Reflections on My First Month of Blogging
Hooray! My blog baby, Popcorn and Pigtails (Poppy Pig? Piggy Pop?), is one month old! Awww, she’s so cute and tiny and clueless, but sometimes she smiles at me, and I swear it isn’t gas.
I am thrilled to have this itty-bitty space—a little room of my own to decorate and play in, and invite guests to visit—on the Internet. I’ve missed this. Associated Content, which later became “Yahoo! Voices” and then the “Yahoo! Contributor’s Network” before ultimately going down in flames and closing shop, was my very first blogging home, although I never called myself a blogger back in 2007. AC called me a “Content Producer,” a term that made me feel like a machine in a factory, churning out material to fill in all the holes in the World Wide Web—fill in the right hole, land in a primo spot in Google search results, and you may just earn yourself a million page views, even if your content is absolute garbage. I never wrote any million-page-view articles, but my experience at AC taught me how to write for an online audience (I don’t use that knowledge to any great advantage, though, because I still stubbornly ignore most hot topics and SEO tricks). The best part of my AC years was connecting with so many other writers, and feeling like I occasionally helped or touched or entertained a handful of people with my articles.
Everything I have published here so far, aside from my “About Me” page and first blog post, is old, recycled material—former Associated Content humor articles that I wrote between 2007 and 2011, and didn’t ever republish at Examiner.com (Examiner also died a few years after I started writing for them—coincidence?) or HumorOutcasts (a very active humor website, which has grown immensely since its inception in 2011—proof that my writing is not cursed after all!). As I’ve gathered up and dusted off all my old articles and stories, and reread them and decided what to post here, I’ve been noticing that—gasp! cringe!—my writing is not perfect. I used to think I was so much better than all those “content producers” cranking out the junk to get the most clicks, that my articles were like rare, fine wine compared to their common, cheap beer. Ah, what a snob I was (and still am, but at least I’m self-aware). I think I’m so damn witty that I should never stop explaining/joking/questioning/describing. I’m doing it even now. Why can’t I just get to the point and say, “I tend to babble too much.” Better yet, “I babble too much.” (“Thank God she’s finally realized it,” I can hear all of my patient, beautiful, discerning readers muttering.)
It’s been a very enlightening, humbling experience to edit my old work and remove the fluff. So much fluff! Some of the fluff is fun, and I suppose it’s a crucial component of my writing style and voice—I think very fluffy thoughts—but I need to recognize when my wordiness becomes tedious or redundant. And it’s great practice as I gear up to edit my novel-in-progress. I believe that the best writers are meticulous surgeons, cutting and trimming and refining their words until a few polished, popping kernels are all that remain (I’m pretty proud of that popcorn metaphor; now let’s see if I can work “pigtails” into this post somehow).
So, my new writing motto is: Don’t be afraid to use that “delete” key! (On my Chromebook’s keyboard, the “delete” key has been deleted, so I’ll have to use my “backspace” key, okay?) Trim the fat! Make those main ideas POP by getting rid of all the fluffy distractions! Backspace! Backspace! Backspace!
One of my new, favorite daily blogs, which I never would have discovered if I hadn’t started this blog, is The Drabble. I can barely make a grocery list that’s less than 100 words, but, wow, so many talented writers featured on The Drabble manage to paint a compelling scene or even tell a complete story in “drabble” form. I believe I need to do a lot more drabbling myself. I just checked my current word count: 690 (and that’s after a lot of trimming*). I could have said everything I needed to say in 100 words or less…maybe, if I’d tried really, really, really hard.
“Cutting to the chase” isn’t my default programming, but I know it’s a valuable skill to hone. (Do you know where the expression “cut to the chase” comes from? I looked it up on Wikipedia, and so should you.) Sometimes it’s hard to let go of all the fluff. Do I feel like the fluff shields me somehow? Like, if I just say/write exactly what I mean, as directly and concisely as I can, that nobody will like me anymore? Hmm.
Well, before you all decide that you don’t like the less-fluffy version of Maria’s writing (who am I kidding? There’s no shortage of fluff here!), I’d like to thank the longtime writer friends and everyone else following this blog. I know how busy you all are, and I promise I won’t blow up your inboxes the way Office Max and Kohl’s and IHOP do with their incessant sale and coupon alerts. Speaking of which, I recently vowed to unsubscribe from all the email lists that irritate me—one more small way to remove some of the clutter in my life. I always type out a reason for unsubscribing, too, because I like providing valuable feedback to the pests: “I have switched to a gluten-free diet. Why don’t you offer gluten-free pizza crust like Domino’s or Pizza Hut or Minsky’s, or so many others? What’s wrong with you, Papa John’s? WHY DO YOU HATE ME?” (It’s important to note that this blog is NOT a gluten-free cooking blog, thank goodness, although popcorn is my favorite gluten-free snack. And pigtails are like popcorn in hairstyle form, am I right?) [Retraction: Papa John’s just started offering a gluten-free crust in August! I must have missed the big announcement, since I’d already unsubscribed from their annoying emails.]
*Here is some of the fluff I deleted from the above blog post: But sometimes it feels so good to just babble away. It’s fine because later on I’ll go nuts with the “delete” and/or “backspace” keys, and it will be a total bloodbath—eviscerated words leaking ink everywhere. “Aaaaaaagh!” they’ll scream, trying to pick up their rejected sentence fragments and precious adverbs, looking for a hiding place in one of my parenthetical declarations. “Maria is writing new material again! Oh nooooooooooooooooooo!” Oh, yes. New material. You’re reading it right now (I never said it was good material).
Highlight. Ctrl X. Cut! Good riddance.
Are you still with me? You’ve already read 1100 words, so 275 more can’t possibly hurt. Let’s look back on a cute piece of microfiction I wrote for a contest that I didn’t win sevenish years ago. I didn’t know or use the term “drabble” when I wrote “The Next Day,” but it’s probably the closest thing to drabble that I’ve produced, other than a few short poems that aren’t worth sharing here or anywhere.
Cheers to all the skilled drabblers out there, who make up for all the babblers like me.
The Next Day
by Maria Roth
“Hey. Wanna know something amazing?”
“Taco Bell bean burritos are really delicious when reheated the next day.”
“I said no, Caroline.”
“They’re seriously better the next day.”
“And this enriches my life how?”
“Oh, forget it…So, Hayden still isn’t back.”
“You kicked him out. What’d ya expect?”
“For him to come back. Groveling. With thousands of red roses and chocolates and a pizza.”
“Not gonna happen.”
“You’re over him, remember? You said if you found another one of his Lactaid wrappers on the counter you were gonna—”
“Oh, c’mon, I didn’t mean it.”
“But you meant it when you told him to leave.”
“Yes, Caroline, you did. It’s four in the morning, and you’ve been crying and smelling his pillow again. Wash the damn thing, and go to sleep.”
“I don’t want him to be gone. I miss his Lactaid wrappers now. I’ve changed my mind.”
“Fine. Call up Hayden and tell him you want him back, and leave me alone.”
“Fine. I will.”
“Great. Good night.”
“You’re the best, Emily.”
“I’m…so tired, Caroline.”
“You’re right. I don’t need him.”
“I know you don’t. Go find a man who’s not lactose-intolerant, okay?”
“Good. I have a plan now. Thanks, Em.”
“You’re welcome. I already knew about the bean burritos, by the way.”
“Yeah. You told me the last time you called at four a.m.”
“It’s okay. G’night. Sweet dreams.”
“Shhhh! I’m already asleep…”