How to Blog Like a Total Hypocrite

Cover of "O Brother, Where Art Thou?"
Consider the lilies of the goddamn field, or look to Delmar here as your paradigm of hope.

There’s a scene from the Coen Bros. movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? where the main characters — themselves fugitives from the law — pick up a lone hitchhiker, a young blues guitarist named Tommy Johnson (based on the famous Robert Johnson). When they ask Tommy why he was at the crossroads, he told them he sold his soul to the devil in exchange for the ability to “play this here guitar real good.” In astonishment, another character asks “for that you traded your everlasting soul?” To which Tommy replies: “Well, I wasn’t using it.”

For the past couple weeks, that’s a bit how I’ve felt about my writing.

To explain. I started this blog for a number of reasons: to connect with other writers and readers, to share what I knew, and to learn from others. Anywhere you read blogging advice, you’ll read this mantra: share your expertise. For the most part, readers don’t care what you had for lunch, or that killer hangnail, or how you’ve tried nothing and you’re all out of ideas. They want some utility. They want some meat, or they’ll just click away.

About two months ago, my life got busy. These things happen. Illness, work woes, you find out your downstairs neighbor is a vampire and next thing you know you’re schlepping it to Home Depot to get some lumber for stakes and you find out the wife donated all your good knives to Goodwill because “six knives is enough for anybody.” Whatever, woman, we’ve got a Nosferatu downstairs. Do you want to get bit? Is that your problem? Next you’ll be telling me you donated my steel collar and leather pants — no! I told you, those were for vampire hunting!

Well, anyway. The point is, I stopped writing. Neglected it entirely. And there’s only so much you can say about the subject once you’ve stopped, especially on a blog devoted to the subject. “Hello, and welcome to my writing blog of writing. Speaking of writing, who’s doing any? Not me, that’s for damn sure. So, who wants to talk about pancake syrup?”

Of course, one could argue that I could still blog about writing, even if I wasn’t doing any at the moment, and so that’s what I did. But it started to make me uncomfortable. I felt like a Mennonite trying to sell iPads. “So, here’s this thing… you probably want this. Somebody does, anyway, God knows why, but… I don’t know, it has apps, or the wi-fis, and… some birds are angry for some reason… look, just buy it so I can get out of here.”

Cover of "Superman III (Deluxe Edition)"
Deluxe Edition. Over three times the suck!

What’s the point of dispensing advice? I wasn’t using it. I began to feel that if I wrote one more motivational article, my personality would split, and I’d turn into an evil doppelgänger of myself, flicking peanuts at the mirrors at my local pub before staggering off to throw tires at myself in a junkyard. Yes, a Superman III reference. That’s what we’re down to now.

The point is, I felt like a hypocrite. And so the blog stalled out. My presence on Twitter became notable only for its rarity, as friends and followers invoked arcane chants to summon me, like Yog-Sothoth, from the abyssal depths, so that I might live and tweet again. Mostly by calling me short or grumpy. Which is very unfair. I am not the least bit short.

I’d love to tell you that I did something romantically self-destructive during my blogging hiatus, like living on Scotch and cigarettes while I cranked out a gritty tale of a writer living on Scotch and cigarettes while he cranked out a gritty tale. Or possibly reading 50 Shades of Gray. Grey? Gray? Anyway, I did neither of those things. I mostly watched a lot of television, which is just the regular, stupid kind of self-destructive. No cachet to it.

But finally, I realized I was being foolish. I started this blog because I wanted to talk about writing, not to fulfill some holy calling. I’ve never had a desire to become a guru of any kind. Yeah, blogging is about sharing your expertise, but it’s also about sharing yourself, your thoughts, your personality. I’m not some robotic dispenser of motivational platitudes. I’m just me. And if I’m not writing, well, there’s a simple solution to that, isn’t there? We must remember that we are human, and as humans, we dream, and when we dream, we dream of money. Wait. That isn’t the message I wanted to convey at all.

In summary, this is a very long-winded way of saying I’m back. So! Speaking of writing, who’s doing any?

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  • Joni

    I am thrilled that you’re back and I’ll happily read anything you want to share. ;D

  • LOVED this post, Daniel. First of all, you’re hilarious, and second of all, having just started my own blog in March I’m already starting to feel the personality split (nevermind hearing my family saying, “Are you sure you’re not spending too much time writing? You don’t have any time to do anything…”). No vampires in the basement, but some stuff to contend with nonetheless. Glad you came back to write, regardless of the time off—we all need it sometimes. Keep dreaming! 🙂

    • Thank you very much, Eva! Just tell them “too much writing? THERE IS NO SUCH THING” and then sweep dramatically out of the room. That’s what I’d advise, anyway… but not what I’d do.

  • Welcome back. Sorry that we ate all the cookies while you were away.

    • Thank you, laurustina. No worries, it will inspire my upcoming blog post, “Who Ate All the God-Damned Cookies (And What Can That Teach Us About Writing? Probably Nothing)”

  • IlanaWaters

    Sorry–no time to write. Still ROTFLMAO after reading your post. May need several days to recover. Are you, like, Rothfuss’s long-lost humor brother or something?

    • Yes. If Rothfuss is Martin Sheen, I’m pretty much Joe Estevez.

  • Vermont Grade A- medium or dark amber.

    See I could have a pancake syrup debate. Perhaps it is because I have been similarly afflicted.

    • Were it a debate, I would lose hands-down, because you’d be sitting there with your syrup pedigree, all pedagogical and well-informed, and I’d be like “uh, Hungry Jack?”

  • So after reading this post I’m relatively certain you could write a post about something entirely inane and it’d still be fun to read. Welcome back! And thank you for making me laugh.

    As others have said, we all need some time off here and there, so I wouldn’t feel bad about that (or writing about writing while trying to figure out how to get yourself writing again, for that matter). Also, I hope you work out that vampire thing and get your vampire hunting gear back. 😀

    • “I’m relatively certain you could write a post about something entirely inane and it’d still be fun to read.”

      Well, that’s a lucky thing for us all, since I plan on writing about some very banal things.

      Thanks, Ava. I don’t feel too bad, but I’m glad to be back.

  • Some people write. Some people write about writing. Some people write about not writing. Some people write about how they’re writing about writing to avoid writing. Some people write about how they haven’t written about writing because they feel guilt about writing when they aren’t actually writing. Some people write about the Wright brothers.

    I’m not really sure where I’m going with this. You’re sexy.

    • I was going to tie this in to your productivity site originally, but then I forgot. You were shoehorned out by Superman III. How’s that feel?

      • I guess it could’ve been worse. Could’ve been a Superman IV reference – “I began to feel that if I wrote one more motivational article, someone might steal my DNA, send it into the sun, and create an evil, shiny version of Flash Gordon to steal my powers.”

  • Jo-Anne (jtvancouver)

    I for one am glad to hear you were officially ‘away’. I thought you were just ignoring me! Here’s me, that’s the world casting a shadow as it revolves around me :))

    Actually Dan, I really am very glad to see you back on the blog and on twitter. But I’d be even happier to hear that you’ve been writing. You’re a talented fellow.

  • StartYourNovel

    Picasso once confessed: “When I was little, I wanted to be an artist. That was all I could think of. Now that I’m an artist, all I can think of is money.”

    Maybe this is apocryphal. But it was someone of Picasso’s stature. So people do dream of money; it’s a very human thing to be preoccupied with one’s livelihood.

    Have you noticed how shallow people can become when they don’t have to worry about a paycheck? How it disconnects them from the rest of us? I submit that financial security is OK but immense wealth makes you stupid, especially when you haven’t had to earn it.

    I often blog about writing although I’m not doing any writing on the side — but I guess that’s me putting my training as a critical reader to good use. I believe that writers must be capable of critical self-analysis and for that they need to build a toolkit, a coherent vocabulary based on the past 100 or 200 years of critical discourse.

    There is such a thing as too much knowledge of symbol and trope, however. Knowing all the ingredients to vegan lasagna doesn’t mean you can whip one up on short notice. At some point you have to unlearn all that stuff and start writing from the gut, I mean, you need to start drafting.

    That’s long been a problem of mine, knowing too much. I noticed one thing — when you try to use symbols in a self-conscious manner, they turn on you. Best write with your heart and edit with your brain. That’s kind of platitudinous, I know. But I tried leading with the brain and that didn’t work out.

    • This reminds me of a passage from Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, where he talked about excessive amounts of research and ancillary work itself being a form of resistance to writing. I know I’ve certainly been guilty of that. Clearly I can’t seriously start on my fantasy novel until I’ve mapped out the entire world, in detail, complete with a millenia of geological history. OTHERWISE HOW WILL PEOPLE KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON, MAN

      But I will say, you’re right, getting paid for my work changed my whole attitude about it in a big way.

      • StartYourNovel

        I was very much into the mapping thing until I realized that the people whose work I admire don’t map at all — they don’t even care about keeping their narrative universes 100% consistent — I’m talking about Ursula LeGuin and M. John Harrison.

        Harrison argued that discussing the minutiae of how an orc regiment organizes itself borders on autistic and detracts from the metaphor; it’s a form of stamp collecting disguised as writing. I’ve always found that authors who worry too much about world-building lack a certain finesse when it comes time to fill the blank page with them word thingies.

        Case in point: Bacigalupi’s The Windup Girl. Massive undertaking where creating a believable world is concerned, interesting neologisms, but characters so flat you could fold them ten times, stick them in a waffle iron and vaporize them into non-existence.
        Btw, even the world-building seems to be questionable there; I read a review by an outspoken* Thai reviewer who says Bacigalupi’s Thailand and Thai characters are, um, elephant doo-doo.

        *Or “embattled,” depending on her mood. She blogs at http://requireshate.wordpress.com/ (Word to the wise: She doesn’t hold back, ever.)

        • Thanks for the link, I’ll check it out. It looks grimly hilarious.

          Personally, I don’t think I could ever give up mapping — utility aside, I just really love doing it. I don’t get into the “orc regiment” level of detail, though, at least not for most things.

  • LOL! Sounds like your self-destruction was completely inadequate, and for that I am glad. Welcome back. 🙂

    • Thank you, Susan! It was, I am no good at self-destructing as it turns out.

  • Great post. As someone who has just started writing a blog, and seriously writing in general, it helps to see other writers admit to imperfection and to put the nature of blogging in perspective. In a short time I’ve already come to realize that once you start using social media, you need to keep devouring more and more to feel sated, leading to high expectations on bloggers like yourself. Anyway, hopefully all is well now.

    Oh, and Superman III is definitely the wrong kind of destructive!

    • Thank you! And I agree with you about social media — it can get very demanding, and falling out of the habit can make it very difficult to get your “visibility” back. I’ve spent way too much time worrying about my Klout…

  • I’ll have you know that the cosmic humor that runs the universe had “Man of Constant Sorrow” playing full blast from the iTunes listing when I clicked over to this post. Also, I am so there. As usual. Love your blogs. Especially when they involve vampires and pancake syrup and….I’m going to stop talking now. 🙂

    From one hypocrite to another ~

  • I was worried for a second you were hanging up your hat! Phew.

    • No chance. I am a man without hats, and I can dance if I want to.

  • Matt S.

    Glad to have you back, Dan! Re: Writing – I’m sure as heck not doing any. But it’s nice to read about it. 🙂

    • Thanks, Matt. And also, write, you bastard! The world needs you!

  • BlessedBklynite

    Wow, hmmm are you sure you’re not spying on me…Lol.

  • I DIDN’T CALL YOU SHORT. I called you Dwarvish. Entirely different and potentially truthful given your stint in your TV cave.

    Welcome back, my friend. Social media is hardly the same without you.

    • Whatever, Anna, I’ll have you know my TV cave has a very high ceiling and is well-lit!

  • Stopping by from Twitter. Am writing … and digging your voice … and hoping you keep writing … and it’s better to turn into an evil doppelgänger than to read 50 Shades of Grey. Really.

    • Thank you, Terri. Fortunately, I think I’d rather watch reruns of “She’s the Sheriff” for the rest of my natural life before I’d read 50 Shades.

  • You crack me up. No, for real, my lip is straining to smile and I’m at Panera and the two suits next to me are giving me weird looks.

    Welcome back!

  • Steve

    Daniel

    Is “Orison” a continuation of the short story “Burn”? I just read it and was extremely surprised by how well it was written for such a short story.

    • Anna Loy

      Steve,

      Not to usurp Daniel’s glory, but Orison is not a continuation of BURN. Daniel is currently writing a continuation of BURN and it is ALL THE AWESOME (I’ve read the first few chapters).

      Orison is the first book of a multi-book high fantasy series which is equally ALL THE AWESOME. Be sure to follow Daniel’s author page on Facebook (and his publisher Nine Muse Press!) to get updates.

    • Steve,

      Anna is correct. There is a continuation of BURN in the works, but ORISON is not it. Thanks, and I’m glad you enjoyed it!