Who Died and Left You In Charge?
Disclaimer: This article does not reflect the views or opinions of the owners, management, shareholders, janitors, editorial staff, accountants, or pets of Retired-But-Not-Dead Publications, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia.
So You Know
Most people writing online today hope to make a few shekels for their thoughts. I am not one of those people.
You see, although I write on several monetized blog sites, I have opted not to participate in such programs. I write solely for the joy of expression.
Besides, I am too old and tired to scale anyone’s paywall. Grandma’s got bad knees.
So, since I’m not looking to make any money, I round-file much of the ‘advice’ supposedly written for new writers, because most of it doesn’t apply to me. Although — I must admit — much of it scares me.
Let me explain.
I was eager to learn everything I could when I started writing online. For the first few days, I sat there like a pleb, transfixed and doe-eyed, devouring the plethora of so-called articles put out there by revered ‘seasoned’ writers.
That was until the other morning when I suddenly jumped up and stomped on the emergency brake. In doing so, I spilled my coffee all over my desk.
Whoa, Nellie! What’s happening here? I asked. A quick check of my search terms was in order.
From the looks of things, my Boolean string was in a Gordian knot because all roads led back to the same type of article. Articles slapping new writers about the head and neck area without their consent — articles claiming to have been written by advocates and mentors.
Buzz-kill articles screamed at me like carnival barkers. The headlines blasted such things as [my comedic paraphrasing here]:
- ‘Yo Fresh Face, Readers Don’t Give a Rip About Your Personal Story!’
- ‘Pffft!, Kid, You Call That Writing?’
- ‘C’mon, Stop Calling Yourself a Writer; You’re a Dumb Blogger at Best.’
- ‘Fuggedaboutit! You’re Never Gonna Get Picked Up by a Real Publication.’
- I ceased scrolling and clicked away without bothering to read the following attention-grabbing headline in the lineup, ‘Drop and Give Me 50, You Maggots!’
Hmmm. I sat there, furrowing my brow and scratching my head. Why were so many ‘advice’ articles for newbies being written in such a demeaning way?
Shots across the bow, perhaps? To prevent an upstart uprising? Turf wars? Time will tell.
Honestly, until then, I had no idea that reading an article could land a person face-down at Parris Island Marine Corps Depot with live ammo flying overhead. Who knew?
All I knew for sure was that this writer had ventured into hostile territory. I figured it was best to take a head-down approach and keep crawling on my elbows until I reached a clearing; no sense drawing friendly fire — at least, not yet, right?
Whew! I’m in a safe place now. I can finally stand up and dust myself off.
Hang on a sec while I drag my soapbox out from under the bed; there’s something I’d like to say in response:
Hear ye, hear ye. I, at this moment, pause to praise the purveyors of particularly pompous pedagogy posited by the preeminent and positively perfect pundits who publish so prolifically.
I’m rolling my eyes and making that gagging stick-your-finger-down-your-throat gesture.
The Piling On
My goodness, these pundits do love a good rumble, eh? And the subject is not even politics!
Nanoseconds after my click-away, Mystery Man (aka the almighty AI algorithm) injected himself into the situation and set about making it an out-and-out free-for-all.
By analyzing the articles I’d been reading in disbelief, Mr. Algorithm queued up for me an all-you-can-eat buffet of even more pedantic smack-downs in my feed for my my viewing pleasure at my next login.
Visions of Kevin Bacon getting whacked by a teacher in the hallway in the movie Animal House flooded my imagination. Whack! “Thank you, sir. May I have another?”
The Trauma & Satire of It All
As a humorist, I can usually laugh and let these things slide. However when it came to something as near and dear to my heart as creative writing, my subconscious struggled — at least based on a bizarre dream I had a few nights later.
In this dream, an angry mob of seasoned writers chased a cohort of newbie writers down a long, dark hallway. They all brandished wire hangers and screamed: “How many times must we tell you? NO … MORE … ELLIPSES!”
I woke in a cold sweat with the covers pulled up over my head. Breathlessly, I bolted upright and screamed, “Yes, Mommy, Dearest!”
Later that day, the satirical side of my subconscious was still disturbed — still churning.
As I dropped a new pod into my coffee machine, I had a flashback of parochial school, and everything became abundantly clear. Immediately, I knew who and what was behind those odd articles!
You see, Covid and distance learning displaced a lot of nuns from their teaching jobs, and so — to keep themselves busy — The Sisters of Perpetual Mood Disorder had been forced to find side hustles to make ends meet. Yep, you guessed it. Those same nuns (wielding their 12 inch metal rulers for knuckle discipline) were now authoring advice articles to new writers under nom de plumes.
Well, I’m too precocious to sit back and say nothing. I may be a newbie, but I, too, have some ‘advice’ to offer.
Please note: my advice is to the nuns — and the nuns only. I also want to preface what I am about to say with this admonition. Dear darlings, take what I am about to say the way I intend it — with utmost love — and with a whopping side order of satire.
Girlfriends, y’all seriously need to check yo selves. I can’t speak for anyone else, but when I was reading your well-meaning (?) articles, I could barely hear your intended message over your shrill high-and-mighty tone that was bleeding through your prose to blast the message: “I have a rigid farm implement lodged somewhere it doesn’t belong.”
Number one: I recommend that before you dare to instruct freshers on the finer points of writing and publishing, you need to stop and ask yourself — is this the message I wish to convey? I think not.
Number two: Here’s one more tidbit of oh-so-loving constructive feedback. Pardon me while I approach your thrones.
Come closer … No, a little closer… Now, lean forward … I want you to be sure to hear what I have to say. My heart’s in the right place, so I’m going to whisper this one so as not to embarrass any of you publicly: [screaming at the top of my voice] …. “HEY! REMOVE THE IMPLEMENTS — AND DITCH THE TONE!”
I am confident that by making these two changes — with a bit of practice — you, too, can up your writing game.
Who knows? Before you know it, you’ll be back to communicating valuable information with your signature perfect grammar, precise sentence structure, and impeccable flow — all without baring your fangs and slinging all that saliva.
Oh Yeah, One Last Thing
Don’t start twitching, but I want you to know that I did no pre-writing, outlining, or prioritizing bullet points before I started writing this piece. Against your advice, I threw care to the wind and (gasp!) — yes, against your revered and learned instruction — I did The Big No-No.
Yep, I simply vomited out a stream-of-consciousness piece. I know … I know … You told me several times: there’s nothing in it for the reader … it’s nothing more than a glorified journal entry — yada, yada. I get it. And worse yet, I’m now trying to pass it off as having written a legitimate blog post. The nerve of some people!
Editors everywhere are licking their red pencils.
Do you hear that? No? You don’t?
Indeed. What you’re not hearing is the loud sound of the crickets and, quite possibly, the algorithms everywhere electronically flagging me for writer’s prison, curation jail, shadow banning, or distribution detainment (insert your favorite descriptor here), depending on the particular platform.
It’s no biggie; I’ll be okay. At least I won’t be in detainment all by my lonesome. The cabal already arrested my good buddy, Gerund. He’s been locked up ever since your first article appeared. He sent me a text a few minutes ago to tell me he’s waiting for me. We’re ‘finna’ hang out. It’ll be fun.
Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh
For years I moonlighted as a serious healthcare administrator. These days I am flying my humor flag and enjoying life. I write to dispel the rumor that I rode off quietly into the sunset. Smile and enjoy the ride. Life is good.