or-die about wanting it to be for a meal, you can earmark it in the comments, and I can even email you back a picture of me enjoying it if you want. And if you really want to dazzle me for Christmas, instead of a $60 gift, register for an ongoing $5 contribution on Patreon for the next year.
However, I've had some weird––and, to be 100% honest, sometimes slightly scary––experiences being really open and accessible to my fans, and I've had to be more circumspect about getting to know people online and not really meet people unless we've known each other online for a while or are going to meet for the first time at a party or group gathering. I want to trust everyone, but some people don't see a person...they see what they've projected into me, and it's gotten me stressed, a little scared, and sometimes hurt.
As for wishlists and shit, the best thing you can do is drop me some money. I know it's not as fun or sexy, but I'll appreciate it a lot more. I promise. A couple of years ago, a bunch of people bought me stuff off various wishlists and I ended up with like eight video games and a bunch of books, but I had to borrow money for the last week of groceries. So I was playing the latest snazzy video games and eating Top Ramen for every meal and....just....cash is better.
7) Amber asks: Do you ever get PMed questions that just require too much emotional labor to answer or just make you feel gross?
All the time.
Usually it's people annoyed that they got banned from the page who want to double or triple down about whatever shitful shitgibbon hot mess thing they said. ("I see that you banned me for being so right you couldn't even handle it....") I like to imagine they spent a really long time writing it, because I don't even finish reading the thing before I delete it.
It's kind of breathtaking to me just how absolutely RUDE people will be and then not understand why they got kicked out. Like you would never ever say anything that to someone if you were in their house or even in a business and not expect to be thrown out. It's always the same fucking Chad-clones too, who think they are god's gift to rational thinking.
8) Becky asks: Most amusing instance of "Hey, aren't you the WAW guy?"
|"You've probably never heard of you."|
I got hipster street-cred'ed about my own work. It was spectacular.
Though I think the BEST one was at an Apple store. I was signing for my purchase and the person says, "That's so weird. There's this blogger I love with exactly the same––" and looks up and kind of makes this eeksqueal noise. And there was a lot of stammering and thanking on my part and feeling awkward and not knowing what to do (also on my part) and I mumbled and stumbled out wondering what had just happened. But I was about thirty feet tall for the rest of the day.
8) Monique asks: I can't see your earnings but it seems like you've been stuck on your current Patreon goal forever.
[Note: My current goal––that I am 92% of the way to reaching––is to try and cover the rising cost of health care.]
I kind of feel like I have too, Monique.
I've been inching up the entire year, and every month I gain a few and lose a couple and come out a few dollars ahead. So it's been glacial progress overall. Logistically that 92% is from zero (not from the last completed goal), so there's still a ways to go. That goal was created last year when the new tax code and health care changes had were made (I don't get to write off things like my office or computer under the new tax code and since I class as freelance, I pay for my health care out of pocket and always get a premium hike). I came up with a small, couple-hundred dollar goal that was intended to make up for the increased costs the IRS and DHHS (respectively) estimated those things were going up. Plus a little extra to cover some kind of dental care as well.
I've been struggling to reach it all year.
I don't share my exact finances anymore because some people who don't understand Bay Area costs sometimes think I have more than I need (I don't), and people are sort of shitty in general about demanding artists be destitute. So I tend to say things like "I am technically covering my bills" or "I still need side gigs if I'm going to have a car." However I will say that there's about $100 left in my current goal.
Unfortunately December is a really rough month, and I'm currently down $17 (below). A lot of folks re-evaluate their finances as the holidays approach, and cut corners. Plus I'm not a charity. (Though I did hear one cool story of someone who had money gifting a Patreon contribution as a gift for someone ELSE who wanted to support my blog but didn't have the money.)
|Lost a few, gained a few, but I lost a lot of $10s and gained a lot of $1s and $5s.|
9) Benny asks: If I may, I have another question (non-nano related) for the mailbox:
I've created and adopted a certain belief over the past few months that I've taken to heart for my thought processes while writing: "50% of all the writing advice, theory, and guidelines out in the world are simply armchair science, in the figurative sense. The other 50% is also armchair science, albeit in a more literal meaning. The best anyone can do is sit down, shut up, write, and hope we're not using too many commas."
*holds up hand palm down and tilts hand back and forth* "Nyeeeeeeeeeeehish?"
I'm not sure I'd approval-stamp anything so reductive.
You can write an awful lot of shit for an awful long time if you don't ever take any advice at all, Benny. It sort of depends on the advice. There's a part of this that is spot on. You have to write (a lot) and other than maybe some motivational speeches and eighties power chords, nothing is going to get you to that blank page and get your ass into a chair if you're determined to find excuses.
But the idea of "armchair" anything is that the people aren't actually doing the thing (armchair quarterbacks aren't actually PLAYING football, for example), but a lot of advice about how to write comes FROM WRITERS. It's not actually armchair, it's more like "Reports From The Field." Plus everything from process to craft to prose style to writing despite specific obstacles to advice about how to make money. Bit more there than just grim determination and hoping after commas.
10) Casey asks: How many people *do* you ban each week? And do the numbers go up significantly after Social Justice Bard posts? (I'm prepared to bet my non-existent pay cheque they do).
[Note: Casey's question is about Writing About Writing's Facebook page.]
That is not a bet anyone should ever take.
Roughly....a dozen or so a week. This year it may have been a little high because every single one of our polls has involved someone insisting that it's all just Social Justice Warrior "nonsense." And I'm pretty clear in the Commenting Policy that that shit will just get you banned right out.
Every once in a while someone is just grotesquely rude, but most of the reasons I have "Mayday provide folks with a drink" is because they drop trou and pinch a deuce in the comments of a post they don't feel they should have to even read. Entitlement is a helluva drug.
11) I have absolutely no interest in writing fiction but I do want to learn how to write more interesting, engaging non-fiction articles. What community college type course would be best for learning this skill? "Creative writing" seems to be focused on writing fiction, telling stories.
To answer your question simply, take a writing class that isn't creative. If you're new to college/community college, that's probably going to be Freshman composition. (Every college numbers and letters the class a little differently––where I taught it was Eng120.) If you've taken Freshman composition, take the next composition class.
Though at the community college level, I wouldn't write off creative writing. If you take a degree in creative writing, you'll end up doing more fiction than you probably want to, but a single class might be useful. Nonfiction can be VERY creative, especially if you want to have the kind of prose style that is engaging and interesting and not so much like a college essay.
You can probably skip the online poetry class with the professor who is clearly on vacation and (literally) phoning it in a couple of hours a week.
12) Several folks have asked: I love your blog and I'm so poor. I want to give you money, but I can't. Is there anything else I can do?
Hey, that's why it's free and always will be. I get it. There's about a hundred artists I'd love to hand money to if I could. The only thing you'll ever "miss out on" is a couple of different newsletters (one with personal updates, one with more news and the occasional status report––those things I share exclusively with my Patrons). But all the writing advice and any fiction I write will always be available for free, even if I also put up a Kindle version or have some print-on-demand copies.
Here is a list of ways people can help Writing About Writing. Numbers 3-6 involve no money. Everything from social media proliferation to letting me know you appreciate what I'm doing.
And of course more directly, you could always prop up posts like this one with a like or a comment, so more people (who maybe do have a few dollars to rub together) will see it.
13) Jason asks: Are either spam bots or troll bots appearing to gain any emotional connection capabilities?
Not that I'm aware of.
The spam I get MOST often through email is offers to write on my blog, and even if I didn't read it, it actually LOOKS like spam. It's all formatted in similar ways. The grammar is bad. It talks about how much it likes my blog in really vague terms that could be true of any blog.
What I get on FB is offers to "rent" my page. They'll give me two or three articles to run a day and then promise $5000 a month when it's over. Most of them try to send me a friend request too on my personal account. That's one of the reasons I ask everyone to include a quick PM letting me know they are an oxygen-loving human.
I think it's still a numbers game on their end. They don't need to work on "fooling" people. They just have to look passable. Because some number of folks out of every thousand will not notice or push the wrong button.
14) Lyra asks: I would actually be interested in the ratio of PMs (or any sort of direct feedback) that are positive or some constructive criticism that actually moves you forward versus haters, trolls, splainers and such.
Maybe one in ten? One in twenty?
Fortunately I'm getting pretty teflon-coated when it comes to the basic haterade stuff. That is usually deleted before I reach the second line. These days it actually takes a comment that has clearly understood and engaged my writing in good faith to get under my skin.
And then every once in a while, someone sends me something lovely, whether it is a sweet letter that they like my work or a donation or Patreon. Or they just slide into my PM to gush a little. One woman (after asking for consent first, like a considerate and proper human) sent me a thank-you e-card with some of the adult modeling she did, as sort of an "art-for-art" exchange. That day I heard my own theme song when I walked into rooms, lemmie tell ya. But no matter how mythically epic or simple the effort is, it's always such a blissful break to the monotony of the hate mail that I love the hell out of it.
15) Hélène asks: Do you use writing aids apps? If so, which? What writing aid app do you mostly use, and why?
I use Pages (the generic Apple program on Macs) to do my regular fiction writing. And most of my blogging goes right into the text field of Blogger's webpage. When I'm not online, I write my text in Pages. Sometimes I take notes in the Notepad. I know people swear by things like Scrivener, and I encourage writers to do whatever works for them, but I usually just have some hand scribbled notes next to my computer. The more complicated the program becomes, the more I get wrapped up in using it like an affectation and the less I just sit and do the goddamned writing.
I also had a bunch of those random topic generator apps that are supposed to help come up with prompts and shit to overcome writer's block. They were fun when I was trying to do random writing prompts with my friends as part of a writing circle, but I find that when I sat down to write every day, I actually experience a backlog of ideas. I will never write everything I've thought of, even if my ideas stopped coming tomorrow. It's like my To Be Read™ list.
16) What's the best way to set up a recurring payment?
Paypal will take out a tiny bit less as part of its payment processing if both parties have Paypal, but Patreon lets me send out rewards and thanks and updates and stuff just by pushing a button and is a lot easier to keep track of.
17) Wendy asks: How do you 'measure' writing productivity in a given day or week? Per page, per so-and-so many words, or per number of hours you've spent on it? What do you feel is the right amount (of words, or pages, or hours) for you?
I used to set goals like this, but these days it's more like a job. What am I doing from 12-6? Writing. I mean I guess that means I'm writing for 40ish hours a week and that feels like the right amount.
I think when I stopped setting page and word count and hourly goals was when I stopped feeling like I wasn't writing enough. Back then, I felt like I needed to push myself to write more so I was always increasing my expectations to kind of keep me honest. These days I pretty much write as much as I can with some time for reading and a LITTLE bit of time for Netflix and video games. In order to write more, I would have to be making enough money to drop my side gigs.
I suppose if I were just staring at the screen during my writing time, I might start to demand word counts from myself, but that hasn't been my problem for some time.
18) Amber asks: Are there some articles you've had in mind that you've just never started/finished because you worry that it's not your "lane"?
It happens all the time before I even start. One time though, it happened basically AFTER I was done.
I don't want to rehash the issue itself, but a little over a year ago when I was a bit more once-more-unto-the-breach about directly taking on social justice issues, I put about 20 hours in on a commissioned piece by a woman of color that she wanted about white feminism and....it was not my place as a guy to talk about feminism. I listened to the beta readers and backed off (even though there were lots of folks from other axes who were very eager to help me bring my skill set to something they felt strongly about). It was clear that trans folks wanted to talk about the issue, women of color (particularly Black women) wanted to talk about the issue, queer women wanted to talk about the issue, but it was also clear that as a guy, I needed to take a seat.
I tried to revise it into an article about intersectionality and the client found the result watered down and not the callout of white feminism she'd asked for. I offered to sell the original to her as a ghost writer (if she would revise it in her own words and publish it under her name), but that wasn't what she wanted, so I ended up eating the 20 hours and not getting paid, which you know--sucks about as much as anyone working half a week and then not getting paid, I imagine.
19) Egbert asks: Is there an archive of your polls on best series of various genres and/or diverse authors? Because they’d probably make really good reading lists.
If you go to the tags and click on "Poll Results" (or just click that link right there), you'll get only the results of our polls. You might have to scroll through them if you're looking for something from a few years back, but they're all there. The diverse authors polls were all this most recent year, so they'll be the first few results you see.
Watch for a big development in 2019. We now have enough people following the blog that I'm going to start archiving the results of our polls (and kind of making them just a little more "official"). I will replace them with more recent results if/when I run that same poll again a few years later.
20) Noora asks: I can only give you maybe a couple of dollars a month. Is that worth it to you?
I heart my big ticket Patrons so big. I send them post cards. I write them "Inside Scoop" letters about how I'm doing emotionally and mentally and the big projects coming up. I offer to name characters after them in my fiction. They keep me fed, and that's not a euphemism. They're the best.
But let me tell you a story. In the last two years, on two separate occasions, I lost over 10% of my income because ONE person couldn't keep up their support. It wasn't their fault. It was just life. I don't begrudge them for a second, but that's what happens when you have a few big donors and not enough smaller ones. One contract renegotiation in Montana and I get a 10% pay cut. One property tax reassessment in Denver and I go from "I can afford to go out to eat this month" to "Let's buy the store brand peanut butter."
What helps is to have lots and lots and lots of little donors. I can absorb one big donor with a life emergency without it being fully 10% of my income, and when little donors cancel (as many do every month) it's not that big a deal. Small donors together form sort of a thriving ecosystem that supports my writing in a way that even my big donors (bless them all to bits) can't actually do.
So absolutely. A couple of dollars. Five. Even one. It really does all matter.