How To Dump Out the Contents of Your Brain For Other People To Read

I was asked to offer some of the blogging tips that I’ve learned in my years on the internet to new bloggers. So, I started by making a long title that kind of functions as reverse clickbait, or, as I like to call it, “clickbait for hipsters”.

Joking aside, most of my blogging has basically been an exercise in learning that I don’t blog for many of the same reasons that other people blog. I don’t really want to write lists about my personal life, have never managed to write a book review good enough to justify putting it online, and would greatly prefer to be known for my work rather than my life. I didn’t know any of that when I started blogging at age twelve (yes, it was a separate blog and no, I will not give you the URL).

So, the most honest advice I can give you is to do it for yourself. Be willing to dive deep enough into your head that you start pulling up chunky stuff that smells a lot like word vomit. Be willing to say things, even when those little listicles that tell you how to become Really Frecking Internet Famous In Twelve Easy Steps say that isn’t what you should do.

This is extremely bad advice, mostly because it applies to approximately one person, that person being me. Most of this blog was founded on the principle that I was going to regularly post writing advice (Because people will take writing advice from me merely by nature of me having a writing blog, of course!) and short stories (Because I am able to regularly sit down and write stuff that isn’t total crap, right?). That is not what happened, at all. And it turned out that…I ended up liking the results. Even for a pathological liar, honesty really can be the best policy.

The end of the story is that writing is inherently personal. Radically personal, even. You can take advice from other people, but the second you let it turn into a rule, you’ve lost the point. The only things you can say unfailingly are to practice without ceasing, and read without stopping. Everything else is somewhere between personal differences, sheer luck, and insanity.

Now is the point where my ego got too big and my soap box cracked into a million splinters. Time for some practical advice:

Writing regularly is the only way you’ll get better. Some people like to treat blogs as the place where drafts go to exist, and a posting schedule is just a gun to their head to make sure things get done. You don’t have to have a schedule, though, and you may or may not find one useful. Writing may come naturally to you, writing may come only at force of habit. The same is true for speed of writing: you may be able to write ten thousand words in a day, or you may struggle to get out three paragraphs. Be willing to change as you determine what helps you write best.

In the same vein, you have to read others’ work. Read outside of your comfort zone, read genres you wouldn’t normally, and most of all, read the classics. You’ll stagnate if you don’t read, and you’ll eventually stagnate if you only read one kind of book. You don’t have to abandon your favorite genre wholesale, but you have to be willing to read around. Every person should have an open relationship with their books–read others, and encourage others to read yours (whether this pertains to book lending is entirely your own prerogative).

And if you’re already writing and reading, always be willing to break the rules of blogging. SEO and titles and the perfect word count for your work isn’t really important, unless your end goal is more about your follower count that your writing skills, which is an entirely reasonable goal that I can’t judge you for. If you read a book and want to write something that doesn’t fit your mission statement, go ahead and do it anyway. Nobody cares about your “aesthetic” as much as you do.

For better or for worse, this is what I can offer on the grounds of advice for new bloggers. Experiment, is really what it could be summed up as. Don’t be afraid to do whatever you feel like, even if part of your brain is snickering off to the side saying, “that’s so stupid!”

Summer Bucket List 2017

I’m very good at saying I’m going to do something and then never doing it. In fact, at this point it’s basically my modus operandi. So, this summer, I’m going to try and not do that. Or at least do it a little less. In pursuit of that goal, I’m making a list and posting where all of approximately nobody will notice it, in the hopes that I finish said goals.

 

One: Working on My Reading List.

I’ve mentioned “52 in 2017” a few times now, but it bears repeating. Reading 52 books in a year isn’t really a hard goal for me, but if I don’t outline what I’m going to read, it’s gonna be trash. Not that YA isn’t good in its own right, but I’ve got to learn how to read at a higher level, and more quickly, especially as I’m heading into my senior year of school. Yay, Shakespeare.

 

Two: Watching Some Sherlock. And Documentaries. Or Something.

I’ve got an awful attention span when it comes to watching screens, which isn’t necessarily bad, but I can’t watch TV shows. So I’m going to try and watch a few things I’ve been meaning to get caught up on: BBC Sherlock (which is kind of a TV show but it’s movie length?) and a metric ton of documentaries. A few movies, too, maybe. If I can force myself to sit still for long enough, I’d like to try out Bob’s Burgers and few other shows that I’ve heard so much about, but I’m not sure how that will work out.

 

Three: Get a Job.

College is coming. Far too soon, in my personal opinion. And it turns out that college costs a lot of money. So I’ll be getting a summer job in the hopes of being able to buy a car and maybe, just maybe, actually be able to afford school. Or at least less debt.

 

Four: Finish Listening to Welcome to Night Vale.

Remember what I said about having no attention span when it comes to TV shows? The same thing happens for audio-only things like Welcome to Night Vale. I’m going to go through the first two seasons by reading the books, but after that, I’ll have to listen (and now I’m making it sound like a chore–it’s really not). If nothing else, I’ll have the cleanest bedroom in the state. I’m also so excited about their newest novel It Devours!

 

Five: Complete Camp NaNoWriMo.

I completed NaNoWriMo last year for the first time, and I’m interested in doing it again in July. This time around I’m thinking about doing something more like a short story cycle (somewhere between Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio and spy thriller), but I’m not sure yet. Either way, it’ll keep me actually writing fiction instead of Tumblr posts.

 

Six: Work On This Blog & My Other Projects.

I talk a lot about having a schedule for this blog, and I never seem to follow through. I’d like to make more of a habit of writing content appropriate for this blog, and moving back into writing proper fiction a bit more. I’ve been tending towards self-indulgent self-analysis recently, which isn’t necessarily the worst possible thing, but it’s certainly not ideal. I’m also seriously considering picking up writing some fanfiction (likely through a separate site), so that will be another thing to deal with. And, of course, I’m looking to try and get published (under my real name) and a few other things, so that will be an adventure! I’m not totally looking forward to lots of rejection letters…but it’ll be better than nothing at all.

 

Seven: College Applications & Building a Portfolio.

College is looming. And as much as I’m looking forward to it, I’m also kind of dreading it. It’s a big change, and it will likely mark a change in how I run this blog. But until I’m actually accepted, I’ll need to actually send out applications. Hooray, rejection! So that begins in August, and well into the school year. Since I want to study architecture, I’ll also have a fair amount of art projects to complete, which will be interesting, since I’m not a terribly good artist as far as putting pencil to paper goes, but I am pretty good at model building (basically anything–LEGO to printer paper). I want to learn some paper quilling and paper cutting, as well as possibly work on a bigger costume-type project, but I’m not sure exactly what I’ll do.

 

Eight: Extensively Plan My Senior Year!

Senior photos. Buying semi-nice clothes since seniors don’t have to wear the school uniform every day. Getting school supplies together. Lots of stuff to do, basically, and as somebody who has to be organized so she doesn’t turn into a ball of anxiety shuffling through hundreds of papers, it’s probably even more work. I’m also considering bullet journaling my senior year (just because I think it will be fun…think being the primary word here).

 

Nine: Keep on Commonplacing.

I’ve always loved the idea of commonplacing, and I’d like to finish my current book (my second!) over the summer so I can get a new one next school year. It’s really forcing me to look for wisdom and advice in what I read, which I think has helped improve both my own reading skills as well as my mental state. There’s something rather comforting about reading literature, in the sense that it shows you that humans have been grappling the same problems for centuries. I really want to have a great senior year, since I won’t ever be in this situation, surrounded by these students and teachers, ever again. I’m not expecting it to be better than college or adulthood, but I certainly don’t want to squander it.

 

Peace Out

It had been a long night, the third act in a long weekend. This was the second day where we were going to be up until midnight, though it was also my third. I probably shouldn’t have been driving, but I was anyway. But I wasn’t driving right then.

It was too loud and too bright and too dark and too many people and too much of that musty smell that tends to accumulate in theatre dressing rooms: sweat and hair spray and teenage hormones. Neither of us cared for the music, and neither of us knew how to dance.

We were both outside on the patch of grass that wasn’t golf course and wasn’t cold tile porch. I asked if I could sit with you and you said no, but then said yes right afterwards. We both laughed: it was just that kind of night. We were both tired and overwhelmed. Mistakes happen. You can’t get upset over something like that.

So we laid down on the grass and stared up at the sky, watching airplanes and their little blinking lights and trying to spot the north star and the big dipper and wondering about how bright an airplane’s’ headlights must be, that we can see them from all the down here

The grass was cold and rough, and that was good. A welcome contrast. It was quiet, too, except for us and the mumbles of couples who were ignoring the rest of the world. We talked about a lot of things out there on the grass. We made plans we probably wouldn’t keep. We talked about alcohol, and boys, and why girls had the wear high heels and how it felt to be five-foot-nothing. I forgot whether or not I was five foot or five foot one inch. It didn’t really matter.

You told me that IPAs tasted better than white wine and how you pretended to be cleaning and setting the table that time in Pennsylvania when you tried your father’s for the first time. I told you that I would take you out in my father’s old pickup truck and we could really watch the stars, far enough away that there wouldn’t be light pollution. We both thought that maybe it would be good if electric lights and the internet had never been invented, the epitome of clueless private school kids, confused and desperate to fix the flaws in the world.

All good things come to an end, and somebody else got too touchy, and everybody standing too far out of the light got yelled at, told to go back inside. Or at least up on the porch. We both rolled our eyes, pretended we didn’t care, even though we did, and took our time walking up those two steps and back into reality. I don’t think that lady–middle aged with a small ring of fat about her abdomen, wearing too much makeup and too much white–realized what she was taking away from us. I’m not sure if we really realized at the time, either.

We stood there for a few more minutes. Until the guy I liked walked back up the steps, looking more worried that he usually does, and my friends walked back down to ignore the rules. We talked about boys again. Fears of commitment, and how relationships seem like a good idea from a distance, but not really worth it once you’re wedged inside one. It sounded like shallow girl-talk. It felt different.

The guy and my friends were there for a little bit, but they both went their separate ways and I thought about Robert Frost a bit, and decided that decisions were for people that knew what they wanted and kept talking to you. You were on one leg, putting your heels back on. I was standing barefoot, forgetting for once how my toes looked funny and not very nice.

Eventually, we both went back inside. I wandered back out again, talked with a few people, exchanging words I probably won’t remember. Sat down behind a column to read a book. Thought for a bit. I don’t know what you did. I just know I didn’t see you again that night. I was kind of disappointed. I felt like we got to know each other pretty well. Felt normal for once, not like a hanger-on or radical or crazy.
So, thanks. Thanks for the words and the ideas and the stars. Without you, I wouldn’t have looked up.  And sometimes looking up is the best thing you can do.