August 3

Put Yourself Out There

The Critic
The Critic (Photo credit: Kevin B 3)

If you are a writer, you have to open yourself up to criticism. You have to “put yourself out there.” Not all critics are worth listening to. Sometimes people will tell you something is good when it isn’t, and other people will tell you something is bad when it isn’t. The most important thing to understand is that the best critics are the people who don’t know you, don’t understand your work, and have nothing invested in what you’re doing.

Put up a blog, a Facebook profile, and get a Twitter account. Ask people what they think, and allow them to publicly say bad things about your work. Yes, it is defeating; however, one bad critic doesn’t make your work bad. It means that one person doesn’t like that one piece. It could be that you wrote something bad also. Either way, as a good creative writer, you need to write what other people can understand.

I could always tell if I had written something worthwhile because people would either give me a very positive or very negative response. The work I’ve done that gets a neutral response is always the work I rework. If someone hates my work, I know they feel passionate about it. If someone just doesn’t like, that’s when I think I’m in trouble.

Good luck with your writing, and try your best to make people either love or hate your work – as long as they’re talking about it.

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April 9

Ghostwriters

It's a ghost!
It’s a ghost! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Ghostwriting is evil. Now that I’ve shared my obvious bias, let me try my best to give you my impartial views on ghostwriting.

Ghostwriter Defined by Son of Sappho

A writer who writes anything for remuneration (usually money) without receiving the official credit for it. This means that you do the work, sell it to someone else, and they get all the credit for it.

Three Reasons to be a Ghostwriter

  1. You should get paid a lot more money;
  2. You can do it as a second job without anyone knowing about it;
  3. You could get the opportunity to be paid for creative work that you might not otherwise get.

Three Reasons not to be a Ghostwriter

  1. You usually can’t use any of the work in your portfolio;
  2. It’s next to impossible to get ahead based on your name, since you are always promoting other people;
  3. You’re less likely to ever create the type of work that you envision, since you are always creating another person’s ideas.

I’ll certainly grant that there might be times a writer doesn’t care about having their name on something. Perhaps you wrote a boring manual that you don’t want in your portfolio, and maybe you got paid really well to write it. For me, if I write anything that is at all worth mentioning, I put that in my portfolio, and I’ve never had to hide any of the work I’ve done.

Imagine for a moment that I go to an artist and ask him to paint a beautiful sunset for me, but I tell him that I’m going to own 100% of the rights to that painting. I pay the artist accordingly, and I get to put my name in the bottom right hand corner and tell everyone I painted it. I’m not suggesting this has never happened in history, but the idea of it is preposterous, and I feel the same way about ghostwriting.

I can’t even begin to understand why anyone would want to let someone else take credit for their work.

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April 8

Writing Online

English: Jack Dorsey and Barack Obama at Twitt...
English: Jack Dorsey and Barack Obama at Twitter Town Hall in July 2011 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I often hear people saying how writing online is so drastically different from other kinds of writing. I’ll admit that online writing isn’t the same as academic writing, but despite the innovation of Twitter, the ideal article length online is around 300 to 400 words, about what you would want a newspaper article to be.

Also, like a newspaper article, you want a reasonably short, effective, and catchy headline that will get the reader interested. In the age of social media, the important thing is to get your article shared by as many people as possible. Making your article concise, interesting, and easy to read will do this. These are all very similar guidelines to what a newspaper editor might ask for.

The big difference between writing online and writing for print are keywords. You don’t want to overuse your keyword terms like “writing online” because your readers will feel an awkwardness in the writing. You do want to occasionally pepper your article with your specific keyword terms, like “writing online.” This will allow search engines to easily get the idea of what you are trying to communicate without readers getting frustrated and moving on to something else.

A smaller difference that people run into with online writing is the issue of editing. As soon as I’m done writing this article, I can press the publish button, and there isn’t an editor on the other end of it. The beauty of online writing, is that it isn’t set in stone. If you make a mistake, you can always fix it. The issue here is taking responsibility for your own work. Glaring errors happen to the best of us, but with online writing, it’s important to read and read again. After I hit the publish button, I go back the next day and read it one more time to make sure that I haven’t made any obvious errors that I missed the day before.

Keep up the good work, always edit, and try to stay within the 300 to 400 word range.

 

November 20

Yes! We have no love for racists who make fun of fruit vendors.

Anti-Racist Action banner from Art Against Racism
Anti-Racist Action banner from Art Against Racism (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I got a song in my head today: “Yes! We have no bananas.” I love the tune, and I thought I loved the song, so I listened to it on YouTube.

I quickly learned that this is a horribly racist song. People argue that it wasn’t racist in its time, or that you just have to understand the context – it’s somehow good-natured. The song deliberately makes fun of people who are different from the person who is singing the song. I can’t see how it’s anything but racist.

Now, I’m stuck with a tune that I enjoy and can’t get out of my head that is obviously racist. Listening to old songs and watching old movies are like that though. I remember a time that I was watching an old movie with my wife, and I hate old movies, but she said they were great, so there we were watching a movie that was 20 years older than us.

The men were terrible to the women. The kept telling them not to think, not to worry, and not to try to make decisions for themselves. The thing is – there was no obvious social justice going on, the women just ended up giving in. The moral of the story was do what the man says and you get a happy ending.

OK, full disclosure here – I’m a white male, but I hate oppressive crap, especially oppressive crap that is disguising itself under the pretense of art or entertainment.

November 11

I give really biased reviews about #plays my nephew is in because he is the best actor ever. Take that @tomhanks

Warburg [wedding] bridesmaids

I watched Mary’s wedding recently. It was amazing. If you live around the Ottawa area, you need to go see this play. The actors are amazing, and the play is awesome.

All right, in fairness, I have to disclose that my (hugely talented) nephew is in the play.

The entire audience was crying, even the manly men and soulless women. Obviously, I can’t objectively review it, since someone I care about is in the play. Best play ever! Go see it now, now, now!

The play is very fitting of this time of year; it’s a good reminder of what young men and women go through for war.

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