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I’m still alive

In that excellent 1980s film Throw Momma from the Train, the two main characters (one, a creative writing instructor; the other, his student) keep chanting the mantra of the instructor’s class: “a writer writes… always.”

Stephen King in On Writing gives the same advice, as does Cerebus creator Dave Sim, who says something like (I’m paraphrasing here) every comic book artist has 1000 bad pages to get out. If you do a page a day, after a few years, your pages will start being good.

The nice thing about being a creative writer or a comic book artist is that you don’t have to (or get to, depending on how you look at it) publish everything you create. So if you do have 1000 bad pages, you can tuck those away in your closet or throw them in the trash can (Stephen King’s hit novel Carrie was going to go into the trash bin before his wife rescued it, seeing the potential).

Blog posts aren’t quite the same way. Sure, you can have hidden blog posts or passworded ones, but the idea behind a blog is that it’s your thoughts. Blog posts aren’t supposed to be masterpieces you rehearse for and then finally publish for the public. They’re supposed to at least have the appearance of spontaneity.

Well, for you few readers I have, I just wanted to reassure you I’m still alive. I’m actually quite relaxed (on vacation from work). I just don’t really have a lot to say right now. In fact, when I’ve thought I have had new things to say, I’ve gone back into my old blog posts (over 400 right now) and seen “Oh, I’ve already written about that.”

I’m not promising everything I write from this point forward will be insightful. I don’t think I’ll be blogging for blogging’s sake, though. If I have something to say, I’ll say it. Thanks for reading!

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Blog Announcements Writing

The spammers are getting clever

Most comment spam is pretty easy to identify and avoid. I almost got tricked by a recent one, though.

Just a tip for y’all. If you want your comment to stay and be taken seriously, it’s generally a good idea not to have your comment’s website be a porn website, even if you write a legitimate Ubuntu-related question in your comment’s body.

Thanks!

Categories
Writing

Blog comments and spam

I just deleted a comment that Akismet thought was spam. I wasn’t 100% sure it was, but I erred on the side of caution.

I like comments. I liked the comment from someone saying Just posting to let you know people do read your blog, even if they don’t always comment. It may be a bit vain of me, but I want people to read my blog. I think I actually have something to say (whether people agree with what I say or not is a different story), and I wouldn’t post otherwise. That’s my main deal. I just want to get people thinking.

When I was growing up, I was really argumentative, and talking was about winning arguments. Expressing my opinion was about convincing others to accept my opinion as correct (and their opinions as incorrect). Now, though, I don’t care if you’re against gay marriage, against Christianity, against feminism, against Linux, or against anything else I’m for. Come on and read what I have to say, because I think it’ll make you think. You may think for a while and then say to yourself, “Naw. That doesn’t change my mind.” That’s okay. You thought about a different perspective, though. That’s cool.

I love comments that give me a different perspective, too (Hari, who hasn’t commented in a while, was great at that, and I have the utmost respect for him, even though we disagree over a lot of subjects). I also love comments that reaffirm me and say, “Hey, you may think you’re the only one who thinks this way, but I think this way, too.” I’m only human. I seek affirmation just as much as the next person. What I won’t stand for, though, are moronic flamebait comments and spam.

Thankfully, I don’t think my blog has gained enough exposure to start attracting en masse the flamebait comments (which I assure you, if and when it does, I will delete promptly and without warning). A flamebait comment doesn’t seek to spark up dialogue. It seeks to incite argument. It seeks to also make personal what should be intellectual. It isn’t any more about what I say but who I am. A challenging comment says “I appreciate what you’ve said, but have you thought about…?” A flamebait comment says “This is so typical of liberals/feminists/Christians….” Believe me, I can tell the difference, and I’ll keep alive the comments that disagree with me intelligently. I’m usually pretty stubborn, but every now and then someone will disagree with me or offer a new perspective that will make me go, “Oh, I didn’t actually consider that.”

And then there’s spam. Spam is usually pretty easy to spot, and Akismet (WordPress’ built-in spam-scanner) has an almost 100% accuracy (in my experience) in terms of deciding which comments are spam and which aren’t. If you ask me, most spammers aren’t very smart. They load their comments full of sex-related keywords in posts that are usually not sex-related, and they put in too many links. A smart spammer would find tags relating to sex and make an actual comment that could be relevant to the post and have the website as the website of the commenter instead of in the comment itself. I had one of these (not sex-related, but related to a commercial company) just now and I had to think about it for a second whether it was spam or not. The comment seemed innocuous enough. It could have been genuine. But the comment was too generic (had nothing to do with the post), and the website of the commenter seemed too sketchy. So I deleted it.

So, thanks, commenters, for keeping the dialogue alive! And thanks, WordPress, for creating and maintaining Akismet.

Categories
Writing

This is the kind of writer I am

I’m not the only one who had dreams of writing “the great American novel.” Having a penchant for drawing also gave me dreams of writing the great American comic book, too (sort of like Dave Sim’s great Canadian comic book Cerebus). God knows I’ve had many false starts. Such works take commitment, though.

And, as the expression goes (which, oddly enough, I first heard in Throw Momma From the Train), “a writer writes always.” Or, as Dave Sim says, “everyone has about 1000 bad pages in them that they have to get out before they can be good,” and if you don’t believe him, just compare the artwork and stories from the first 25 issues of Cerebus to the next 25 issues.

Writers write. That’s what makes them so good—practice. How did I become good at drawing? Practice. Did I have some natural talent? Sure. But that’s not how I became good. And I know plenty of people without natural talent in drawing, who perservered and practiced and became amazing drawers. One of the most inspiring books I read about writing is Stephen King’s On Writing, which is part writer’s-advice-book and part autobiography. The one thing that really stuck with me about the book is that Stephen King, through all his trials and tribulations, rejections, and periods of poverty never questioned whether he should write or not. It didn’t matter to him whether the story he’d written was garbage or not, whether he and/or his wife liked the story he wrote. He just wrote. He felt the need to write. This is musician Sara Bareilles talking about her songs:

I’ve been writing songs for as long as I can remember. Some of them make me happy and some of them are shit, but all of them come because I can’t imagine what else to do with my head and the things that are in it besides write songs.

That is what it’s all about. You do it, and you do it. You don’t stop because you produce something bad. You just keep producing.

Much as I sometimes I enjoy fiction-writing or music-producing (singing/playing), I don’t feel that same drive to always write fiction or to always make music. I do have a ton of random non-fiction thoughts always swishing around in my brain, and I feel the need to spill them out onto a page and share them with the world. I think I’m a blogger. I think that’s it. I don’t have the coherency a traditional non-fiction hardcover book would demand of me. I do have a million thoughts on random issues, though, and I like to write them down. That’s what I do. I write. I write a ton of crap. In a blog. That’s what I do.

Categories
Writing

Don’t just link – write something!

The most annoying kind of blog post I’ve ever seen is the link without commentary. I know you’ve seen them before. It’s just a link to something interesting and nothing else. The worst is the link to just another blog post from someone else.

I understand you’re excited. I understand you want to share your excitement, but could you at least say something? Why is it interesting to you? What’s your take on the post or story?

Please. Offer. Something.