I'll try to hit the nuance when there is some. (Like the tension between the ableism of prescribing writing daily but the unlikelihood that one could be a working writer without doing exactly that.) But sometimes I'm answering the question that is right in front of me and not accounting for every person's very special (if absolutely legitimate) circumstances. Sometimes people––who maybe had a very legitimate and traumatic high school experience in a cookie cutter public education system in need of systematic and systemic indictment, and maybe even had a shitty teacher or eight––are not the people with the expertise to know HOW to teach or why literature pedagogy is what it is. And for fuck's sake almost everyone ever who insists that writing every day doesn't help have never actually tried it.
I'm THRILLED that there are a few MFA programs out there who've incorporated speculative fiction or that someone published their NaNo novel, and don't be afraid to chime in. But please remember that I've been doing this for DECADES, it is my DAY JOB, half my friends are working writers, and the presence of a few outlier cases does not undermine the broader points.
I'm not saying you're wrong, but I usually know what I'm talking about.
2- I'm not very careful about images.
It's hard to watch every other blog in the universe be cavalier about movie screenshots and copyrighted images (sometimes even going viral with movie gifs) and then use a picture of an old flip flop for your great Avengers quote because that's what Googled turned up as creative commons.
I've got a few places I check first, like the Creative Common Licence Flikr page or the "free to use (even commercially)" image search on Google. Some images seem to be allowed to be proliferated if properly cited on a non-profit blog. But I'm not as careful as I would be if I were hosting ads and making millions. Unless they are a picture OF me (or something around me), they are absolutely not mine, and I will never ever claim that they are. I put copyright info when I post commercial images and/or any time I can tell where they're from. I try my best, but the internet is a tangled thicket and not every image is watermarked (WHICH I WILL NEVER USE) and things are stolen and restolen so many times that it is sometimes impossible to know where they're from.
So if I'm using an image that is yours (or your client's), please just tell me how you'd like me to handle it. (I'll take it down. Give you credit. Make it a link back to your page. Apologize for my impudence. Write a post about how awesome you are for not making a federal case of it. Whatever*.)
Just don't expect me to fall for the licencing scam. This is not my first rodeo. I've got too many blogger friends at this point; I know that it's JUST a scam wearing a suit. (Amazing what you can find out with a quick search of the BBB.) You go ahead and take me to court and have fun trying to prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a judge how much of my poverty-wage crowdfunded income from writing is due to your ONE image on the ONE post rather than my writing (or conversely that where I got your image from was clearly labeled as requiring a licence fee). I'm absolutely sure that will be worth it for you. Oh and by the way I'll be invoicing every hour I spend dealing with you at my top tier freelance rate for a counter-suit. Won't this be fun!
I really do try to avoid any image with a big flaming "Don't use my shit without permission" sign on the web page or a clear copyright watermark, or from companies I know don't give a crap if you give them proper credit, but sometimes I end up with such image through an intermediary with less regard. If I've used a image that I didn't know was stolen, I will do what it takes to make amends. And I will never pass off work that isn't mine as my own.
3-There will (probably) never be ads, but I might remind you of the tip jar and my Patreon once or twice a month-ish. Writing About Writing is and will always be free. And these days we don't even have any ads. (Although technically I might put one up for a product I actually endorse.) But I'm a pretentious artisté and I dream of writing paying for a small space to call my own. Twice every month-ish (once as a blog post and once as a post directly to social media), I'll write a post reminding people that if they want to support us, or if they want to get more and better content, we need to cover the bills without a 20-30 hour-a-week side gig. Through the generosity of readers, I've been able to quit teaching, stop driving all over the Bay Area to pet sit, and have some boundaries about how much I will nanny small children, but I'm still beholden to more hours of side giggery that could be spent making with the clackity clack. And beyond that, I would love to make improvements like professional design and admin help. As little as a single dollar a month (just $12 a year) through Patreon helps me to write more and gets you in on some private conversations about future projects.
4-In this blog, I mostly talk about creative writing, specifically fiction.
While the concerns of other genres of creative writing dovetail with fiction somewhat, and all writing in general has a few things in common (like words and periods and stuff), they are also quite different in form, content, style, and execution. Fiction is not journalism, and neither of those is technical writing. So if you are making a pretty goddamned decent living gritting your teeth through the boredom while writing instruction manuals for digital cameras and food processors, and wonder what the hell I'm on about when I talk about the high passion and low pay of a writing career, it's not because I think you're not a "real" writer. (You absolutely are!) It's just because "Blogging about Fiction Writing" isn't as catchy of a title.
5-I am not very good at computer stuff.
Actually, that's like saying I kind of like pizza a little. I may have links that go nowhere or images that don't load. I can usually fix that stuff if you bring it to my attention. There are sometimes some weird formatting errors where it looks like some of the text is the wrong font or font size, and I can't seem to fix it, no matter what I do. I suppose there are people who know enough HTML that it would be no trouble for them, but I am not one of those people.
Some day when I'm making enough that I'm not side gigging to afford brand name peanut butter, I'm going to hire someone to clean things up.
6-There might be some satire in here somewhere. Maybe.
You should probably take a satire class if you don't know how to recognize it when you see it. The Onion offers some online correspondence courses that are top notch. I highly recommend them.
When I'm doing super awesome, I have a couple of articles in the hopper for days where I can't really get in front of the computer for hours. (Just so we're clear, of the crystalline variety, the last time that happened was 2013.) The pandemic has me further behind than normal, and a series of unfortunate events has befallen me in the last 18 months or so, so I'm hanging on by a thread most weeks. Some days there is an emergency or I get sick or I'm just getting my ass kicked by my childcare hours. It's just me here and I still need a second job to pay all the bills. I'm doing the best I can.
8- The Unforgiving Reality of "Making It" as a Writer
I write to a broad audience. Certain advice here at Writing About Writing (such as writing every day) is a panacea to all of the most common difficulties for which people often request advice. While questions about how to monetize a blog or publish a short story might have specific answers, general questions like how to "make it" or how to "improve" [which I get multiple times a day] all have the same basic answer. In fact, this question has the same basic answer in any of the arts (or any entertainment): practice. Musicians, sculptors, painters, actors, and writers––they all practice…often for years before they go public. And while gains can be made in any discipline with periodic or even sporadic practice, professional artists almost unswerving try to practice daily (or very nearly so).
While I make every effort to acknowledge the ableism of prescribing daily writing without caveat, the grind of capitalism to make finding time to work on one's art difficult or impossible, or the absurdity of arbitrating the title of "real writer" on anyone, I cannot alter the fundamental realities of how demanding the journey will be to get better at art. Certainly not if the goal is to quit one's day job and survive capitalism by doing art, and absolutely not if one's goal is to be well beloved by, in the case of writing, the reading community. No one in any career––athlete, surgeon, chef, actor, or writer––will achieve the status of renowned in their field without a lot of long hours and probably more than a few weekends. Many household name writers write every day (or six days a week). [Just as many musicians practice every day and many painters sketch constantly.] Call it harsh advice or a hard pill to swallow or just a reality check. I can acknowledge that the obstacles, but I can't change the world in which those are the people who have what many would-be writers want.
Please don't assume that I think everyone should or even CAN give this much dedication to their writing. I just don't know of any shortcuts to the things so often cited as goals. (Comfortable careers as working writers or legions of fans.) Also, most writers absolutely need to hear (over and over and over again) that their main problem is that they're NOT applying their asses to a chair and they further need the splash of cold water that they're not going to achieve those career-caliber dreams if they're putting in weekend warrior effort.
9- Comments are moderated.
This is not the wild west. You are not entitled to say anything you want. Check my comment policy for more info. Even though that's technically for Facebook, it should give you an idea of how to comport yourself here.
I mentioned this in my last post before I went a bit silent, but the co-worker and good friend of Rhapsody sustained fatal injuries in a robbery. She died on Feb 9th.
Rhapsody has returned to the bakery that Jen owned with the intention of carrying on the business with all the employees. She has been stepping up to much greater responsibilities, trying to piece together all the lessons of running a bakery that she hadn't yet been taught, and processing the barely-fathomable grief of the sudden and violent loss of of a very close friend at the same time.
I live with Rhapsody and her two boys. I knew Jen, but not the way Rhapsody did, and mine has been a support role. I've been watching the kids a LOT more, taking on some extra chores, trying to organize help offers, and just being available and holding space.
My writing has felt the impact of this month.
I have a few half done articles, (including one about Jen and Angel Cakes and some terrible behavior on the part of some very scared people that should be showing up this week). I do take my own advice about writing daily through adversity. But clearly I had to put life on pause, and I could not focus—nevermind focus for several hours a day.
While grief is a fickle monster, and I can't predict a smooth transition, Rhapsody has returned to work and the boys are back in school (after being sick for a while). I've had a few moments here and there to tuck myself away and smith a few words. It will probably be a reduced schedule at first and then ramp up. I would also expect some hiccups along the way.
I wanted to make sure I have an update for everyone as we head into March. I know it's been quiet. This story was national news, but it touched me in a very personal way.
The boss and good friend of my nesting partner—who I call "Rhapsody" here in the blog—was the victim of a violent robbery, is in critical condition, on life support, and not expected to recover. Rhapsody is dealing with anger, grief, overwhelm, on top of uncertainty about the future of her job and the state of our household expenses, and I am in full support mode.
The blog may need a couple of days before it's back up and running.
For those interested in helping: of course all the usual ways are still wonderful, but also right now, it would be great if we could fund this Gofundme. The allotment of financial support will help Jen's partner and mom deal with expenses but will also help the business stay open and keep the employes of the bakery employed.
My "can't even" about the comments on my Facebook page went from figurative to literal.
At over a 1.2 million followers, gentle reminders have stopped working, admin-ing comments has become virtually impossible, delicately explaining is a waste of my time, and my patience for unacceptable behavior is exhausted. Too many people ordering a double helping of savage without even a side order of chill. The laws of large numbers are starting to ensure that even if thousands upon thousands of people understand the spirit in which something is presented, someone will be having a bad day or not read carefully or think they understand a phrase that they don't, or read in maximally bad faith....or even just be a troll in my dungeon.
Thus, the time has come for an official commenting policy so that folks won't be making their best I-just-ripped-this-guy's-helmet-off-and-it-turned-out-to-be-Robert-The-Bruce-Mel-Gibson-as-William-Wallace-during-the-battle-of-Falkirk betrayed faces when I ban their asses.
Here's the TL;DR part for those of you who don't want to have to read very much:
This isn't 4chan. You don't get to say whatever you want because of "free speech." It's my space. Think of it more like you are in my house and I am putting on a show for you. If you are abusive or contemptuous, comport yourself in such a way that any human being with feelings whose hospitality you were under wouldn't invite you to come back, if you use bigoted slurs, if you are dismissive or derisive about posts that would be commonly labeled as "social justice," promise to (or threaten to) flounce from the page, "dare" me to ban you, or post spam links to either your own writing or a commercial site, or do slimy hitting on people in the comments, you may be banned without warning.
Now here's the nuance if you want to understand it a little better: Itty bitty point- If risqué language will make you blush, buckle up or do a tuck and roll dive out the passenger side. This shit's not going to fucking stop and I'll fucking ignore the fucking comments and PM's demanding it fucking does. Golly. Itty bitty teeny tiny point - If you block an admin, you're out. If you make some nasty comment on your way out, I will cheerfully delete it. Discuss it like an adult, or leave like an adult. Your tantrum gets you nothing.
Smol point- If you slam the door on your way out, it'll lock behind you. And if you dare me to kick you out, I always, always ALWAYS will. If you're joking around ("Blokt!"), please make sure I know it.
I care about you and I care about you achieving your goals. What am I if not a supportive, but occasionally firm cheerleader? If you flounce, I'll help you stick to it because I know that's what you would want. If you tell me you're going to flounce, but don't seem to be able to find the door, I'll make sure you know right where it is. If you threaten to flounce in a spectacle, I'll make the decision much, much easier for you. I'm here for you, pal. Plus that's just rude.
Tiny point- No, I'm not going to stop posting links to my blog. Ever. At least once a day (sometimes two or three, just to annoy the haters). That's the reason this page is here–to try to drum up a few hits and build an audience. (It's only kind of worth the effort, but it's better than nothing.) You don't ever have to visit the blog if you want to just enjoy the puns and the inspiration memes and whatever I find about writing that tickles my brain, but the snotty emails and whiny tears telling me that my page would be "so great if you just stopped all that self promotion" will be used to fuel my Genesis device.
Your tears keep me young. I'm actually 248
Reasonably moderate sized point- I'm up to fifty or so PM's a day. (Deplorably, none are million dollar contracts! I mean why did I even want to be a writer again?) Most are spam or asking me for some kind of free editing or beta reading or to share their own page something. So I don't even reply to the majority of them. My freelance/tutoring rate is $60USD/hr and TRUST ME that you don't want me doing copy editing (though I'm pretty good at content/developmental end). If your solicitation for help does not include some indication that you plan to pay me or do me a comparable service, I will simply ignore it. (I get way way way too many of those every day.)
Check out my Facebook FAQ, and you'll probably find the answer to your question. At least you'll find the answer to 95% of the PM's I get.
Also if you PM me, please keep in mind that I'm just a human being. I listen to the Encanto Soundtrack, watch Hawkeye with my family, play Fallout 4 and cuss when I stumble into an Alpha Deathclaw at 12th level, love Robert Asprin books despite myself, can't tell when someone's flirting with me (to. save. my. LIFE.), and try to write every day. I'm self conscious about how gaunt my face looks in some light after I lost a bunch of weight because of cancer, I cry when large swaths of my friends excuse torture so long as it is done to the "right sort of people," and have a really, really bad next-day if I eat too much pizza. Messages demanding I do X immediately or take down Y post because you didn't like it or "HOW COULD YOU..." will be cheerfully ignored. Add in some schoolyard shit talk to this kind of bullshit, and I will do my best Strong Bad "DELETED!" as I ban you.
Kind of slightly large point- As of this writing, I cannot (and in many cases will not) read the comments on this page.
There are OVER a million of you and one of me. (Well…sort of two. But usually it's only one of us at a time; my assistant only jumps in when I'm unable to.) I often max out the 99 notifications for this page in less than two or three minutes. I cannot POSSIBLY keep up with all the comments even if maintaining FB were my only job (it's not). Furthermore, what was once a playful community with the occasional legit jerkwad easily dealt with has become more and more like the bottom half of the internet (and all that that implies). I actually avoid the comments unless I suspect it's a post which will attract bigots and I need to do my banning thing. When half a million people are seeing something, the law of large numbers suggests that someone, somewhere read it wrong, is upset about something else, needs lunch and a nap, wants to pick a fight, or just generally is going to be a complete anal seepage dripping asshole about it. I know it's a statistically tiny amount, but the number of people confusing shitposting with clever makes me weep, and when people think that disagreeing with something they see automatically means they can behave in the worst way imaginable. I know you just came here to attack and now you're feeling such a good time, but I like parading through people's rain. Seriously though, enough people are really, really mean that it hurts my soul. It's honestly not good for my mental health to even try to read them all.
Which means three things pragmatically:
ONE: if someone is being a complete ass in the comments, send me a link through PM, and I'll decide what to do. (Ban them. Warn them. Rickroll them. Whatever.) But I miss 90+% of what's going on in the comments, so don't count on me to step in if you haven't notified me–I probably don't even know it's happening. Please send me a link so I know WHERE the problem is happening. I post several posts a day and sometimes the comments go on for a week or more, so I'll need help finding where to go.
TWO: I won't even see, and certainly won't reply to a lot of comments. I just can't. It hurts me in my tender fee-fees to try. I know some of you definitely are addressing the page admin with your comments, but you'll have to send me a PM if it's in some way urgent.
I've also ignored a lot of comments lately that either missed the point or clearly hadn't read the entire piece they were responding to. It's not personal; it's just a time thing. Read what you're responding to if you want me to take a comment seriously.
*Protip: demanding to know the answer to a question that is answered in the first paragraph of the post is generally a pretty good hint that you didn't do the reading.
Over the years, I have learned that (especially on the Internet) if you point out that someone clearly hasn't read something, they are more likely to attack than take the suggestion with some humility.
Also, if you really want me to reply, send a PM. Just remember that whole "human" thing if you tread that path or I will make 30-year-old pop culture references at you by saying, "You chose.......poorly."
THREE: I don't have time to gently warn everyone. ("Now now. There's a human being with feelings on the other end of your apoplectic abuse.") I'm assuming you already know how to be a decent person and that the internet sometimes helps you to forget. If I see bad faith behavior, I'll just start swinging the ol' Ban Hammer™Mjölnir [I call it M.J. cause we're THAT close.] You should know better than to behave that way (and you WOULD know better in any space that wasn't online). My warnings are reserved for folks who maybe didn't know they were on thin ice.
And they get exactly ONE.
Large point- This is my page. It's free content for you delivered straight to your computer on an average of 12 times a day (depending on the FB algorithm). This free content you enjoy takes me somewhere between 30 minutes to 90 minutes a day of unpaid labor. I'm going to post what I want. I'm going to post what I find fascinating. What I find interesting. What I find funny. What I find engaging.
And I'm going to post my blog. Even though it's sometimes a very thin connection to writing, delves into socio/political issues, or talks about my personal life.
I welcome suggestions. I welcome dialogue. I welcome discourse. I welcome concerns. I welcome criticism. (As I said above, you will likely have to PM me to get my attention since there are so many of you, but I still welcome this stuff.) I will be especially receptive to the concerns that something I've posted has inadvertently engaged in some sort of institutional harm.
However, if you comment (or PM for that matter) like you're entitled to have MY page be whatever you want in the same way you might scream at the Spokane McDonalds night shift manager because there isn't lobsterthermidor on the menu, I can promise you that the conversation will go one of two ways: If you're just being boorish and demanding without regard for the fact that I'm not a robot in a skin suit sent from Khyron Beta Prime to please your every whim, I'll ignore while singing old Starship songs. ("And we can BUIIIIIIIIIILD this dream together...") If you're being abusive, I'll ban you. There are OVER A MILLION of you. Even if I had an interest in keeping everyone happy, I couldn't.
And, shhhhhh, I don't have any interest in keeping all of you happy. Some of you status quo defenders I very much want to disturb. To say nothing of bigots.
So I'll be true to myself, and if that bothers you SO. FUCKING. MUCH. that you can't give the ol' scroll wheel finger a quick workout, then you get to talk to me like I'm a sensitive artist and shit. Because I am a delicate fucking creative flower, goddamnit! FUCK!
Add to an above demand a threat to flounce if I keep doing what you don't like, and I will just assume that I should show you the door to save myself future headaches.
If, on the other hand, you're just going to feel jilted if this page isn't exactly what you want to see all the time, you should feel absolutely free to spend the next five years posting 10-15 pieces of content every day about once an hour to build up your own audience, and then you can make that page whatever you want.
No promises that I won't stop by and complain though. Just for the symmetrical beauty of it all.
This goes just as well if I post a joke you don't "like." I care (deeply) if I've inadvertently dehumanized a group of people. I don't care that some didn't get the joke or didn't find it funny or it made fun of Christianity or something. If you don't stop to look up what a phrase meant before assuming bad faith, that's not my problem. And trying to guilt me by telling me there are children or second language learners who might take it seriously won't really get much traction either since children shouldn't be here and I'm not billing myself as an educational site. Learning to navigate a world in which some written rhetoric involves satire, irony, or sarcasm is part of the cost of business in English, and my job on this site isn't to act as those filters for others.
Again, if something bothers you that much, drop me a PM and let's chat. But remember the "catch." If you want to get a message back: you have to treat me like a human with feelings. Last I checked, the cybernetic brain overlay had yet to take.
Beyond Hella Huge Point (about social justice)-
Every goddamned time I post an article or meme or anything that deigns to intersect with how writing and writers affect social issues,
...or an interpretation of a work of art or entertainment that challenges the status quo, how language reflects societal prejudice,
...or how whitewashed, sexist, and anti-LGBT publishing is,
....or the narratives through which we define our world that could use scrutiny,
a new gaggle of jerkwads end up being shown the door.
Or hell, even just post a little Content Notice on something they think isn't a problem–so much so that it must be mocked.
It's not that they disagree. Disagreement I can handle. The comments all over this page are filled with disagreement–we're definitely no echo chamber. The problem is they either decide to react in the most dismissive and derisive way possible ("This is SJW crap!" "Ableism? That's insanely [r-word] you [c-word].") in which case this page is not for them, and I don't particularly want to have to deal with that shit post after post...OR they outright lose their composure and abusively attack other members or me for taking the time and energy to attempt to explain the frame of an issue or share a personal perspective on a topic.
If what essentially amounts to free tutoring about how language affects people who aren't exactly like you is going to be shat on because you wanted to "win" an argument, have the last word, condescend to the suggestion that the world is unequal and our print media might play a part in that, or treat people like crap for sharing an opinion that challenges the status quo, Writing About Writing is simply not for you.
There is a one-to-one echo that exists within this reaction that I am pretty sensitive to (mild CN for abuse dynamics): abusers gas lighting their victims. Instead of taking a moment to consider why someone is upset, that they are accurately able to assess their own mental state, that they can be trusted to relay when they are feeling hurt, or that their life experience of marginalization may be something worth listening to, often they are told they are being dramatic or ridiculous and dismissed outright. Their feelings and even their actual experiences are invalidated. We see this in a personal relationship and it raises our hackles (hopefully), but when a group in social power (like men) do it to a group they have social power over (like women or gender variant folks) on a massive scale, it is considered perfectly normal behavior. And it can even cause the people who are constantly being dismissed and derided to question their own perceptions of reality.
(I think abuse and oppression have a number of shocking parallels, but maybe a post for another time.)
Let me be blunt about this. (Cause I've been sweetly dancing around the point until now.)
Y'all are fucking writers, and this is a page about fucking writing. You fucking ought to know better than anyone that words carry tremendous fucking power...possibly even to invoke fucking harm. Nobody ever silently went to war or committed genocide without fucking words fueling them first. No one ever articulated a justification for racism or sexism that caused people actual PHYSICAL HARM without using fucking words to do so.
And nobody ever said "let's fucking commit human atrocities because we're just that evil" either. They always always ALWAYS fucking rationalized it away as necessary for their own protection....and they did so using fucking words. "Just" words.
So if you sit on your couch every November 5th watching a dude in a Guy Fawkes mask bloviate between the fight scenes that, "Words offer the means to meaning," and then starts a revolution because the "truth and perspectives" of his words are bulletproof, and then you imagine yourself leading said glorious revolution with your own martial arts skill and throwing stilettos, yet you then turn right around and roll your eyes at "those damned Social Justice Warriors" being all "oversensitive" to some slur you didn't mean "that way," you are DROWNING in the irony of social power dynamics and your own double standards.
I'm not going to have a conversation every single time I bring up an issue of social equality with folks whose main conceit seems to be: "writers should be able to write whatever they want." You already CAN write whatever you want. You can write your sausage fest story with no people of color and one woman who constantly needs rescuing, and ignore every bit of advice out there about how to make deep and interesting characters Literally no one will stop you. And if you're in a situation where you can't write whatever you want (politically or socially), it's certainly not upholding the status quo that is what you're not "allowed" to write. Further writers often do write whatever they want no matter how harmful or objectionable. Rarely are their careers even impacted and occasionally that's what launches them. If these writers stay off the pages that criticize them, they don't even have to have their feelings hurt. So if you're going to react with hyperbole and loss of composure to anyone asking you to consider how and what you write....on a blog about writing, Writing About Writing is definitely not for you.
But CENSORSHIP, Chris! But FREEZE PEACH!
Do you know what I hear Danny? Nothing. No footsteps up the stairs, no hovercraft outside the window, no clickeyty-click of the little spiders. Do you know why I can't hear those things Danny? Because right now, no one is stopping you from saying whatever you want. I'm not a government agent. This page isn't a public park. You have conflated freedom of speech with entitlement of medium.....Danny.
In case that was too subtle.
If you've mistaken a governmentally protected freedom with the absence of consequence, feel free to study up on both again. (But for ten bonus points, see if you can identify the irony in trying to silence criticism by invoking your "free speech" ad nauseum.) And your little guilt trip, complete with a high school comprehension of the word "Orwellian," is not going to prevent me from moderating comments in my own space. This isn't even a social justice activism page. I'm going pretty easy on you comparatively. I don't expect you to be fully intersectional (or even to know what "fully intersectional" means). But the cliche that “You are awful and hate free speech if you block or ban people” is regurgitated mostly by the same entitled dillholes who don't like it when people have boundaries....at all....ever....about anything. I have like eighteen jobs and NONE of them are listening to you patiently explain why people shouldn't be allowed to define their own realities and tell their own narratives.
If you want to drop some hateful commentary, share my article in your own space with commentary. Otherwise be ready to be shown the door.
Frankly, I'd rather have a smaller following where those who normally run screaming from the comments sections on most of the internet feel comfortable participating in the conversation, than a large following where the Status Quo Defenders speak over and run roughshod over anyone who has the temerity to suggest that maybe arts and humanities do something wacky like affect social perceptions, that representation matters, and that once in a while we might ought to think about such things. The whole damned world will let the people in power decide what is ridiculous to care about (spoiler: it's always going to be anything that challenges their power in any way). Here I want an actually diverse conversation, not just more and louder and more hostile dismissiveness reinforcing the status quo and actively silencing such voices.
I care about how to question whether narratives are reinforcing institutional harm. I care about how much of the writing that exists (even wildly popular writing) often reinforces harmful status quos like racism, sexism, heteronormativity, transphobia, and more–things are ingrained in many of our narrative tropes or through our lack of or type of representation. If you want me to be vapid about the impact of writing and stick to linguistic prescriptivism that makes fun of legitimate English dialects (often in a vaguely racist and definitely classist way) or those who struggle to get the right homonym, drops the same dozen articles (and their knock offs) over and over on how to publish your novel/find an agent/write a query letter, and never really asks you to think hard thoughts about how powerful writing is in creating the stories shape our culture, Writing About Writing is positively absolutely unequivocally not for you.
"Because maybe....JUST MAYBE, arts and humanities affect social perceptions and that's worth examining once in a while..."
If we can't at least consider and think about these things, we're just telling the same stories over and over again, not really exploring new ones.
In case that little Rantsalot moment was too gentle or esoteric: If your reply is nothing more than "This is PC bullshit!" or "This is crap. You're the real sexist!" or "Shut the fuck up with this pandering crap!" (or any of the thousands of variations on this theme that is intended to silence through dismissal that I've heard over the years) and certainly if you use bigoted slurs or double down on your "right" to be sexist, misogynistic, racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, or fatphobic after you've been asked to stop, I will use my admin tools to show you the door*.
Don't worry. The other million of us will carry on without you.
You don't have to agree with me. You DO have to play nice in my playground.
Me and M.J. hitting the town. Get it? "HITTING" the town...never mind.
*Once upon a time when I was getting such comments once a month, and before loved ones had cancer and before I had cancer and before there were kids in the picture and before I needed to write a novel four years ago, I had the time to warn and explain the problem gently with each person in an exhausting choreographed dance (that lead to a banning or a flounce 99% of the time anyway); however, I do not have the time or energy to continue to do this. I will simply protect this community from harm and/or that status quo defender bullshit. ADDITIONAL INFO The Just Not Worth It Clause You are in my space. (You are not entitled to be here.) You are generally welcome as long as you refrain from a few choice behaviors (see above). However, I am under no obligation to extend infinitely my hospitality to those who are constant sources of negative energy and make my work unpleasant so long as you technically don't break the rules. It might take a while for me to recognize your name, longer still to watch you for a while, and even longer to decide what to do, but if you are constantly argumentative, unpleasant, bellicose, condescending, and generally negative, I will eventually show you the door. Because this is my space, and it's just not worth it to me to have to put up with that on post after post. And if you're firmly and often representing yourself as unwilling to understand issues such as systemic inequality, the scripts of oppression, the difference between bigotry and pointing entitlement culture, or things like that, I may eventually decide that my space is not for you. Guest posts: I'll leave up anything (even if I don't fully understand it) unless it is to a commercial site or it is self-promotion. The former will be removed and the poster banned. The latter will be removed (and if it keeps happening the poster will be banned). If you want to promote something on my page, message me. Whether or not I say yes will depend on how much it has to do with writing. Basically I'm not going to let people spam my readers.
Pedantry: Knock yourself out, (lord knows I could use the help) but keep in mind the other rules before you decide that what your grammar fix needs is to be slathered in the gravy of bumptious superiority. I'll fix it if I can. The more obnoxious and condescending you get about it, though, the more I'm going to look at that ban button like Sylvester looks at Tweety. And if you are being classist and racist by mocking a legitimate dialect of English or a second language learner or something, Tweety's not long for the world. Links in comments: If they're not absolutely relevant to the topic or are clearly self promotional, I'll erase the comment. If it keeps happening I'll swing The Ban Hammer™Also, just so you know, I kind of hate people who respond to my writing about a topic with someone else's writing about the same topic. Like I know it's petty, but I'm here to promote my OWN shit, not someone else's.
Bot Commenting: The engagement is appreciated, but the generic reply-to-anything comment will eventually get you banned.
Trolling Comments to Hit on Folks:
I ban anyone who trolls the comments hitting on femme presenting folks. No questions. No appeals. You will be shown the door. This is not the space for that and I want those folks to feel safe commenting here, not as if doing so is going to open them up to being oozed.
(And just to anticipate a possible social script designed to protect this sort of behavior, if you can't tell the difference between genuinely striking up a conversation that MIGHT end up in a "Hey would you be okay with a friend request?" and the behavior I'm talking about [usually appearance based, usually IMMEDIATELY focused on a friend request, almost always cut and pasted to multiple people], then you shouldn't be doing either.)
Post Attribution: I get macros from all over the intersphereweboverse. Pinterest. Other pages. Friends share things they find with me. Old posts. Even Tumblr. The internet is like that with people posting and reposting. Original attribution can be incredibly hard to find after things have been through multiple layers of reposting (even with things like reverse search images, which even if they always worked [they don't] add enough annoyance and time sink to an already thankless labor of love to make it not worth it). Plus many artists are happy to see their work proliferated just so long as it has their watermark on it.
As a content creator myself though, I know how much it sucks to watch something you made go viral for someone else without so much as a link or even attribution. If I've posted something that belongs to you or someone you know or have posted a webcomic with a watermark that you can't bear to see not linked with a URL, let me know and I'll edit the post.
Or if it's yours and you want me to just take it down, repost with attribution, or whatever to handle the situation. Unfortunately, there are some people will try to claim credit for something they didn't make, even editing out an existing watermark, so I'll be looking for some small indication of actual source-age. (Usually that's a trivial matter for a content creator of linking the original post.)
I am happy to do this. But please remember a couple of things: First, you need to message me (rather than just comment) if you definitely want me to see it because I don't reliably engage with comments (see above). Second, be kind. There are basically a million of you and one of me and I am putting up 15 posts a day, so what seems like a trivial effort to you on a single post may not be to me, especially over time. If you want to be the attribution police rather than just a friendly "Hey I found a source on that post for you!" feel free to go run your own page and find out what a headache it can be.
Responding to Posts (Especially Answering Mailbox Questions) Without Reading the Article Listen....
This one gets like four and a half stars.
I am a flawed, frail human being.
One of my human failings is that even though I understand the FB algorithm and how engagement helps, it really annoys me when I post something I spent an hour (or two or three or five or EIGHT or MORE) writing, and people jump into the comments to take it upon themselves to read answer the question CLEARLY without having read the article. It just irritates the fuck out of me.
It's like reading your own shit at another author's Q&A. It's like using your "question" at a convention to talk for five minutes and then say, "Do you agree?" to a panelist. I'm glad you found the question provocative (I really am!), but JOIN the conversation. Don't start a new one of your own in MY comments. Sometimes these replies don't even realize they're suggesting exactly the same thing I did or have used one or two of the same examples. It's great that we're all on the same page, but how rude! It's like those cartoons where someone suggests something and then another character says the same thing. In the world of comments at the end of posts, you usually at least see people who have engaged with the article (sometimes they clearly didn't get past a certain point before commenting, didn't understand a part, or were reading in bad faith, but you generally don't get replies that disregard the source material whole cloth. Social media means an awful lot of people jump in to tell you what they think of the title and/or preview text. Knock yourself out (I guess), but be ready for your admin to hide or delete your comment.
You need to start your own blog for this shit If you want to reply to something, enjoy. If you want to disagree with me, have fun. (Just remember all the other rules.) However, if you want to write some shit that is seriously longer than the post you're replying to, go find your own platform. And if it's just some "take down" shit (especially of the I-didn't-manage-to-finish-reading-this-or-read-it-carefully-before-I-got-angry-and-slammed-out-many-paragraphs) variety, I'm probably just going to hide it. It's an admin power that pages have. You and your friends will be able to see it and give each other high fives, but no one else will. Arguing with "You should be writing" macros: Uh...whatever cooks your churro, boss. You do you.
However, let me add a couple of things: as I dig through the depths of the internet for and/or create such memes that aren't a profusion of sparkling hot white guys, keep the bigoted slurs out of your polemics if you don't want to get banned. You can yell at macros reminding you to write (or whatever) like old man yelling at cloud if that's your jam, but bigotry is no more acceptable as a reply to a You Should Be Writing macro than anywhere else in this space.
Second, I have a folder full of people thanking me. Literally hundreds, maybe thousands of messages basically saying that the daily reminders were wonderful for their motivation. I'm not going to stop because your complaints get more and more hyperbolic, but I will eventually assume that my page is not for you.
Arguing with other macros or posts: If you have a significant ideological problem with a quote or an idea or post, I first invite you to sit with it and think about what insight it might offer. Not everything is about you. It might not be saying what you think it is. Have you read it in the best faith or are you running it through an ideological lens and assuming that I'm saying something maybe I'm not? I post things regularly that are mutually exclusive because sometimes they're for beginners, sometimes for veterans, sometimes for people who are prescriptive about language, sometimes about people who think they don't actually need to learn grammar, sometimes for cocksure folks who won't suffer an editor, and sometimes for those who need a little pick me up to their confidence. Some things are for people who want to be capital W writers and need to stop making excuses. Some are for people with executive dysfunction who need to be kinder to themselves about what they can and can't do. If you can glean a point, a conceit, or a thesis that might be valuable to some writer SOMEWHERE, maybe it isn't quite so important that you kick in the doors, knock over a vase, and make sure everyone upstairs can hear you screaming that you don't absolutely love it.
Far be it from me to suggest that a single 280 character tweet is going to contain all the nuance or that a prescriptive tumblr post has advice that you won't be able to imagine an exception to, but if you can find something interesting, useful, or edifying to your writing, that's probably why I posted it.
Okay, you've had a deep breath or three and you still don't like it? It's okay to let people know you're doing the opposite of endorsing the message or that you see a glaring gap in context, bring the nuance! I welcome it. However, reading clinging to a worst faith read, assuming that any advice is panacea and that you are entitled to tear into it, the poster, anyone who agrees, or ME using the most hostile and hyperbolic language you can come up with because that's how the internet works will not go well for you. Not here. Save that shit for Reddit.
I posted a thing you REALLY disagree with: I post things I don't even agree with myself. (Not harmful things, but stuff about craft or process.) Not every writer is going to agree on every way to be a writer--beyond reading and writing a lot. Go ahead and disagree, but if you get into that "How ever could you POST shit like this?" territory, it might be a short conversation. Poll Nominations: If you don't go to the blog webpage and make your nomination a comment, it won't end up on the poll. If you don't go to the blog webpage and make your nomination a comment, it won't end up on the poll.IF YOU DON'T GO TO THE BLOG WEBPAGE AND MAKE YOUR NOMINATION A COMMENT, IT WON'T END UP ON THE POLL!
How can your poll possibly not have [thing I like]? Because no one nominated it? Or no one gave it a second? Or they did and it did not survive an earlier round? Everything is reader based. If you want to see your titles make it, get involved sooner.
J.A.Q.ing off You might think I can't tell the difference between asking questions and "just asking questions" about something but it's actually breathtakingly easy. (Particularly when combined with "It's really obvious that you haven't actually read that.") So understand that after thirty years of being online and 15 years of teaching, I know the difference between a sincere question and bait when I see it.
You're so Clever: One of the double edged swords of a community this large is that there is often a "race" to be the first to make a clever quip with almost every post. No problem when they're funny, but sometimes people mistake clever and mean. If the timber of these quips seems always to be discouraging or elitist (or some other variant of shitty), you may eventually find MJ thirsts to revoke your commenting privileges.
Shitty comments: One of my admin powers as a page runner is to hide a comment so that only the person who made it and their friends can see it. I use this liberally when people are just being general jerkwads. You can cry your maudlin tears about free speech or whatever, but I make no bones about moderating the comments in my own space. If you don't have the decorum to treat your unpaid host with a tiny bit of decency, he doesn't have to suffer giving you a platform by proxy.
I only ban people if they're being bigots or extremely harmful. (It's always particularly funny to watch people who say "Watch, now we'll get banned because we disagreed," go right on commenting about how I censor them.) If you imagine that you are seated around a table with everyone you're talking sipping a tasty beverage of your choice and being watched by a group of students taking a class on how to discuss issues like adults, you will probably do just fine.
If you're enjoying this blog, and would like to see more, the writer is a guy with a rent and insurance to pay who would love to spend more time writing. Please consider contributing to My Patreon. As little as $36 a year (about the price of a fancy coffee per month) will get you in on backchannel conversations, patron-only polls, and my special ear when I ask for advice about future projects or blog changes.
Well, there's the obvious. Flowers. Chocolates. Promises you don't intend to keep....
I often get this question with caveat of "in ways that don't involve spending any money" so let me assure you that I do have an answer to this below. However, I can't stress enough how helpful money is. (2022 edit—and with medical bills for surgery all the cancer stuff approaching five figures even WITH insurance, I could absolutely use a hand.) So let me put this list in roughly the order of how useful/helpful/supportive each method is.
1- Sign up for an ongoing, monthly financial contribution (even just ONE dollar) through Patreon.
Simply put, nothing will contribute more to the ongoing survival of Writing About Writing, support the site more, or ensure future offerings of fiction and timely articles than will a few dollars that I can reliably count on month after month and use to budget. Also, nothing fuels an artists' or entertainers' sense of duty more than feeling like they have a patron's generosity to live up to. (There are days my patrons were the only reason I wrote a word.) Whether it is scaling back hours at my other job or being able to give this blog full-time energy, none of it will happen if I need to make ends meet from other revenue streams. I know not everyone has a budget for flinging money at online content creators, especially in today's economy, and I don't want this to come across like I'm besmirching the very methods of assistance that I mention below, but "Support your local artist," isn't just a slogan about pats on the back and encouraging emails. If you want any artist or entertainer to be able to go on creating and giving you the content you like, the very best way to do that is to make sure their rent stays paid and their electricity stays on, so that they aren't out selling Bluetooth smart bidets on commission when they could be making more of what you enjoy.
The easiest way to get me a regular financial contribution is through my Patreon. As little as a dollar a month helps me and will get you in on backchannel chats and polls. There are more rewards for higher commitments, but some really good rewards even at the lower tiers. I love my large donors, of course, but if one of them experiences a life hiccup, I could be down 5% of my income; so a hearty "ecosystem" of one, three, five, and maaaaaybe ten dollar donors is also beloved and incredibly valuable in the long run.
Not everyone can give a set amount month after month, but yeeting money at the artist will still absolutely be the most supportive thing a supporting supporter can do to support. I hate to sound like a materialist, but writing is so much easier to do when the power isn't turned off.
A one time donation is easy through Paypal. Just look over to the left side for the conspicuously placed tip jar. I also have Venmo.
Rarer, but not unheard of, are folks who want to set up an ongoing donation, but have no interest in Patreon or the reward tier system (for whatever reason); you can just click a box that says "Make this an ongoing donation."
I'm about to start a fundraiser for my medical expenses. (If you're catching up, I was diagnosed with cancer in November 2021, had surgery in December, and am currently in ongoing treatment.) Right now bills are pushing into the "low-five-figures" range. I'm starting to realize that on top of lost income, housing caregivers, and driving expenses, it's going to cap out pretty close to ten thousand. I'd like to do this independently of starting a separate Gofundme, but we'll see how it does. So far I've made about 20% of that in donations.
3- Exchanges/Creative Gifts
Of course money is the Swiss Army Knife of surviving capitalism. And with a normal, adult amount of bills (2022 Edit- And an abnormal amount of medical bills), it is the most useful support. However, people have "paid" me in all kinds of weird ways. They've given me gift cards. They've sent me complimentary tickets to events. They've sent me some of THEIR art (which I wouldn't have been able to afford otherwise). I even got someone's boudoir photoshoot once because they wanted to contribute, but couldn't afford to make a cash donation—I have to admit, THAT was pretty cool.
Success begets success. Big numbers attract attention and draw even more audience. More audience will widen the net for folks who might be able to afford to give a dollar or two. You can help me even if you don't have money to give yourself. If folks think their carefully written guest blog is going to reach 18 people, their attitude about contributing will be a little different than if they think it's going to reach 10,000.
The hardest part about blogging is getting the word out. If I share a post on social media, it's all my same friends seeing it again and again. They all secretly (and some not so secretly) want me to shut up. Not everyone likes my style. Not everyone cares about writing. Not everyone can maintain their composure when it's time to use their scroll wheel. Finding my niche and those folks who really appreciate the work I am doing is tougher than running down a cephalopoid on foot (#23yearoldpopculturereferenceFTW), so helping push that process along is incredibly helpful. You have friends I've never met. Some of them might love what I do. It is an absolutely free and easy way to really help W.A.W. –– simply share the articles you really like on various social media in order to help me to find the narrow niche of people who like both what I'm saying and how I'm saying it.
They're out there...but I could use your help to find them.
6- Click the little buttons. A lot.
In today's world of web content designers and search engine competition, there is a "Red Queen Race" between content providers trying to figure out how to trick a search engine into listing them higher and search engines trying to make sure that what is high on a search isn't filler crap. Google is constantly coming up with new tricks to make sure someone who's just dropping keywords into a fluff piece doesn't end up as the first result of a search. One of the most effective ways to help an article get more traffic (by being a higher result on a search engine) is to do things like give it "Likes," "+1s" and "Thumbs Up." I'm not saying you have to click something you don't like, but if you want to help W.A.W., you might be just a little more generous with those endorsement buttons than for a normal site.
7- GIF party in the comments.
For reasons I don't fully understand, GIFs tickle the algorithm of most social media more than a like or even just a text comment. (Especially on Facebook, which is far and away my most traffic-generating social medium.) So if you want to see a post get proliferated (especially an appeals post that might net me a new patron or three), put a GIF on that post.
8- Comment or drop me a line.
I am SO a real writer.
Am so. Am so. Am so!!
It's a thankless job. I make barely enough to get by (if I give up my car, cell phone, and eating anything that isn't a PB&J or ramen) for fifty hours or so of work a week. There have been a deplorable lack of hawt groupie threesomes since ever. Most of the time, no one makes a comment unless they've got a problem with something I've written. And half the time, I get these anonymous nast-o-grams that are absolutely intended to make my cry like the Dawson's Creek meme. It's really nice to hear some of the good stuff from time to time whether it's just an article you particularly liked, or a general appreciation of my work.
It really does make a difference when I'm trying to get out of bed to write the next day.
While most of you just click the link I put on social media when you see that something I have written interests you, there actually IS an update schedule here that we try to kind of sort of sometimes keep to…maybe.
Note: In addition to everything below, which will set up the schedule I am trying to achieve, I am going through a number of transitions from a reorganization of childcare time to recovering fully from cancer and surgery. I'm doing the best I can, and sometimes that's coming up a little short.
I made a major change at the end of 2020. For my ongoing mental health and for my other long-term writing projects (fiction and some compilation e-books of our best articles). I am putting the days of seven posts a week and 70-hour weeks in the rear-view for good, and moving into a more quality > quantity phase of the blog.
Yippee ki yay! Writing About Writing consists primarily of one guy who takes care of a couple of kids, tries to keep up with some domestic stuff, is writing a novel, posts on another blog, posts a LOT on his Facebook wall, and sometimes does really wacky shit like try to play a D&D game with friends or get laid or something.
Okay, I'm not really having any trouble with that last one…
He's also a working writer, though, so he better stop making a bunch of excuses and make with the clackity clack.
This is the schedule we will generally make an effort to keep. I say "make an effort," but I have to be honest about four things.
I have written posts from my bed with 102°-fever or from coffee shops out of state while on vacation or during hospital visits to people with cancer, so it is very likely that no matter what happens, you will still get more than a couple of posts a week, and I really really really do mean MAKE AN EFFORT. I absolutely fell behind this update schedule last year when I was recovering from having cancer (the mental/emotional recovery took so much longer than the physical one), but I'm definitely starting to get back into the swing of things.
I am absolutely balls at keeping on top of WHAT gets updated on WHICH days, and I am likely to start Tetris-ing the posts for the week if I SNEEZE too hard.
I am still working through the full effects of the global pandemic, including the massive, unrelenting, fully permeated burnout that comes from 18 months of 70-hour weeks.
I have mostly recovered from stage two colon cancer and the resection surgery to remove a tumor. Although the recovery curve is sometimes shallower than I would like.
Thanks to my patrons, I have been able to quit part-time teaching, pet sitting*, and cut back on the amount of nannying I do as a side gig to focus more and more on writing. If you would like to help us write more and better updates, even a dollar a month helps me budget.
*I still have a couple of close, super-easy clients, so you might see me post about this stuff, but I don't run all over the Bay Area anymore.
Facebook Writing and Social Justice Bard
Most of my major writing ends up on this blog, but some of my more throwaway thoughts don't. If you particularly enjoyed our Social Justice Bard posts, I still have many bees in my bonnet.
I invite you to follow my Public Facebook Page (you can friend it if you send me a message, but it might be better if you follow it for a while first––unfiltered me is not everyone's cup of tea). I post somewhat more "political and partisan thoughts" there (rather than just social ISSUES) and also often post "proto-versions" of what later become full blog posts (if you're interested in seeing how those things develop). [There's also personal updates and nerdery there.]
I also have another blog called NOT Writing About Writing that I periodically update (once or more a week pre-covid, but now it's a couple of times a month in wild fits and starts), write personal updates, stuff about my woo-woo spiritual journeys, and post political thoughts that don't really tie into writing but that also aren't really short enough for Facebook. Everything I ever write for any medium (and reruns of my best stuff) gets cross-posted to that Public Facebook Page, so join me there if you want to see everything I write.
Facebook Page Maintenance
Running my Facebook Page of over a 1.1 million followers as well as maintaining all the OTHER various social media (which is essential to the fact that I get to be a working writer) is basically a part-time job in and of itself. It just happens to be spread out so that the work happens in five-minute increments throughout the day, pretty much hourly, almost any time I'm not asleep.
Mostly I've just done this AND my writing and not really acknowledged the ways in which the aggregate of all these five minutes here and there impact a weekly writing schedule.
Prepare for More of the W.A.W Meta Plot
Just a quick note: if you've been around for a while (or have dug through a lot of the first-year articles), you may have noticed that we have sort of a running plot and bizarre cast of characters here at Writing About Writing. We're going to be getting back into these kinds of posts.
There is a shame spiral that I get into when I feel like I'm not updating enough, or significantly enough, and I feel like the meta plot posts are "too fluffy" and too fun. So I am more likely to try to push myself to post something significant. (Which is ironic because I'm then more likely to not make it and have to push back the post altogether.)
However my readers have CONSISTENTLY and UNSWERVINGLY said that they like these types of posts and that they make the experience of me writing an ongoing blog more cohesive instead of just being the occasional article they want to see. So I'm really really really going to try to shut off that part of my brain that is insisting that my meta plot posts are phoning it in, and post them more often.
THE UPDATE SCHEDULE
BEHIND THE SCENES (and an accountability post)
While I would love to get a blog up on every day that I'm clacking away in front of a computer, I also have a significant "behind the scenes" obligation to the folks who keep the lights on around here that takes time and energy. Ironically, if I give these kinds of rewards some dedicated time, I'm not only going to be better about doing them, but also about the blogging itself—they both have a way of distracting me from the other as I get overwhelmed and sit in front of my computer, unable to move in either direction because I feel like I'm letting down the other.
However, I consistently have parts of this job that don't involve dropping a forward-facing blog.
Once a month I cannibalize a day of blogging to write my Patrons a newsletter, and now that the pandemic is mostly winding out of the Shelter In Place phase, four times a year, I'm going to need to write TWO newsletters.
I absolutely need to spend a day or two every month just doing admin stuff for Writing About Writing (like catching up on emails, cleaning up menus, and the like), or it gets SO far behind, SO quickly. As it is, I sort of imagine we're going to take a year to "dig out" of the stuff I just put up.
My Patreon tiers are perpetually in need of their rewards. Whether it's an early-access post or just a selfie from one of my hikes, I need to attend more consistently to the folks who are devoting their financial resources to my ability to be a working writer.
Also, I have a couple of other writing projects that require my time and attention.
From time to time when we are having a VERY busy week and need a second day to clear out the admin issues so that they don't back up, you might see the easier of the two admin posts go up on a Tuesday, but mostly I'll be working hard in the background.
You will usually see an accountability post on most Mondays. I'm going to restart posting progress on other projects, and I will let everyone know what I'm working on behind the scenes. But it will be more of a bullet point memo than a post.
While technically no "off" day is truly off (even the weekends) as I take my own advice and write every day, having Tuesdays off from the responsibility of posting an official blog represents all the hours I work on other jobs. I have spent far too long beating myself up because they don't "count." Not only will taking time off to acknowledge these things be better for my mental health and "overworked" meter, but they will allow me to attend to both them and my writing without feeling like I'm neglecting the other and getting overwhelmed because I'm not spinning all the plates perfectly.
So after much garment rending and self-reflection, and some deep thoughts about how much I will take on if I let myself, I have decided to take a three days off free and clear. (Although, as I mentioned, I'm always writing—this is more about the obligation of getting a post up than whether or not I actually "write every day" like the advice I give.)
Of course, I would give any human being on earth the same advice and would tell them they were being too hard on themselves if they didn't take it, so this is absolutely a case of thinking basic self care doesn't count for me. However, I have two work factors that impact my writing schedule:
Childcare side gig (7-10 hours a week)
Facebook Maintenance (10-12 hours a week)
I mean that should probably be two or three days off by the number of hours, but obviously, I'm not going to take THAT much time each week. I'll stick to one day (Tuesdays) and try not to feel too guilty about it.
We need (at least) one dedicated day a week to kind of take care of what I call "jazz hands," although it might be better described as "admin-ish stuff that HAS to get done at some point." It's not necessarily Total Fluff™, but it usually isn't exactly a new article either.
The review of the best posts we did in the month prior takes up a post. Often we have some kind of announcement or meta news about what's going on or coming up. You might also see a single entry for the long-forgotten character lists or an update to one of the menus (along the top of the page).
Wednesdays will typically be the days that get cannibalized for Patron newsletters, fiction, or anything else that needs my priority attention.
Thursday We have a number of "types" of posts that are just a little lighter fare. Everything from SHORT Mailbox questions to our aforementioned meta plot posts to personal updates. Not necessarily admin or "jazz hands" but probably a little less "chewy/crunchy" than Friday posts.
Fridays, for the most part, will be The Big Post™ of the week. If you're here for the hard-hitting writing advice (with the occasional examination of how language and narrative play into broader social issues), Friday is the day to tune in. Longer Mailboxes, full craft, process, and sometimes even style articles.
I used to write posts for NOT Writing About Writing and either drop them on my usual days off or post on both WAW and NWAW on the same day. I'm no longer going to be doing this. If I drop something on NWAW, I'll put a notice up on WAW that that is the writing for the day. I sometimes put up NWAW posts on weekend days.
The Two-Post Commitment
Some weeks aren't going to go down like clockwork, and they might be front- or back-loaded with side gigs or other commitments. My writing career is also starting to open up occasional opportunities of interest like conventions, speaking engagements, interviews, or podcasts. On the advice of my doctor, I'm trying to be better about the (literally) health-shattering 60–70-hour weeks I was working, and I'm working to whittle that number down a lot closer to 40. That's a needle to thread when you are your own boss and you know that people will lower your income if they don't feel like they're getting enough of the content they want. I can't promise every week will go down as smoothly as three posts like end-of-the-week clockwork, but I will try really hard to get three posts up each week, and I can just about promise that I will at least do two. They might just be posted off schedule––landing on a Saturday or Sunday, for example—but barring illness, injury, or fabulously unforeseen circumstances (which I must now admit would absolutely include cancer and/or surgery), I will try hard to hit three and at least do two. The Return of the Monthly Dedicated Novel Writing Time Increase
You may have noticed that any effort to take blogging time to give to my novel was COMPLETELY on pause during the early parts of the pandemic (and then went on pause again as I recovered from cancer/surgery). But now it is back. The hardest thing I've tried doing as a blogger is keeping my fiction at a high level of priority. It's SO easy to just write a blog, call it a day, and go put my feet up. And blogging is what I'm getting paid for, so it's even easier.
But...as much as I've surprised even myself by discovering how much I fucking love blogging, I do want to write fiction too. Finding time as much time for both is impossible, so I have to borrow from Peter to pay Cliché. While I am getting traction out of writing an hour or so of fiction first (so that then I still have to do the blogging in order to do "a day's work"), there may still be times where the needs of fiction completely take priority over blogging.
I'm firmly in the "Write Every Day" camp. But how much I write, what I write, and what I'm impassioned to write can sometimes still be a creative ebb and flow of being at my Muse's whim.
I'm also going to try something new and interesting. Each month I'm going to take an ADDITIONAL, cumulative day off to sequester myself and work on my book (as well as possibly other fiction). This isn't the only time I'll be working on my book, but I'll be diverting my blogging time towards it as well. I'll start with one day in September, and then two in October, and three in November and four in December. I'll reevaluate how things feel to my patrons at four extra days off each month—at that point I would either be updating only twice a week (if I spread the days out) or taking a full week off every month (if I took them all at once). It might depend on how close I am to finishing or a draft or something.
Hopefully, I'll have something to show for these days off by the time Patrons might begin complaining that I'm not updating enough, but I hope that the transparency and gradualness both help in that regard.
I've learned that I need some regular time off to keep my energy levels and output high when I AM working. Expect me to take a few days to a week off every quarter (three months) or so. Trust me, you might get a few less posts, but it'll keep the ones that go up much fresher.
You know that two weeks that starts a few days before Christmas and kind of goes until the third or the fourth of January? Yeah, I don't work that. It's busy enough. I can barely figure out what day it is most of the time. I'm rubbish. Don't ask me to get posts up.
I'm adding something that I basically realized today (I first wrote this on 3/5/2020). I'm going to take a break in our "regularly scheduled program" during election weeks. Midterms, primaries, obviously the presidential ones. I just need to acknowledge that the writing that happens will be on other blogs (like NWAW) and in other places (like my Facebook page) and that unless I am backing someone polling at 90 points, it's very, very, VERY likely I'm going to have at LEAST one day where I need to go back to bed into a pillow fort with ice cream.
There MIGHT occasionally be a fourth or even fifth (?) post in a week. Usually this will happen when I need to cover some ground on "blog business." (Like when I revise an old article so much that it deserves a fresh post, update a menu, write a new answer for our F.A.Q., or otherwise do something that needs to get done, but doesn't fit into our usual posting schedule). In this case, you might see an extra post pop up from time to time on the weekend or two in one day. Fiction will also usually go up independently of our regular schedule. It's less likely to happen these days, while I'm really struggling to get back to the old posting frequency, but it used to happen a lot.
I'm writing this blog in real time, so there will be problems with updates in real time. I still watch kids for seven to twelve hours a week. Plus my host body occasionally succumbs to these pesky Earth illnesses and requires dental and medical maintenance to serve me well. And every once in a couple of blue moons I even just take a damn day off with no preplanning. So those three posts might not always happen like clockwork or may involve going off the rails of my usual updates. Until my Patreon pays ALL the bills, my reality is that I sometimes have to prioritize paid gigs.
I maintain a Facebook page for this blog that has over a million followers. From time to time a post I put up may intersect with a social issue, or just tick some people off, and then all the dillholes come out to play, and I have to spend a day basically babysitting the comments. I don't love it, but it has to be done or the bigots will chase off the people who I actually WANT to be there.
This flexible update schedule should also cut down on the thing where I'm apologizing to absolutely fucking nobody that it's Thursday and I've yet to put so much as a taco video up. (MMMMM tacos.) I know that some people are annoyed by how often I apologize, and the rest don't really care. But this also settles my own inner overachiever. As long as I get in all the entries that week, my readers (who have literally never said anything in six years about my update schedule) and myself can give me a break.
I invoke the Anything Can Happen™ real world excuse. In ordinary times, I usually have a couple of "emergency blogs" tucked away, but after surgery, I chewed through them as fast as I could tuck them away. So any bump in the road hits the blog update schedule in real time. Health complications might crop up suddenly and have me needing to do a sudden, unexpected several-hour shift or even an overnight...or maybe even more. Trust me, I'm going to feel ten times worse about missing a post than all of my readers combined.
Admin Long-weekends at least once a month will still be a thing, but instead of "we might have an admin long weekend this month," I'm going to assume we WILL have them, and maybe we might have a POST. Since I'm not working Tuesdays and this would normally fall under the purview of a Monday "Behind the Scenes" post, I will take the first Wednesday of each month off.
Also......folks, if you like what I do, support your "local" artist. (In this case "local" means more independent, amateur, and two-bit than literally down the street.) The pandemic is not yet over, there's still a long phase of transition to work through, and I'm not in a financial position to completely give up my childcare side gig or pay someone to take over the admin of my Facebook page (both major time sinks that pull from my writing hours, but cannot be avoided without losing income that I don't yet have to spare).
If you want to help me focus on writing (without all the side gigs), yeet a few dollars into that "tip jar" at the top left, or even better yet sign up to be a monthly patron through Patreon. (You'll also get in on the back-channel discussions about posting schedules, big changes, and upcoming projects.) I have bills to pay like any other starving artist, and though my schedule is a lot better than it was three years ago, even three dollars a month (just $36 a year) will go a long way.
Note: Hi there, Mr. Elephant. I guess we should address you.
So....yeah. I ABSOLUTELY KNOW that there is a pretty loud contingent of "Who Cares!" from the other side of the Internet, and I'll give you all a nod if this isn't your cup of tea. It's cool. You do you. Posts such as this one are not my least popular kinds of posts (that honor is reserved for meta posts about why there's no regular post…for some reason), but on the other hand, not every post can't be the barnburners of me replying to social justice hate mail. However, I'm not going to stop posting my update schedule…every single time I adjust it.
One of our mission statements is to keep "The Process" transparent and give you updates in real time, so there will always be an occasional hat tip to the meta. I want people to understand that writers struggle with their own productivity, schedules, and discipline. We are constantly dissatisfied with how much we're writing (or not) and trying to redefine ourselves, fiddle with the knobs, and find that perfect air/fuel mixture of writing vs. all the other parts of our lives. I want folks to see that someone who is making a paycheck doesn't have all the answers. I want them to see how their work/life balance matters, and how easy it is to fall into working TOO much or not enough, and either one causes problems. I want them to see that a successful blog doesn't require nine updates a week (and, in fact, that's too many). And I want them to see how artists are constantly struggling to get it just right because we are at once human with our ambition and drive, but also human with our INCESSANT need to eat and have shelter. We don't just eat rainbows and shit brilliant prose. Even if a follower or fan never uses my own update schedule or productivity demands on myself as a formula for their own success, let it be a comfort realizing how flawed and human working writers can be.
I want you to see how messy and non-magical it all is.