Wednesday 14 September 2011

One Million Words

Early in 2010, I discovered blogging. Why did people do this? What was the point? Did they make money? Was there some other reward?

On May 31, 2010, I created a blog on Google's Blogger. On June 3, I wrote my first posting. On June 28, 2010, I was contacted by the editor of an online newspaper Oye! Times for permission to reprint my blog articles. After a while, I started writing separate articles just for the paper, that is, these were your reporting the news type of articles which I never published on my blog. I keep all this in two Word documents; one document is my work in progress and one is my archive. Right now, my archive of blog postings and newspaper articles shows over a million words. That's 493 blog postings and 540 newspaper articles. That represents 469 days with an average of 2,100 words per day.

Since October 1, 2010, I have published at least one posting per day on my blog. - I guess I've satisfied the requirements for National Blog Posting Month; NaBloPoMo asks you to post every day for a month. - I've shot my mouth off about numerous things but chuckle to myself about what any of this signifies in the grand schemes of things. There are a number of amusing demotivational posters about blogging floating round.

Blogging: Now you can show the whole world why no one listens to you.

Blogging: If you had any friends in the real world, you wouldn't need to yammer on about your day on the Internet.

Blogging: Never before have so many people with so little to say said so much to so few.

Blogging: With the right stage and the right voice there's no limit to the size of your audience. (This one has the picture of an empty theatre.)

Many have their quirkiness. It may be charming, amusing or stupid. I guess that depends on the reader. Being a big fan of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, I have been very much taken by the bleeping of profanities on these shows. As odd as it may sound, I find the bleeping funnier than if I had actually heard them swear. I'd say this is related to euphemisms. Rather than just saying the F word, coming up with a novel way of suggesting it can be funnier. By the way, French Connection United Kingdom have quite a novel marketing campaign based on the acronym of the company name.

Consequently, I have taken to never writing out a profanity in full. That is, I'll write f**k or s**t but I won't write the word itself. Hmmm, I think there may be a couple of times I quoted somebody and left the profanity in but as a rule, I use asterisks. Is this quirky? Probably. Is this funnier? Well, no comments so far but I plan on continuing that way. After all, any Tom, Dick or Harry can swear. The trick is to do it tastefully, artfully and appropriately. I have humorously noted over the years in hearing certain people talk that if I could remove the F word from their vocabulary, I estimate I could reduce their side of a conversation by 50%. Yes, just about every other word is F. Are there no other words one can use to underline the importance of something? It isn't good; it's very good. It's incredibly good, fantastically good, extraordinarily good. No, it's supercalifragilisticexpialidociously good. Then again "it's f**king good" does have a certain visceral impact. There's nothing like "literarily" kicking your reader in crotch. (literarily as opposed to literally) (see my blog: Censorship: Kill me but no sex please)

I decided early on that an image for each article spiffed things up a bit. It caught the eye and dressed up the page. Maybe it wasn't 100% necessary but somehow it made a posting aesthetically a bit more pleasing.

I have found the images by using Google's image search. However I've always had in the back of my mind that images could be copyright material. Now I'm not making any money off this blog so somehow I felt nobody would object if there was no commercial gain. Nevertheless in selecting an image I stayed away from the newspapers since I knew they were copyright material and I would favour an image I saw being reproduced by several sources. My defence, albeit weak, was to say I swiped the image from another site not realising it was copyrighted.

Some bloggers, like Kat Wilder, do me one better. They go to a commercial site like and buy images. They offer royalty free images for a minimal amount of money usually only demanding that the photographer and the service get credit. On one article, I note that Ms. Wilder has written in small print at the bottom of her posting:

Photo © Christopher Hall –

This doesn't seem like much of an inconvenience and it gives her the peace of mind that nobody is going to accidentally run across her blog and (legally) take exception to it. I, on the other hand, am running the risk of getting my ass sued off.

I note that those bloggers who have managed to turn their online literary work into a commercial enterprise, like Dooce and Single Dad Laughing seem to be only publishing photographs that they themselves have taken. That's an excellent way of avoiding the copyright laws; do it yourself.

Early on, I noted that everybody is essentially blogging their opinion. Fine, but I decided to kick it up a notch. Not being satisfied with just stating my opinion, I opted to prove as objectively as possible that my opinion was right; it was the truth. Hence, just about each posting ends with a References section in which I provide links to various other sources, supposedly expert sources, which (hopefully) back up what I've said.

Now this may seem trite: Who cares, so you can Google stuff. Or this may seem pedantic: Think you're pretty smart, eh? However as I went on reading more stuff, and I don't necessarily mean blogs but even newspaper articles, I discovered people would say things which were very, ah, for lack of a better word, politicized. The word politicize means "to make political in character" but I have come to interpret that as meaning to twist the facts, cherry pick the facts or outright lie. I would like to think that life can be factual - two plus two equals four - but became progressively disgusted at how people would bent the truth. They would say the correct answer is not four but five. I would back up from their conclusion to find where their interpretation of the problem is two plus three not two plus two. I would check where "three" came from only to discover their reasoning was specious.

Osama bin Laden is a terrorist.
Osama is a Muslim.
Muslims are terrorists.

I have actually seen this type of defective syllogism. But never mind specious reasoning, I have actually seen people lie. Lie! I get insulted. I get angry. I am offended that this person thinks I am gullible enough to accept whatever they say, that I am not going to bother to take the time to verify what they say. Yes, two plus three equals five but your three is based on all Muslims being terrorists.

As well as references, I decided that quoting an expert was better than me writing my opinion. As such, I have to clarify that when I say one million words, not all of those words are mine. Yes, I did the research; yes, I found the materials, but what I wrote was me quoting an expert. Instead of me saying that two plus two equals five, I felt it would be or at least sound more authoritative to write:

Two plus two equals five.
- Albert Einstein

If I say it, aren't you going to be thinking, "Just who the heck does this guy think he is? Albert Einstein?"

I violate rules about blogging
10 rules for responsible blogging. Six rules of blogging (that also apply to Twitter). Five Blogging Rules to Make a Great First Impression. The 11 Definitive Rules of Blogging. The New York Times' 10 Rules For Blogging. Top 3 Blogging Rules. Oh, and finally, how about 5 Blogging Rules You Should Break?

Apparently you should blog about a single topic. I don't. I'm all over the map and I can now see the problem one supposed expert described. A reader drops by to read one of my postings on divorce only to come back the next day and find my posting Krispy Kreme Burgers: Gag me with a spoon. Or they read my review of the movie Contagion then drop back and find a posting on politics like Michele Bachmann, a Corn Dog and the Oral Office.

Some say you should post every day; some say you should post only when you have something to say. Since October 1, 2010, I have posted at least once every day although I may be guilty of throwing some "filler" in there once in a while. If you ever see a posting consisting of a music video, that means I ran out of steam and couldn't think of anything else to do. Yes, I throw in the lyrics with a references section but I am essentially too tired or too uninspired to actually write something. That's filler.

On the other hand, I've passed a motivated weekend researching and writing (I currently live alone) and have managed to crank out ten thousand words.

I cross-post on Open Salon, Zimbio, Oye! Times and occasionally NaBloPoMo. Does this help to up my pageviews? Beats me. Curiously enough I have noted that Open Salon seems to be a world unto itself. It seems that people only read what's in Open Salon and even though I provide a link back to my blog, very few people ever click out of Open Salon.

I also post to Facebook and Twitter. I have set up automatic feeds from my blog to these social media sites but manually add entries either about news items or to repost my own blog entries. How much does doing this add to my site traffic? I haven't got the foggiest. My stats do show some pageviews originating from Twitter and Facebook but not very much. Then again, I don't have that many friends or followers.

I discovered this web site tracking service in November 2010 and have been looking at my score ever since. I started at 18 million and am now down to 2.3 million. Note that Google is number one. Now this may seem like an improvement, but I've come to understand that in the big picture this doesn't mean diddly-squat.

Heather Thompson of Dooce.Com has managed to turn her blog into a commercial enterprise. Her Alexa score is 16,000 and she gets 5 million pageviews per month. I've been on-line for 1 year and 4 months and only have 75,000 pageviews in total!

Final Word
According to the Global Language Monitor, as of September 14, 2011, there are 1,010,649 words in the English language. I am positive that out of my million, I have repeated a lot of those words and covered just a fraction of the total available. Me write words few. Sorry, I'm having a Yoda moment.

I started writing a blog as an experiment. I had no idea of what I was doing or where I was going. It's been over a year and I still don't know what I'm doing or where I'm going. I have certainly learned that there are a lot, and I mean a lot of people out there writing who are smarter and funnier than I am and who have a better command of the English language than I do. Grammatical mistakes? Spelling errors? Run-on sentences and a lack of logic? Strunk and White are turning over in their graves.

Pauline Gaines of the web site Perils of Divorced Pauline publishes something she calls Blogger Space. Every Sunday she features a picture of where a blogger writes with a short description about the space written by the blogger in question. She asked me to submit something and I hesitated wondering what I could do that was entertaining. This is what I sent her (including a picture of my laptop perched on the seat of my toilet):

It was a tough decision: do something serious or do something (hopefully) funny. Well, when you live in a tiny apartment, you ofttimes go for the funny. It's better than sobbing uncontrollably.

The photo: ah, the challenge of perching one's laptop on the throne while overcoming the precarious nature of gravity. After all, it's not like I'm "flush" with cash and can go buy a new one if this one gets wet. But how could anyone pass up an opportunity to dig out every puerile scatological reference they could think of? Then there are the potential guffaws from associating this with multi-tasking. Of course, in picturing my balancing act ending up in the drink, I began to think about the phrase "laptop in a bowl". For some reason it sounded to me like a gelato specialty dessert in a high-priced restaurant; the laptop would be a wafer sticking out of a stemmed glass cup.

If anything, I hope it is a reminder that we are not here for a long time, we are here for a good time. In the grand scheme of things, I know that I am merely a single grain of sand on the beach of life and my contribution to the background cacophony of seven billion voices is just a blip meriting an allusion to the posterior of a rodent: Who gives a rat's ass? At the heart of the writing process is some sort of (psychotic) urge to put it down on paper. I think of this quote which so far I haven't been able to attribute to anyone:

"A writer is an egomaniac with low self-esteem".

And so, another day, another blog posting. NoBloPoMo is now checked off. What's next? NaNoWriMo? As I look again at my blogger statistics and the dearth of pageviews, I lean back in my chair, look upwards to the ceiling with a contemplative expression while wondering which benefactor is going to bequeath the posterior of a rodent to me. 7 billion people. That's a lot of competition for your attention. I better get smarter and funnier.

The following are some of my blog postings about writing. Some are specifically about blogging; some are about writing books.

Blogging: Using Google as a research tool
Blogging: Does crossposting increase traffic?
Writing for Blogging for Money for a Living
Kindle E-books Overtake Paper Books
Writing: Stories in tweets
Blogging: Just another drop in the bucket
Dean Wesley Smith: Dean of Star Trek
Gay male romance for women
Amanda Hocking: indie author goes viral maybe this doesn't help writers
Holly Lisle: before I'm 25, I want to write a book.
Writing: November Challenges
NaBloPoMo: National Blog Posting Month
Assembly Line Writing: churning it out
James Patterson: some don't like me, many more do
Writing: Less is more: the drabble
NaNoWriMo: Write a novel in 1 month?
On Writing by Stephen King


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