Reader Question Answered: About Writing.

I got a question! I like questions! They give me excuses to write stuff that I’d otherwise maybe not think of.

In the process of sharing the links elsewhere, I do encounter a lot of people and I get a lot of questions from them. They’re quite frequently about music and, more specifically, the guitar – but not always.

Today’s questions, plural, are actually paraphrased from bits of many conversations. It also don’t have a damned thing to do with either guitar or music.

As it has nothing to do with either of those two subjects, you’re probably wondering why I’m going to include it. The answer is, “I do what I want, bitches!”

No, the real reason is ’cause it was interesting and I thought you might like to have these answers. My answers seemed to satisfy them, so maybe you will enjoy them?

Question: How do you manage to write every day?

I put my hours in.

For as much as I bitch about time, I actually have more time to dedicate to music than I’ve had throughout the vast majority of my life. My problem is that I keep obligating myself to chunks of time, to do things that I think will make each day the best day ever.

I manage to write every day, because I am able to keep it fun. For a while, it wasn’t very fun. I cured that, I think.

Question: Where do you get your ideas from?

I’m reminded of a quote from Stephen King, the famous science fiction author.

“People want to know why I do this, why I write such gross stuff. I like to tell them I have the heart of a small boy… and I keep it in a jar on my desk.”

That doesn’t actually have a damned thing to do with my answer – except to say that I wish I had a quote that cool to give you as an answer.

I don’t. I don’t have a quote that awesome.

They say that one should write about what one knows. Nobody wants to read about math, so that leaves music. Good. This is much more enjoyable to write about.

Question: How do you do it every day?

Drugs and alcohol, my friend. Drugs and alcohol.

Nah, the real answer is I manage to keep doing it every day because I remember that the only one obligating myself to this is me. If I had to do this every day, I’d have long since stopped.

For a while, it was looking a lot like work. It helps to know that I don’t have to do this. I also know that I’ll eventually run out of words and that this site will either have to be taken up by someone else, or it will lay dormant.

I have a lot of words, but I’m pretty sure there’s a finite number of them. It only stands to reason that I’ll eventually get tired of writing about the subject matter and meander off to a different topic. I could do it until I die, but that seems unlikely.

Question: Why do you do it?

Ego.

It’s my belief that I have something worth saying. It is my belief that there is some value to my thoughts and my understanding. I give them to you. It’s my gift.

You’re welcome!

Also, I really want to inspire people. I’ve frequently been the center of attention and if I have your attention then I’d like to inspire you. I don’t care if I inspire you to write or to play music, but I want to inspire you.

Again, that boils down to ego.

It is my belief that I can be an inspiration to people. That’s putting myself on a pedestal. I hold myself in pretty high regards, because I’m happy with who I am and what I’ve managed to achieve. If I wasn’t, I’d do something to change it.

One of my favorite (and I get to use this surprisingly often) responses is this:

“I’m not cocky. I’m certain. There’s a difference.”

And, that’s the truth – or as close to it as I can fathom. Understanding oneself is a journey and here I am, warts and all.

You’re not obligated to like my answers. You don’t even have to read them.

I don’t have to justify myself, but I’ll try. I will simply say that my confidence has been a great asset. I am confident that I can learn anything and confident enough in myself to say there are things I don’t know. Saying that I don’t know is one of my favorite things to do.

I get called pompous, cocky, egotistical, and an asshole – with some regularity. Those are among the nicest adjectives people use to describe me. I much prefer the description of “confident.”

One of my favorite responses to accusations about me being egotistical or an asshole is this:

“Yeah, I’m (a/an) _____. You’ll adjust.”

If you only knew how many times I giggled when I wrote these things! I’m not kidding, I have fun writing these.

Question: How do you start your articles?

With the title.

No, really. I just pick something I want to write about and I’ll often double-check answers and do additional research when writing these. I can’t write the title afterwards, because I’m inherently lazy.

See, if I don’t write the title first – WordPress will automatically save a draft of it and give it some stupid fucking number title that has no words in it. Then, I have to change it and make it a URL with the title in it.

I hate doing that and it takes more time. So, I write the title first. I sometimes remember to click the appropriate category button as I go down past it. I don’t always remember.

At the end, I highlight the text, change the font, and tell it to use justified alignment in the margins. That part actually sucks and WordPress sometimes breaks the formatting. I’d love it if those two things could be set as the default.

Seriously… Someone should write a plugin that lets me, theme independent, set a default font and default margins. They can be set, but I’d have to edit some files that are subject to being changed in updates and I’d have to keep editing those files manually.

WordPress updates are file replacements. They are not things like a variation on find/replace. They do not add or subtract from existing files, they simply replace them with new files.

It is what it is and I still chose to use WordPress for a variety of reasons. The positives outweigh the negatives, but it’d be a nice feature to have. I could also change the theme to something that at least had a better default font, but I don’t feel like it. I like this theme.

I realize that may sound pretty minor, but it’s actually a bit of a pain in the ass. In my very first submission, I  changed the font. At that point, I decided to stick with it. Had I not changed that font on the very first one, you can bet your ass you’d get that stupid looking “Merriweather” font!

It takes time, even if it’s just a few minutes. I can do some of it with keyboard shortcuts and that speeds things up a bit. I also have to ask guest authors to remember to justify the alignment and change the default font to “Arial.”

The only realistic alternative now would be to change the theme. I am not a web designer or anything. I don’t even call myself a programmer. I have done some web design and I have done some programming.

I’ve done some scripting (like PHP, JavaScript, ActionScript (remember Flash?), etc… I have done some web design but I don’t really know CSS and my HTML skills are pretty out of date. I also don’t do any image creation and I do very little image manipulation.

Learning to do those things is not on my list of shit to do. I can edit a file, and can even recompile stuff, but I’d say that I’m unskilled, inefficient, and prone to error.

If you’re interested in resolving these issues, I absolutely would love the help. I don’t even need to give anyone added permissions – as they can modify the theme independently of the actual site.

I’m not kidding. I’d love some help. In time, I’ll even be looking for someone to take over running the site. By that point, it should be entirely self-funded from ads. The site’s ad clicking/views will probably also be able to pay for the Music For Us site – eventually and with some care.

We get some pretty good traffic numbers, and the ad revenue is still growing. No, I don’t need donations (I’ve had people ask). The site should be self-funding, soon enough. It’s not very expensive.

If it ever does better than break even, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it. If it ever generates enough income to buy a guitar to give away, we’ll probably do something like that. If it gets really big and popular, maybe we’ll do something like a scholarship for someone who studies music.

That’s a long ways off and it will probably never reach that point.

Still, I could use some help from qualified people. There’s also my invitation to write for the site. You can just do an entry, you don’t have to make it a regular thing. I will even edit them for you, but I could use an editor.

See?

This answer is an example. I just start with the title and let it take me where it wants to take me. I find that it’s easier to start with something you’re excited to write about.

Question: (Paraphrased heavily.) How do you write so much?

That’s me paraphrasing from a few comments/questions. I’m pretty verbose and prolific. I’ll try to explain.

In all of academia, I only failed two classes. Both classes were typing. One was in high school, the other was in college.

Then, along came IRC and chat apps…

I can now type at about95 WPM and have an accuracy in the 3% range! If my old typing teachers could see me now!

I can type faster, but my accuracy drops significantly and I end up getting slower because I have to go back and fix my mistakes. My guess is that I usually plod around 75 WPM.

By the way, I’d probably still fail a typing class. I don’t use the correct fingers and I don’t always hold my hands in the proper home-row position. My pointers frequently cross to either side of the keyboard (especially for Y or T) and I only use the left shift key. Numbers slow me down, unless I’m just doing ’10 key.’

The point is that I type pretty quickly and it doesn’t take me very long. I also do other things and take breaks. I don’t mind if my writing gets interrupted.

I give myself up to two hours and will allow myself five hours for the Guitarists Better Than Hendrix articles. I’m usually done well within those time limits.

But…

My verbosity is actually a sign of being a poor writer. I use a lot of words because it takes me many words to express something. This means you end up with articles that could have been expressed better.

I use so many words because I have to. I’m still sometimes baffled that folks like it. People seem to like my writing style and I’m pretty grateful that they do. That encourages me to do more of it. Again, there’s a bit of ego in that.

Question: How long will you keep this going?

Dunno.

Until I run out of words or people stop reading, I suppose.

I also have that ego thing again.

It is my belief that I should have done this sooner. I do tend to see this as me giving a gift and I believe that I should have given you this gift sooner. I can see this project taking a couple of years, maybe longer. Someday, I may take some of this and turn it into a book.

But…

My previous expectations about this site have mostly been wrong. I expected it to be abandoned after fewer than ten articles. I never expected to get the kind of traffic that I do. I never expected the feedback that I get. I never expected to do this daily. I never expected to write some of this material.

In other words, I have a clear history of failing to predict what will happen to this site. I’m not even right 50% of the time!

So, I really have no idea. I can’t even predict what will happen. Eventually, I’d love for someone to take it over – I think. I can’t even be certain of that. I’m pretty confident that I’ll eventually get bored with this and I’m really confident that I’ll someday die.

I’m okay with both of those eventualities, by the way.

But, it’s ego that dictates my feelings on the subject. I believe these writings have value. I think they have enough value so that they should be stored, and improved on, in perpetuity. I’d like the site to keep going, long after I’m gone.

I’d assert that the number of readers, coupled with the amount of time people devote to reading my site, stands as evidence that I’m correct in my belief that this material should be put out there and preserved.

Question: Did you know you made a mistake?

That’s kind of paraphrased and comes from a variety of comments.

The answer is no, I didn’t know I made a mistake. If I had known I made a mistake, I’d have corrected it prior to publication.

Recently, the missus said to me, “You couldn’t hang the calendar back up straight?”

I responded with, “Obviously not.”

I’m confident, not perfect. I make mistakes. I’d like to think that I take valid correction and criticism fairly well. I’m not sure that I do, but I’d like to think I’m open to valid criticism about even that… Hmm… I hope so, at any rate.

If you spot a mistake, please let me know. I got so stoned the other day that I somehow changed Alex to Eric and then kept at it – for more than half the article. I also was informed that it was not a Fender P, but was a Jazz.

I’m not perfect and I do make mistakes. I don’t know everything. Sometimes, my understanding is incorrect or incomplete. I will continue to err for the foreseeable future. Some of my mistakes are just sheer negligence, stemming from lack of attention to detail and impatience.

I do make an effort to be correct. If you were to ask me if I could stop making mistakes, my answer to you would be, “Obviously not.”

Question: I want to do something similar, any advice?

Find your passion and find your audience. Write about what you know and love. Like guitar, you’ll get better with practice and experience.

You can ask for help. It’s pretty straight forward and not a lot to learn, including all the technical stuff. For example, I host someone’s site on a different server. I do all their admin work and they just need to write. I do largely the same for the Music For Us site.

If your project interests me, and you appear passionate, I may try to help get you started. If nothing else, I’ll probably point you in the direction of resources that will answer your questions. The entire process is already written about by people more adept than I am.

I’ll tell you the same thing I told them. “Those articles aren’t going to write themselves.”

I’ve a pretty firm belief that almost everyone has a story worth sharing. I’ve a pretty firm belief that most people have something to say. Write about something you know – something you’re passionate about.

If you’re not passionate about anything, then your life probably sucks.

I can’t help with that.

If you’d like to be passionate about something, like a hobby, then you have to put your hours in to learn about that hobby and get good at it. If you want to be a classic car aficionado, you should start researching classical cars. I can’t help you find the will to do so, but I hope to inspire you to find that will within yourself. Those are choices you have to make and hours that you need to put in.

If you already have that passion, even if you’re still learning, write about your experiences. Use writing as an excuse to learn more about the subject.

Hmm… I think that about covers it.

These are really just questions that I’ve been asked a variety of times and in a variety of ways. It seemed like an interesting thing to write about and I’m aware that it’s pretty off-topic.

At the end of the day, it can be distilled to being ego. I write about the subjects I believe are important. What is that, if not ego? I see it as a gift and as having value. Again, that is ego. I’m saying my effort is valuable. I’m saying that my experience is worthy of being used for inspiration. In fact, I’m pretty confident that it is useful information.

Very seldom do I write about the mechanics of playing a guitar. There are ample resources already available and they do it better than I do. I try to not duplicate their work.

I’m very interested in feedback – and I get a surprising (to me) amount of it. I love it when people ask questions and leave comments. The vast majority of them are complimentary and interesting.

If you have ideas, criticism, a desire to help, or an opinion, don’t hesitate to contact me. Quite a few of the articles are based on your questions and comments. Even if you just want to write a draft-article, I can probably finish it up and get it into the schedule. I ain’t scared.

“Can’t you keep the site on topic?”

“Obviously not.”

I do have a good time writing these. It hardly seems like work, most days! It’s so much fun that I can’t help but suggest other people try it. It’s such a great time, I believe it should be enjoyed by more people. It’s not entirely unlike giving a performance. Until next time…

Shut up and play us a song!

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