Tag Archives: Editing

How to Start a Blog

(Image/blog.ringcentral.com)

(Image/blog.ringcentral.com)

Feral Wife asked:

Hi Matt, I have truly enjoyed reading your blog. I found it shortly after asking my husband for a separation (we decided not to). Your words were a blessing, and long story short, you and the many commenters have inspired me to start my own blog. The premise of my blog is I am the wife of a shitty husband, a husband who was shocked when I asked for a separation. Now we are trying to work it out and stay married. So I want to share my journey in hopes of helping other wives and husbands. But I don’t really know where to start, I am assuming your blog didn’t start off as fabulous as it is now (if it has, more props to you!) so I am asking for tidbits/advice on where to start. I would like to remain anonymous, for a variety of reasons. Anyway, you said we could ask you stuff, for free, so I thought I’d ask: “How do I start my own blog?”

There are countless reasons to start blogging.

Some people love writing. Some people like telling stories. Some people dream big and hope people will like their writing and that it might create future writing and career opportunities. Some people process information and life events best when they get thoughts down on paper (or a computer screen). Some people want to help and be a resource for others.

If you ask me today why I write here, those are my reasons.

But that’s not why I started.

One night, less than three months into my marital separation, I was self-medicating with vodka before some friends were picking me up to go out.

I was feeling sorry for myself because my wife was seeing someone.

I was feeling sorry for myself because my son wasn’t home.

I was feeling sorry for myself because I was taking my first crack at online dating and it was a colossal failure by every measurable standard.

I was totally losing it. I called an 800 number off a card someone at work had given me for over-the-phone counseling.

I don’t remember anything about the conversation except for the part where the therapist lady told me I should start writing down my thoughts and feelings. Normal people keep journals. I thought: Maybe I’ll just write anonymously and publish it! That might be a fun experiment!

I thought Must Be This Tall To Ride was going to be a sarcastic, juvenile journey through my online-dating stumbles—the story of this bumbling, depressed, freaking-out newly single 30-something father trying to “date” for the first time in his life.

I started blogging because I’m a total spaz and as soon as any idea pops into my idiot little head, I rush off and do it until I get bored or distracted by something else and move on.

But then something happened I didn’t expect—some people gave a shit. People were reading. Not a lot. But some! Whoa.

Writing has some magic qualities for the people doing it. Something intangible that, no matter how many times people tell you, you can’t really understand it until it starts happening. That therapist lady knew it. But I didn’t. Not until, for the first time in my life, I took things from the inside of me and turned them into words.

It was a little scary. A little embarrassing. But, man. It worked. I really started feeling better.

And then something even crazier happened.

Some of the people reading said it helped them feel better, too.

I’ve written PLENTY of immature bullshit here. Sorry. I am immature and sometimes I make bad decisions that are bullshit.

But mostly? I started really caring about being someone who wasn’t adding to all the noise and negativity shrieking and clanging around out there.

Maybe this can matter. 

How to Start a Blog

1. Have a reason. A concept. A thing.

No matter how much I don’t want to be, I’ve sort of become this divorce/relationship blogger, which makes no sense, but whatever. Sometimes things don’t make sense.

2. Think of good blog names, and pick one with a sensible, AVAILABLE URL (or if you’re not hiding your identity, try to secure your name. Example: BobRodgers.com)

I picked Must Be This Tall To Ride because a week earlier I wrote to some 5’2” online dating chick one night who wouldn’t date guys under six feet, and I used it as the subject line. It made me laugh. She wrote back, but not because she wanted to go out. I’m glad the URL was available. That was lucky.

3. There are a variety of blogging platforms. I like WordPress for many reasons. Choose a non-sucky theme

I picked this theme (called “Chunk”) because it’s SUPER-clean, and I like clean. I like Google’s home page. I like Apple’s advertising. I like white space.

So I chose this because there aren’t any distractions.

I thought I would be able to customize it so that I could take some of the things that live WAY down at the bottom of these pages that most people never see, and move them up to the sidebars. But this theme doesn’t let you do that, AND I suck at HTML coding, so even if it did, I probably couldn’t have pulled it off.

My advice: Choose a theme that allows people to follow you via email up in the sidebar, and showcase other information they care about like recent posts, or popular posts, or how to follow you on social media, or whatever. When you bury it at the bottom of your blog like I do here, most people never see it because they’re busy and don’t care. You have to make it easy and obvious for them to follow you.

4. Use photos in your blog posts.

I usually stick with just one image up top. Credit the photographer or at least the source whenever possible in the caption. People like images.

5. Write as much as you want, but 800 words or less will help readers stay with you.

I usually write over a thousand because I’m wordy and don’t always do what I’m supposed to.

6. Write well.

This is subjective. I don’t think I’m a particularly great writer. But (usually after publishing a mistake or two every time) I’m pretty good about keeping the copy clean. Typos are bad. Using “their” instead of “there” is bad. Bad punctuation is bad. Bad everything is bad. Unfortunately, I do some things poorly. It’s because I’m only moderately intelligent AND because I rush through this stuff, never planning ahead, and hastily hitting Publish during my lunch hour at work. It’s a bad blogging and writing strategy.

7. Make it easy for people to share your work.

WordPress plugins make it easy to embed social media sharing on your blog. Twitter is the only social media I use to share posts and it generates very little traffic because I’m shitty at Twitter. Facebook is obviously the biggest and best place to share. Because I’m afraid of family members and people in my professional network reading about accidental vaginas or my grandmother hypothetically marrying a Liam Neeson movie character, I’ve always been too scared to share stuff on Facebook. But it’s still the place where my posts that do get shared, get shared most often.

8. Reply to comments.

I’m not always good at this, but I aspire to be.

9. Try to develop a regular posting schedule.

Posting every day only worked for about nine months for me. That was masochistic. I generally stick to Monday-Wednesday-Friday now and I find it more manageable. There’s no right or wrong way. But consistency is smart.

10. Tag and categorize your posts thoughtfully.

I just sort of guess. There’s a science to it, but I’m always in too big of a hurry. Tagging or categorizing my posts “Marriage” or “Divorce” or “Penis” allows people to find content that interests them and lets regular readers know what they’re getting into.

I’m probably leaving stuff out because I’m out of time and need to stop writing this.

In Conclusion

Feral Wife called my blog “fabulous.” Which is too kind because of all its structural deficiencies and sometimes-shitty writing.

If it is fabulous, I have a hard time believing it started out that way. Some people have read every post, and they would know better than me.

I’ve published close to 500 posts in just over two years here, and any time you do something hundreds of times, you get better at it, but that’s also subjective because some of you are reading this (or quit 700 words ago) and are thinking: Why the hell am I still reading this?

Fair question.

I have no idea.

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Check Yourself Before You Autocorrect Yourself

Fast food. It's helpful! But shitty. You know, just like autocorrect. Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images

Fast food. It’s helpful! But shitty. You know, just like autocorrect. Photo by Cate Gillon/Getty Images

“Hey! What’s the name of that HBO show you keep telling me to watch?”

“A song of boners.”

“A song of boners? I’m pretty sure that’s not it.”

“Lmao. A GAME OF THROBS I mean.”

“Throbs, huh?”

“OMG. My auto carts socks tonite.”

“Don’t hurt yourself! Game of Thrones! Got it. Thanks!”

“FML.”

Autocorrect technology on smartphones is AMAZING. A miracle technology. It really is.

It will turn a fat-fingered “tinifht” into the intended “tonight.”

It will turn “Swrdos” into “Swedish.”

And “giisbess” into “goodness.”

I can’t even imagine how ridiculous I might sound if I disabled the feature.

But.

Let me say that again. BUT.

It’s also the most maddening piece-of-shit technology I’ve used as well. While it generates laughs…

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…it also drives me insane when I type things 14 times—totally NORMAL properly spelled words—but it still thinks I’m talking about some nonsense I’ve never even heard of before.

I ACTUALLY mean to say the thing I’m typing you stupid SONOFABITCHIN’ phone!!!

It’s brilliant. And completely dumb.

It’s useful. But an obstacle.

It’s helpful. But, my God. It’s also totally shitty.

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It Begs the Question

What other things in this world offer such wonderful helpfulness while simultaneously being awful?

What else has the same helpful-to-shitty ratio?

I brainstormed answers with a friend:

Fast food.

Condoms.

Masturbation.

Vegetables.

Cigarettes.

Lawns.

Good, but bad. Helpful. But shitty.

‘Thank you for this tie.’

It dawned on me that I wanted to write part of this post on my phone and let autocorrect do its thing.

I’m going to do that right now. I’m going to write a fat-fingered, unedited fake cover letter for a fake writing and editing job I’d like to have. I’m going to write it on my autocorrecting phone, then copy and paste it here.

You know. Just to see what happens.

Dear Sir or Madam:

You need a writer and endure, and I need a job. It’s liken it was meant to be.
Since my first news story’s was published as a college studs t, I have dedicated my life for the craft of writing and editing so tree. Tend my days as a beat reporter in Florida, to an trade publics business writer, and now to an internet marketing professional, I possess the writing chops, experience, and keen eye for derails that you are looking diff in an editor.
I am well-versed in both interns and external communicating best practiced, and am confident I’m qualified R&B you positing.
I howled you’re as excited to meet me as I am for mert you. I very much look firewater for meeting you and I can’t the DJ ruin enough for considering me for your opening.
Thank you for this tie.

Sincerely,
Matt

“Thank you for this tie.”

That made me laugh.

That was supposed to say “Thank you for your time.”

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Autocorrect—helpful, but shitty.

I reply to most blog comments on my phone so “if” gets turned into “of” a lot, or some other ridiculous correction happens with great frequency. Sometimes I see them later and edit them.

I bet a bunch of people read my replies and think I’m a stupid moron. I freak out when I write things poorly. Sometimes I publish blog posts and miss a typo and find it the next day and want to die because hundreds of people read it and now think I’m the dumbest person in the world.

Don’t deny it.

A newspaper gets printed daily. Millions and millions of words. But once in a great while you find a misspelling in a photo caption and think: “Hahahahaha! Look how freaking stupid the paper is! No wonder it’s going out of business!”

I just finished Biz Stone’s Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of a Creative Mind, which is the story of Twitter’s creation from one of its three co-founders. I loved it.

But I found two typos. The book probably has 70,000 words. And I found both typos.

“Applaud” was spelled “appluad” (if I’m remembering right) and the word “from” was used when “for” was intended which I mistakenly do ALL THE TIME.

Otherwise, the book was perfect.

But look at me, sitting here remembering those two things. I wonder whether Biz cares.

I’m working on my first book, and in addition to worrying about whether anyone in the entire world will ever give a shit (besides my mom and grandma, who I actually hope never open it), I also worry about how many mistakes might be published.

I once wrote a post called Clean Copy apologizing to readers for the crappy, typo-infested posts I was publishing.

Even if no one likes anything I write, I hope they hate a well-proofread version of my suckage. I hope they hate clean copy.

What Else is Helpful, But Shitty?

There are so many things.

But I wonder how many things can challenge autocorrect for the top of the Helpful, But Shitty Totem Pole.

Bad weed?

Police?

Bowel movements?

I don’t know.

But I bet you do.

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Clean Copy

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“The first draft of anything is shit.” – Ernest Hemingway

Because I’m me, stressing about what I’m going to write here has become close to a daily occurrence.

I just stand in the shower trying to think of different ideas.

Another Open Letter to Shitty Husbands? We’re about due.

Some random, embarrassing story from my past? Those are always fun.

Today? I have to apologize to you for all of the typos and poorly constructed sentences you come across here.

They embarrass me. And I’m sorry.

Virtually everything you read from me is my first draft. Sometimes I write from home. You get a cleaner product when I do.

But most of the time? I’m writing this at my desk at work. Squeezing two hours worth of work into one.

The results are poorly edited, hastily thrown together thoughts and words.

And because I’m hyper-sensitive to what people think of me, I wanted to try to explain why it happens.

I do my best to round up the typos and misspellings, but they inevitably slip through when I first hit ‘Publish.’ If you subscribe via email, that’s the version you get. The very first, shitty one with all the misspellings before I find them and fix them online.

The beauty of the Internet is that I can fix an error anytime I find one. It always hurt more when a mistake was printed in a newspaper story. That just stays there. A non-curable blemish. Of course, at the paper, I always had three, four or five sets of eyeballs on my work, so mistakes rarely were published.

Here? This? It’s just me. Just little old me brainstorming in real-time and hitting that Publish button before I have time to talk myself out of it.

But I need you to know that I care about this from a quality standpoint. That I pride myself on giving you predominantly mistake-free copy, because I know how amateur and non-credible the alternative feels.

But when I proofread my own work, my brain automatically inserts what I meant to write, so a lot of times I don’t immediately see the mistakes others do.

This fact of life means if you’re reading this in your email inbox or are among the first to see whatever I’ve posted next, you end up stumbling on my mistakes.

There were a lot of them in yesterday’s post before I fixed them. And I’m sorry. You deserve better.

Pride in my Work

Everyone wants to be good at something.

I’m not really good at anything.

I’m one of those jack-of-all-trade, master-of-none types.

I’m pretty terrible at some things, I guess. I’m not a good dancer. I’m a wretched singer. I’m a terrible bowler.

But I’m average to decent at the vast majority of things I do.

However, I’m not really great at anything.

Except maybe proofreading and editing. I might be “great” at that. I use the term great loosely here. There are editors out there who are true masters. They’re the ones that turn average writing like this into money-making publishing gold.

I’m not like them.

But in the grand scheme of people? I’m a strong proofreader and a decent editor. I pay attention to detail.

And I take pride in that. Being among the best at something. Even if it isn’t a particularly valuable skill. It’s my skill. It’s what I do.

I know the difference between ‘compliment’ and ‘complement.’

I notice when people spell advisor with an ‘e.’ Adviser is a perfectly acceptable word, too.

And a million other totally anal-retentive things I won’t bore you with.

Typos Ruin Everything

Usually it’s a missing word. The word “to” or “of.” Sometimes I’ll replace “it” with “if” because the T and F keys are next to one another.

Whatever mistake I make, I’m mortified when I find it. The worst one was on one of my busiest-ever traffic days.

At the urging of others, I shared this blog with some people I know in real life via Facebook. A handful of people that aren’t connected to my ex-wife.

The very first post they would have seen is my Hey Parents, You’re Doing It Wrong post. Just a few paragraphs in, I wrote the word “anecdote” when I had meant to say “antidote.” I didn’t notice it for a couple days. Ugh.

Everyone must have thought I was a stupid moron.

That kind of stuff pains me.

Because I do care about the little things. Because I think the little things are important.

The little things are the difference between As and Bs in school.

The little things over an entire career are the difference between a large retirement account and living off government aid.

The little things are the difference between successful marriages and failed ones.

The greatest advertising campaign in the world is shit if a typo slips through.

The Pulitzer Prize is not awarded to mistake-filled copy.

The bookstores don’t make a habit of displaying novels and self-help books and biographies full of spelling errors and horrible writing.

The Lessons of Editing

Editing is the worst. Writers don’t like to do it.

Yet, all the greats will tell you how important it is.

In cinema, they give Academy Awards for it.

It’s hard. It’s time-consuming.

It requires patience. Thoroughness. And always attention to those little things.

My life’s that way, too.

And I wonder if I wasn’t just rushing through, trying to squeeze in as much crap as possible all the time, how much higher the quality might be.

What if I mastered something?

Got in phenomenal physical condition?

Poured every ounce of energy I could into being the best father I could be?

What if I got financially disciplined?

Never let my laundry pile up?

Never let the kitchen floor get dirty?

Maximized my spiritual potential?

I think a lot of what ails me would go away. If I could just muster up the patience and discipline necessary to comb through the details of my life like I would a proofreading assignment.

And clean them up. Taking pride in it along the way.

Maybe everybody could do that.

Maybe we could all do bigger things if we spend more time focusing on the little things.

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