The Froge Guide to Writing
It also involves reading
So keep reading:
Let me lay out a little scenario. Here you are, sitting on the can, perusing my blog like a loyal fan, and out of the corner of your eye - you see him! Who is he? That boy? The one who creeps up on you and whispers in your ear a little something something... Why, it's the feeling of regret! There he goes, waiting while you're alone with your thoughts, and he says to you - "Hey! Why am I alive?". A good question, regret. Fortunately he never comes around my parts, because I don't have any. It must really be sad being such a waste of human life that you feel bad every single day you wake up, making jokes about killing yourself, when nobody cares enough about you to ask what's wrong with your life.
So here's your opportunity to stop being such a massive sack of shit and to make something out of your life. That Fucking Froge presents: the Ultimate Guide to Writing. Which isn't actually it's title, but consider it as representative of what I hope to do with this article, which is to encourage you to start up something special in your life and then share it with others. The benefits of which is to develop new and exciting opportunities for jobs, your person, and your audience, creating something that the world would be amiss had it never existed. And, you know, make you not want to kill yourself.
I present you to a series of topics that are related to the act of writing, but only my particular brand of writing, which is bitching at a screen for a few hours and praying something good comes out of it. Worked so far.
On experience and ideas:
How much you can write depends on how fast you write and how much you're willing to write. For somebody like me, who is of grand experience and of great intelligence, it's easy for me to write a thousand or so words within a half-hour or so, as long as I don't need to do any external research, as research makes an article more accurate and provides the audience more room to grow, but slows down the writing process considerably by ruining the train of thought and forces you to redo the physical act of typing. I can write, given the complete freedom to do whatever I want, a few pages of words without any problem, as I know enough about what I write about where I don't need to pause whenever I type a sentence, and I have enough confidence to not have to look at each and every one to make sure it's perfect. That's all for me.
For somebody else, without the experience, without the time spent trying to be a writer, it will take them a great deal more time to write a thousand words. I remember when I would have to write, oh, fifteen hundred words for a chapter, and it would take me days to do so. Now I'm writing fifteen hundred words in an hour or so, but this section is no longer about me. For somebody like you, just as a "for instance", you don't have that confidence, that proper voice, that well of knowledge and examples of how to write, that ability to get into a flow and not have it broken by anything, to be able to write that much in such a short time. What is somebody supposed to do in that situation? To try to copy somebody who is so much better than them, and try to get inspiration from them?
Take a look at my Ten Thousand Update Special, where I wrote a lot about my experience with blogging, and how I end up writing so many words. In short, three things: I did so much reading to the point where I know a lot about what I write about, I spent the time practising writing every single day and created a workflow to write more effectively, and I have the confidence to get past all the doubt, all the "what if this isn't good enough?", and just write. And then I publish it, every day, and when I have that pressure to publish every single day, then it means that 95% of the time I will publish, and the other 5% is because of factors out of my control.
All of this comes out of experience in relation to writing, and respect and admiration for the medium. This is not to say that you have to suck the dick of some authors, or even like particular genres. It is to say that you should admire and think about the authors and bloggers that you like, thinking about their writing style, thinking about what they talk about, and thinking about how to apply it all to your own work. It's called a positive influence, and the more positive influences you have, the more diverse your range of thoughts and emotions will be, and consequently the more unique your writing will be.
There is this misguided idea that writing has to be 100% original all the time without exception, and without any sort of respect or honour given towards those who inspired you to write in the first place. This came out of a radical shift in the United States school system in the 20th century, where the original doctrine of copying out the works of good authors (and thus learning the intricacies of all their styles so you may better adopt your own), in favour of creating original work out of a vacuum. But as any writer knows, it is impossible to create something from nothing. You must be influenced by something in order to do work. You may want to read the TV Tropes "Be Original" page (archive), as it covers a lot of what I'm about to say, too.
Some authors, I'm not saying who because I forgot and I don't respect them any which way, said that there was a "pool" of stories which all authors delve into and then steal from. It's patent spiritual bullshit, and undermines the entire human creative effort by believing that the person has zero responsibility with what they create, because it all comes out of this magic pool like it was God, and that it's okay for people who don't write to be lazy buggers because they haven't found this mystical pool that exists in the ether like a collective consciousness, which is also bullshit, as it undermines individuality as a whole. But this isn't a rant, so here's the connection:
Stories, or ideas, don't exist out of the ether. They are created when you are so influenced by another work that you take the ideas that you thought about in relation to that work, and start to apply it. They are created when you see something strange, or think about something novel, and think about the "what if" or "how can that be" of the thing. And once you start to think about these what ifs, when you get that "oh, shit!" moment where you realise that you have something that you can work on, a thing that comes to you seemingly out of nowhere (but as we know by now was influenced by the many thousands of small things you're experienced in your life), you start to think about it more.
Then, once you have an idea of the thing, a little "seed", if we're going to be naturalist about it, you start to refine it. You don't refine it out of nothing, mind you. As we have determined, ideas don't come out of nowhere. You instead refine it given examples of things that you've seen or read before, like your favourite books, or your favourite cartoons, and then use what you've learned through those previous examples to turn the idea into something that's, first of all, original enough based on your entire life experience thus far, and secondly, worth reading regardless of how original the property is. And as we know, an idea is only as good as its execution, regardless of where it came from.
What do you do with the idea now, it all being refined and thought of? Well, if you want it to be shared, then formalise the fucking thing! Write something to do with the idea - anything. Don't wait until it's perfect, don't wait until you have the "necessary skills" to write it. You have all the time in the world to adopt those skills and to increase your experience to near-perfection, but I guarantee you without a shadow of a doubt, that if you do not write about an idea within the first few days, within the first month, of its germination, then you will forget about it as the years go by, and the ideas that you thought were so brilliant before, will never, ever, exist again.
There are hundreds of millions of people out there with a dream, and yet they never fulfill them because they're too lazy to get past their fears, get past their natural desires to fit in and not be disruptive, and do what they want. Dreams die. They die slow and long and painfully as the nascent memories of what you wanted to do, what you always wanted to do, get disrupted by choosing what's safe and easy. Sometimes the dreams aren't realistic, or depends too much on luck, in which case it helps to have other dreams. But when they do die, it's because they don't understand that, above all else, you must be willing to be awful before you can be good. Believe me, I've been there, and there are so many people who are still in that low-quality ghetto.
If you want to do something, like, share an idea, then don't be another worthless piece-of-shit wanker who bitches about their lack of skills online. You know what happens to those people? They wallow in their own misery and never do what they want to, being just another one of the victims while those who do work, those who want to fulfill their dreams - whether in writing or the other arts or in the otherwise - become more fulfilled in ways that the poor, skilless bastards, don't. I have no time for people with the ability to do what they want to in life, and who don't because they cannot get past their basic humanity and choose not to earn their happiness.
What to write about:
I won't lie, and I won't make any otherwise special claims on my ability to talk about things. The simple fact is that I often have no idea what to write about. While you never get talking block, and so writing is as simple as just writing how you speak, you still find yourself grasping at what to talk about. A lot of people will tell you that silence is a virtue - which is true to some extent, as being quiet means that you have more time to think about things and to understand what people are saying. When it comes to a blog that you're expected to update with some regularity, it isn't an option to sit back and see what happens.
What you can do is learn, and that's what I do when I'm stuck on what to write about. You read as much as you can about all the subjects that interest you, and eventually you become an expert to the point where you can talk about any old thing without having to edit all the drafts - where your "voice", for no better words, comes alive. I feel bad, really, quite, bad, for all the Wikipedia editors who are forced to stifle their natural voices, as it does them a disservice to focus entirely on what is factual as opposed to what the audience is supposed to feel.
While this is an idealistic point of view, I will say that, for anybody of experience and intelligence, you should have no problems thinking of things to talk about. If you have an opinion, you can express an opinion. If worse comes to worse, you can express those opinions on a blog that is usually not reserved for some opinions. If you have made your blog more specific, it may pay to either reduce the specificness, or to increase your knowledge in your field of expertise. If you cannot learn, then you can think about what you already know, and learn from that.
I have the great privilege, with my web cult for cool cunts, to talk about anything that interests me, so long as it's under the banner of either the Web or its culture. It just so happens that this is a very wide, very deep banner, and so long as I'm not discussing completely irrelevant things, it provides me a lot of leeway with what to write about. This is not to say that I am always an expert in what I talk about. In fact, the experts so often avoid publishing what they know, because they are experts in one thing and not the blogging thing. But I will say that, if I am writing about a thing, then I know enough about that thing to make reading my think worthwhile.
If I write about anime, don't assume that I'm an expert in anime. I don't know a damn thing about anime. I know about it, I've learned about it, but to say that I can teach you more about anime that what you already know is a complete folly. I don't even know if I'm an expert in anything, really, because an expert has extensive knowledge in a skill, so long as the Free Dictionary is to be believed, and I suppose that they, being experts in their field, are worth believing in. Whatever knowledge I have in most subjects are, without having too big of an ego, above-average but not exceptional, and though I read to alleviate the deficiency, I still find myself covering the basics.
But we must ask, is this good enough? Does it matter what I'm talking about, so long as it is entertaining? Well, with that issue, it begets the other issue of "what is entertainment?". But when we ask questions like that, it gets really pedantic really fast, and so let's just wonder if what we talk about matters in some slight degree. To which I say, simply, talk about what nobody else does, and no matter what you do, it will be worth reading. M.C. Ride, and this name will be completely meaningless to you unless you know who this person is, said that "I got some shit to say just for the fuck of it". I suppose that sums up the entire question of what to write about nicely.
What do you want to say? Some shit. Why? For the fuck of it. What about? Some shit. How? Fuck it. It's a nice little koan that I often refer back to when I'm out of inspiration, reminding me that, so long as I have the ability to talk about something that somebody else may want to read, or learn from, or otherwise be spread onto the world, then it's worth saying.
How to say it:
You'll often hear people talk about "finding their voice", which is a twee idea, as it supposes that people don't already have a voice, don't have their own unique way of speaking, don't have the capability to write until they find the way that they write, and so on. But it is true, to some extent, in that you have to have experience in writing before you can become comfortable in writing, and so any sort of "voice" that comes before you are totally comfortable with the thing, is just a seed of what will eventually develop into your unique style.
Yes, this advice is sexy as sawdust, which is to say, not sexy at all, but it bears repeating - experience is key in everything you do! When you write with conviction, when you write with the means and the ability and the motivation to write with the very same tone that you speak with, the same way that you have been robbed off through the public school system and their attempts to standardise everything you do, removing your chance to be a truly great writer, and not just a standard one... you have no other choice but to get good and start learning how to write in ways that interest people.
Seth Godin, another meaningless name that I say because, once again, some bitch will accuse me of plagiarism otherwise, gave the advice of starting a small blog, in public, and writing to it every single day, so that the added social pressure causes you to publish better work every day than if it was just in your thoughts. He also suggested to disable comments - the last thing a young writer needs is to be criticised when they haven't developed a sense of quality for their own work, and the ability to weed out legit criticism from the harsh ones, which is another subject I will be writing about in this article (if I don't forget like a dummy with five Ms). Does that work out? Well, considering how I only started to really focus on my work when I had the intention of getting it published online, I would say it does work.
But here's a question - and as a writer, you'll be asking yourself a hell of a lot of questions, mainly along the line of "is this the best work I could be making?" -, obligatory words to avoid awkward colon after hyphen: what if you're shit? I don't mean "average" or "tolerable", though by the standards of the Internet and 99% of all content being average and therefore completely forgettable, you would be right for calling yourself shit. I mean shit in that it's complete tosh. Poor grammar, horrible spelling (which in the age of autocorrect is especially unforgivable), nonsense or cliche plots, characters with no personality, and no unique selling points in an age where any idiot with a keyboard can submit fanfiction. Hold on, when did this become a fiction writing guide, and not just a general bitching one? Fuck it, let's roll with it.
While this guide is mostly about writing in general, it is also necessary to become an avid reader in order to absorb skills from authors. I understand fully that reading in all forms is commendable, as the medium portrays more raw information, more force-of-personality than any other due to the ability for a single person to impose their entire will, their entire net sum of knowledge, among another. But it should be said that the skillset required to be an opinion writer, a nonfiction writer, a humour writer, a comic writer, and a fiction writer are all completely different skills that conflict with each other a great deal. It is then necessary, in order to become the best writer you can be, to read up on all forms of writing, because to read is to gain more information than you ever thought was reasonable.
This is not to say that you should stop writing until you read the minimum, arbitrary number of books. In fact, if you're planning on being a writer, the chances are good you're already reading a ton of books as you go along writing. While I haven't have the time (and I don't say this in a "I keep playing video games" way - I'm actually working to the point where I don't have any time) to actually read a decent book, as what with the blog and the programming and the learning new languages and the networking going around, it's a miracle I still have any time at all to look at furry porn. Granted, I could be using that to read, but porn is porn.
What I am suggesting is twofold: one, you branch out of what you are currently reading in order to experience a genre, or a type of writing, that you haven't experienced before, and thus can learn a great deal from. And two, you consciously look at what you're reading, thinking about the way the book or the article is written, thinking about the themes within, the methods of construction of the book, the specific way the author says things, that special way that they use words, and keep focusing on that as you go along and read. It may be fun to let a novel rush over you like rain on your skin, but sooner or later, you have to dry off and wonder why you got wet in the first place.
Without going into a diatribe, as the diatribe will come later on, the long and short of things is that, the more you learn about reading, the more you learn about how books are constructed, the better of a writer you will be for having learned those skills in the first place. While it is important to specialise the way that you write in order to become distinctive, it is also necessary to develop a wide breadth of skills for your specialisation, allowing you to write in your own unique way about anything at all. And, paradoxically, reading a lot of different authors happens to make you a much stronger writer than if you focused solely on yourself.
Focusing on yourself is important, because only through looking at what you've done, what you've created, and your mindset when creating it, can you learn later on how to develop more, even better work, than if you just pumped and dumped them like so many bad authors do. While young artists, young writers, will often hate looking back on their old work (a feeling I totally understand), this feeling comes from the idea that what you made wasn't good enough compared to what you have made now, which is a sign of the ego getting the better of you. If you kill your ego, take a look at your creations, and see how much you've improved from then to now. And, this is essential, think about what techniques you used to make the work better from then to now.
Think of it like an entirely different person creating entirely different work from you. Well, you don't have to, because that's what the work is. Every few years of your life (heck, every two years if you're really on the move), you turn into an entirely new person with a new worldview and a new personality and a new way of expressing yourself. What you knew, and what your skills were, back then are irrelevant to what you have now, because it was an entirely different person making the work. But the spoiler is, no matter how much we pretend otherwise, that "entirely different person" was still you in some capacity, and so you can't just ignore the work like paper in the wind!
So if you can get past your ego, admit that you're imperfect, don't be afraid of admitting that parts of you are garbage, then you will become a much more thoughtful writer, and a much better writer because of this time taken to look at your work. Even I have my doubts about some joke I make, and though many of these jokes are caught within the first few seconds I write them, like "is this funny, or is this cringey", and "is the domestic violence joke taking things too far?". And you'll be surprised, based on the context of the overarching piece, what my content standards are.
For instance, the Furaffinity BUAFY didn't feature me second-guessing the "gential_multilation wound_penetration infanticide rape" line, because that made sense as an indicator of something fucked-up in the context of not wanting to see something fucked-up, and combined with the factual, almost-cheery juxtaposition, made for a joke I could laugh at. But when it came to the "/r/yiff is predictable" line, I was second-guessing that one, because I didn't think it would connect with the audience. While it ended up working out because of the short complaint against the longer complaints of "Inkbunny has child porn" and "DeviantART is a garbage dump", my original concern was that I couldn't get across the message of "the art featured on /r/yiff is generic and unrepresentative of the furry fandom as a whole" in a concise tone, and "predictable" was the closest I could come to that message without hammering it in.
And, of course, another part of being a writer is developing your skills to the point where all of these little details, these details which look like the work of a maniac trying to make every little thing perfect, are rationalised and dealt with in less than a second. I'm not a perfectionist, which is obvious by looking at a BUAFY and finding the inevitable typo in there, but I want to make great work. So, because of my high quality standards (and more on THAT later), I end up spotting sentences that I think won't work out in the published form, whether because the words I used are not the right words, a joke is malformed beyond repair, or a sentence is just fucking awkward, and all of this occurs in less than half a second. It comes with experience, eh?
Right, I suppose I never did answer the statement of "how to say it", but it's a really simple statement: just practice once in a fucking while. Write like you talk. That's how I do it, and combined with all the reading I did (and yes, I'm hammering in the point, because it's important), I can cleave through anything that isn't up to my well-developed standards at an instant, instinctively. And past cleaving, writing the thing is instinctual, too. I find some time, perhaps late at night, perhaps when I'm in that special flow of writing things without stopping, and then I write. And as to how I write, without getting into analytics, it's just the first things that come to mind, refined a little, and then published.
How is this helpful to you? Well, don't you often find yourself wondering, at every opportunity, "is this good enough"? Yeah, I was too. It took me years to get past all of that, that doubt, and just bloody write. Get past the ego and admit you're imperfect. Take what you know and just write about a thing. It seems... trite, even overly optimistic, if you aren't already of my point of view. But if you have something to say, then it would do you a lot of good to just say it, in the way that you would say it if you were simply explaining it to somebody that you really liked, right next to you. Go into it like your audience already likes you, like they already knew you their entire lives. And always, always, pick your audience to be one that you want to write for - because this is the audience that will want to read what you write for them.
Above all else, though, remember that these feelings I explain, these concepts of expertise and mastery, these emotions of doubt, are all abstractions. I can't write for you exactly how it feels to be doubtful. I can't get into your mind and say "yes, this is the exact reason why you're not a good writer". It just doesn't work like that. And it's abstract, not because I don't know how you think, but because even if I knew exactly how you think, I wouldn't be able to describe the literally intangible human experience that you go through, every day, all the time, with all your thoughts, feelings, and desire, because it's intangible, and I would go so far as to say meaningless, to anybody who isn't you.
So if I do seem presumptuous, please excuse me, as I'm just trying to explain the best I can, with the limited power of an entire language, how to make you a better person. Do you want to be a better writer? Write, you fool. Do you want to write at all? Write in the way you speak. Do you want better writings? Then read until you develop such a high standard of quality that anything you write becomes better through sheer virtue of your instinctual cleaving, all occurring at an instant for whatever sentence, sometimes whatever word, you write through. It gets easier. It gets damn easier, but only if you practice, and only if you take my advice, and write with it, and write like you speak.
So here's my take on fiction: it is necessary to appreciate fiction before you can become an opinion writer. "What?" you may be asking with some incredulity, though without any silly interjection because I couldn't be arsed to come up with one. "Are you implying that, in order for me to be good at one specific thing, I have to learn about how to be good at something completely unrelated, like how a chef has to be a car mechanics before he can cook beans?". No, my boy, because that's retarded, and so are you. But let me explain.
When you read fiction, there are so many layers to the way that fiction is constructed, what with the plots, the stories, the themes, the characters, and all of these different layers, that the ability to construct a decent work of fiction is reserved for those most talented of writers who manage, against all good sense, to create something not only beautiful, but sensible in the way it is written. There are very few fiction writers that are actually worth a shit, and this is because writing fiction is actually really, truly, hard. And this is just my experience, because I don't tend to fuck with other writers, but where I bang out a whole opinion over a few hours, a few thousand words, it takes me about half that to write a comparable fiction story that isn't just me talking about things.
Why is this? Why is it harder to write fiction, what with all its layers? Well, think about the roles you must take. Let's make scenery - you need to have a good visual imagination, the ability to be a part of it and evoke the senses in that scenery, and understand what your characters will feel inside that scenery. Let's make characters - you need to understand what they wear and why they wear it, how they speak and why, what they like and why, who they like and why, what they do and why, and basically construct a little idealised person that the audience will, hopefully, give a shit about.
So let's make a plot - you need to understand how to pace events so they don't come out of nowhere, structure events so it's all sensible, have your characters react to those events appropriately, make events that are interesting to read about and don't feel like a waste of time, and do it all within small, simple, confines so the audience doesn't get bored (Homestuck obvious cough). Now let's make themes - you need to fit it all within the plot so it's sensible, don't overwork them to the point of having an anvil dropped on your head, allow the characters to discuss things without feeling like the author is soapboxing, and make sure that the themes you're expressing are actually worth listening to, and aren't completely fucking obvious.
The amount of skills it takes to make good fiction is staggering - and my full respect to those who have dedicated themselves to it, because to do so means that you have developed a set of skills that so very few people have. You need to do the research, bone up on TV Tropes on a constant basis to understand the tricks of the trade, what's been overused, and what are things to avoid when writing. Is it exhausting, to do all this research, to learn all of this? Well, you have to understand that if you've decided to be a writer, the chances are good that it's something you've always wanted to do. If you do get exhausted, if you do think to yourself, "wow, this is totally not for me" or some other equivalent, then you probably wouldn't have done the work in the first place.
For the rest of you, who understand fully that you want to write, then the research done doesn't feel like any work at all. It's a bit like the actual act of writing, too. When you get to a certain point, every single thing that you write feels so effortless, so natural, that you don't even remember anything that you write, because it comes so quickly and so flowfully (making up words like it's in style) that it feels like you didn't even write it. And when you do read over your work in order to understand how to make it better (as self-reflection is critical for developing any skill), it feels like you're reading somebody elses. And when you get to this point, you know - you know - that you've made it as a writer, and the rest of the research is the long, slow, exponential climb, to mastery - and more on that later.
So how does emulating good fiction make you a better opinion writer? Well, it's like learning C, a low-level language, before learning a high-level language like Python, or Lisp (friendly computing comparison for my computing audience). If you learn a low-level language, you will always be able to use what you know for high-level languages, but if you learn a high-level language first, then you will be shit out of luck when it comes to low-level ones, because you won't have any of the low-level wizardry required to be a great programmer. Consider fiction the low-level wizardry, and opinion writing the high-level language - fiction builds different skills than opinions, but learning opinions first means you don't develop an appreciation for writing.
Like how C teaches you how to manipulate a computer in its deepest annals, and Python teaches you how to make functional code that's beautiful in its own way, fiction teaches you just what you can do with language, with the full spectrum of the tools available to you in terms of talking about things, developing metaphor, simile, analogy, and other such techniques, learning how to see points of view from multiple angles and multiple characters, learning how to make everything you say sensible even when everything - the dialogue, events, and locations - are just pieces in a puzzle, and you have to learn how to assemble that puzzle. Opinion is fast. You don't need to learn any of that for opinion. But you will be completely unremarkable, and shit out of luck in the arts, if you don't show the proper respect for fiction while you have the opportunity.
Does this mean you have to write fiction? I encourage it, because even if you don't like writing fiction, I sure as all heck know you have some stories to tell, and being able to tell them in an effective manner is one of the best ways to be charismatic. And as we know in business, charisma, force-of-will, is everything, and we also know that art is, at least for now, a business where we compete for attention and adoration from an audience that we appeal to because of our knowledge that they will like us. But this is getting ahead of my point, which is to say, learning about the stuff you don't think will be useful... well, you're wrong. And that's the simple, blunt, offensive, reactionary, way to say it. Yeah, your body might be shutting down at the idea that you're wrong. So let it. That won't mean you grow as a person, and it's important to learn when to let your ego die.
On Mastery and Averageness:
Now, I can't talk about mastery. I'm not a master. I can't even give you a good definition of what mastery is. If it's the ability to create good work on a constant basis, then there are hundreds of masters out there, me included. If it's making something that resonates with a bunch of people, same deal - you just have different audiences and authors with different luck levels. If it's getting a degree, then that's a fucking worthless way to measure yourself, implying you need to fulfill somebody else's arbitrary criteria in order to become a master at something. If it's making a masterpiece that everybody in the world likes, well, that's just luck, too. Da Vinci made more than the Mona Lisa, for instance. A lot more. So as to whether or not his thousands of other drawings, his little masterpieces, are a sign of mastery, you tell me.
The best explanation I can come up for it right now is, and here's the stinger, just marketing. Meet Penn and Teller, the best magicians in the world, fourty years of experience, masters in their field! And everything except the fourty years bit is marketing bullshit. Yeah, they have a lot of experience. Yeah, they're great magicians. If you read up on the blokes, you'll find that they are really smart people who make some really good points about some really important things that few people think are important for some reason. But to call them masters is a bullshit statement because, simply, I don't have a proper explanation as to what mastery is.
Is it helpful to use our brains and simply envision what we think of when we talk about mastery? Because, in this respect, I think of people who are simply popular. If they earned their popularity through hard work and determination, then perhaps they are masters. If they got popular despite not doing the work, then are they really masters? I envision a master who works, simply, so it can be assumed that mastery involves some degree of hard work, unlike the blind luck that makes so many people famous today (and remember: even blind luck can be manipulated).
I suppose getting a Master's degree does take work, but then who judges the work? Other masters? Who judged them? It's a loop that never ends! Perhaps a person who is considered to be a master by academia is one who had contributed so substantially to their field, with such great impact, that they are a linchpin, a cornerstone, of that field, and without their contributions the field would not have evolved to the point where it is today. Guys like Einstein and Newton and all that shit.
Now, outside of academia, who else has influenced their field in ways that it would be unimaginable without it? Let's take a look at video games, because that's the only thing I know about (I've had to look up how to breath for twenty consecutive years). Miyamoto made Super Mario Brothers, which helped saved the gaming industry, so that's pretty important. The blokes at Id Software made the first-person shooter, which turned out to be a mistake, but it happened. Then Iwata came along and saved Nintendo, eventually driving the company into the fucking dust, but he did make the DS sell faster than weed on 420, so there's that. As a bonus, he was a good programmer - the fucking madman! A programmer who runs a games company? What will they think of next...
Are they all masters? I suppose that, given what good they have done, it supposes that they are indeed masters. But is this an accurate statement? Perhaps Picasso was a master of art because of his positive influence. But then, what about artists who I like better, and have no influence? Are they masters simply because I like them more? I suppose it would be self-centred to say so, and then cheapen the value of the word "master" to refer to anything of some quality that somebody of decent taste appreciates. But then, should we trust popular opinion, as well?
There's this guy called Egon Schiele who made a lot of paintings that I liked, dying young, though prolific. As far as artists go, he's not in the popular eye; I have never seen his work before a featured picture on Wikipedia, and I have never seen his work since. Not in parody or satire or even a mention, beyond The Grand Budapest Hotel where the picture was made by a guy who wasn't him (clearly!). Despite one of my art books saying he was "one of the most important Expressionist painters", I had never heard of him - so whether or not I'm just ignorant will depend on how much I end up learning about classic art in the future.
Is a man a master because he influences the world forever, or because he is so good at his field that he becomes one of the best? Is it a combination of both high quality work and positive influence? If a man makes a work that can change the world, but it is never published, does it make an impact? Practically, no, and no matter how good your work is, it means nothing until it's been released to the world. That's why I like to keep copies of whatever I end up writing - you never know what will end up affecting somebody for the better.
I suppose then that mastery is born out of two parts: how much the master has influenced their field of study, whatever it may be, and how much skill the master has in their field. To define what influence and skill is, seems to me as beyond the scope of the definition, as to get too detailed with such things leads to, counter-intuitively, a less detailed picture of concepts as we get away from more and more abstract definitions, instead deciding to focus on preciseness to the point where we question everything that we know about the world. A useful line of questioning, but not questions we should ask right now.
So, how does this relate to writing? Good question - and a question that should be asked, as the question is needed to tie together the purpose of the article, teaching you how to write, and if you know how, to write better, and if you're a great writer, then some food for thought on writing in general. It relates to writing simply: writing without striving to become a master is writing that cannot change the world. Being a master is changing the world, and being a master is getting good enough to do that. Writing without pride, without the desire to change the minds of the blokes who read it, is writing for the sake of writing, and it's worthless.
Am I to say that all writing needs deep societal themes, themes about life and living, themes about the way things are, in order to be worthwhile? My boy, not at all. What is necessary is for the writing to be beautiful enough to have an impact, even if it doesn't say anything great about the state of things. For instance, I know a lot of furry work that doesn't have anything at all to do with the world (in fact detached from it due to sheer necessity of the fandom), but has greatly impacted my life because of the beauty of the piece. It makes all the vore seem like fetishistic white noise, compared to what could be produced from the fandom, and how much opportunity there is for it to do great things.
So without defining what beauty is (as this comes later, later, later!), you have to consider why a book, or why an article, deserves to be made. Simply, the piece needs to have some value for the audience, as the audience is spending their time to view your work, and if your work doesn't offer a fair deal, then they'll take their time and spend it somewhere else! That's the key word there, spending. You only have a limited amount of time each hour, day, month, life, and every day that you waste somebody else's time with irrelevant bullshit, you're robbing them of the opportunity to enhance them for the better.
It's this reason, above all others, why my reviewing style is so hard-assed against games and series that don't innovate anything, don't push the envelope, don't try to do anything special with their medium. Because in a world where there are hundreds of thousands of perfectly average works out there, boilerplate works, works that exist to be consumed and then forgotten about like food in the throat, average doesn't work. You can get average anywhere. Look on Neocities, the blog which hosts my stuff - you're not going to give a shit about 90% of the sites on here. And the ones you do care about? Those aren't average at all.
As a retrospective on my site, I wonder why it got popular. Beyond "I don't know", because nobody knows anything and a job in the arts often feels like throwing work at the wall and praying, I attribute my success to the following: a constant update schedule, large amounts of work on a regular basis, a website design that is both functional and unlike anything ever seen before, a writing style that takes the best parts of familiar influences while expanding on that to create a work that both informs and entertains, the ability to write about any subject and allow it to be of interest, and a cult of personality around me as a person, which I like to cultivate by talking with people.
Interesting to note the CC0 license has absolutely nothing to do with my popularity, and I didn't expect it to be a factor at all. The goal of a license isn't to make people copy your work - in fact, doing so destroys any such exclusivity that might encourage people to buy your work, being a part of a secret club or a fandom that belongs entirely to them. The goal of a license is to enhance an already strong marketing campaign by allowing fans to weaponise the license and distribute copies fucking everywhere without fear of reprisal. But then, you need fans in the first place, and licenses don't get you fans. The goal of a license is then, above all else, future-proofing. When I do get famous (as I don't plan on dying obscure), this license will allow my work to be shared to anybody, forever, and that's just an ethical thing to do.
Right, more on average. It is impossible to build an identity on average - impossible to build an identity on work that nobody cares about, has no reason to indulge in, and can be exchanged with any other work out there at a whim. When you create a generic story with no reason for us to care, topped off with generic prose that tells nothing about the author and their perspective on life, then why the fresh fuck would anybody want to read your book? Well, the proles will still read it, but they're fucking idiots. And selling to fucking idiots either makes you malicious, or stupid - and neither is a good position to change the world from.
The race to the bottom is the race to have as widespread of an appeal as possible, so bland and inoffensive, marketing the most boring audience possible, and to sell it as cheap as possible, that you win your market through sheer brute force alone. Superhero movies are a good example of this - unimportant, unimpactful media that sells because it appeals to the most degenerate members of society with little ambitions, and little else to do with their time, than to watch a series of action sequences. I am generalising, but I have never seen a superhero story that I cared about - except for some of the more obscure classes of "superhero", like Scott Pilgrim.
Average work for average people makes you an average writer. To avoid this, it is necessary, above all else, to stop caring about popular appeal. A lot of people don't like your work... and so what? Do you know your work is good? Is it sensible, functional, and does it have the opportunity to make people care about it? Do the rough edges enhance the work rather than take away from it, like a rough art style in a video game makes it more endearing, rather than reduce the impact of the brilliant writing and gameplay? Does the work reward you for playing it, and does it stick with you in a way that isn't token?
If you have developed a story that you, in all your experience, knows is of quality, then you have the potential to become a master. Your audience is not whatever random asshole comes off the street and looks at your work. 99% of people who view your work won't give a shit - basic fact of business, unless you are said bland, milquetoast, race-to-the-bottom average. Your audience is, basically, a niche, and the audience that you must appeal to, above all else, in order to survive in a marketplace with more content than has ever been produced in the history of the universe.
My niche is, like I say, a Web Cult for Cool Cunts. Who are the cool cunts? Well, they can't be prudes, they can't be easily offended, and they can't be people with closed opinions. They have an interest in technology and the arts, and are educated enough to read thousands of words a day. You will notice that all of these factors describe me. Well, sometimes a niche is just based around the person who creates the work! If a man makes a games company for people who really fucking like video games, then they have a viable business. The dispassionate developer develops for dispassionate gamers - and that is not a good position to be in for the long run.
So, above all else, write for your niche! Define your niche - what makes you special? What do you know that nobody else knows? What can you offer that nobody else can offer? What is your "unique selling point", so to speak, which is so unique to you that no other author can offer the particular brand of art that you create? Why are you essential to somebody else's life? Why should I give a shit? I'm not asking this rhetorically, I'm actually asking this from myself. Why should I, Froge, give a shit about your work? You know I'm a man of quality, but also of fairness, and so if I can look at your work and find it worthy of my admiration, then you've got yourself a slam dunk, mate.
If you can't define these terms, think: who are you? What do you enjoy? What makes you live? Alright, say you're a picture artist and you live and breath art and you want to draw all the damn time. You might be thinking, "Hey, you're right! Why the fresh fuck am I looking at a writer's guide when I'm actually an artist?". Alright, alright, I won't try to convince you that becoming an author has just as much to do with the visual arts that you may not realise. But I will say that the topics I talk about for this guide is as relevant to any medium as it is to writing, and it is my privilege to know about such mediums.
If you are a visual artist, and you want to write about pictures, then why don't you? All you need is a firm command of your language (preferably English, otherwise I can't judge it), the ability to write with certainty, and the time dedicated to reading and writing enough so that you can make it worth reading. If you have enough experience with pictures, then your work will be enthralling to whoever reads it! If you want to get really good, you may want to consider reading TV Tropes, which tells you a lot of the techniques you can use for better writing, and then apply those to your work. Give it a decade or so of that, every day, appeal to the right niche - and hey! After a few years (months if you're lucky), you'll get popular!
But, as I say, you can be the best writer in the world, but that means nothing if you aren't read. That's why it's so damn important to stick to a niche, pander to it, really prostitute yourself out, because to fail to do this means you lose your entire audience! The instant you decide to cut the sharp edges off your work, the edges that made it so appealing to people in the first place, and try to sacrifice your dedicated, hardcore audience in exchange for a more popular one... you lose. You lose the marketing game and then you're just another average person making completely average work for average people. And you might not even make any more money.
It's also important to realise that mastery involves popularity. You can pander to your niche for a long, long time, but if the niche itself isn't big enough (like the plushophilia community), then you're not going to get popular. So you need to expand your niche (the toy community?) to be able to get your work shown to more people. This does not mean sacrificing your values - it just means you add in content that appeals to an audience that isn't in your die-hard field of view. Imagine, as a matter of theory, I'd like to talk about all the aspects of furry culture if I wanted to, but that would limit my niche and remove all the tech and arts and other shit, and just be talking about furries. After a while, I'd realise it isn't a sustainable venture, so I increase my blog's scope to talk about Web culture with furries as an afterthought. Ding! Here comes Froghand!
But, we must understand, that if you have a perfectly fine niche that has a great deal of people under its umbrella, and yet you simply haven't found the people yet, then do not try to increase your scope. Unintuitively, this will cause you to become perfectly average, and then lose most of your appeal. It is necessary to take other measures, such as outside advertising, cross-site promotions, artist meetups, volunteering-as-marketing, and begging the media to cover you, in order to help your audience finds you. The ideal situation is to have a work of art that has a potentially massive audience, but you just haven't found it yet. So you need to keep working until they find you.
All of this applies to everything, not just blogging. It applies to that book on the shelf, that short story in a newspaper, a magazine, a piece of poetry. Everything that you ever publish will need some sort of appeal to it. Like I say, this isn't hard at all. It's dead easy, in fact. Just write what you are, who you are, and your audience will come to you. Is it idealistic? Yeah, it's idealistic to say that just because you're being yourself that everybody will suddenly flock to you. But if you keep "being yourself", uncompromising, and with work that is unlike any that has ever existed, and you keep publishing this work for months, then it's not idealistic at all to say that you'll build yourself an audience.
If you understand what I'm getting at, congratulations - you just learned the basic principles of advertising. Find what people want, give it to them, and encourage them to keep coming back. Your audience wants your content, and they'll keep coming back if you give it to them. Is content art? Yes, of course! Never let anybody tell you that just because something is intended to be sold, it cannot be just as worthy a work of art. If something causes you to rethink your entire life philosophy, but it costs ten dollars for access, who cares? It still changed your life.
But, and here's the kicker, when you make something exclusively for profit, for no other reason but to pander, but to appeal to a boring, unimaginative, and bland segment of the artistic market, the same segments that insist they are special but are indeed completely unremarkable (such as most webcomics, like Homestuck, Penny Arcade, and the new XKCD, just stating my onion), then you are no longer an artist, but are a vulture who extracts money out of proles for profit. I like this word, prole. It describes the worst of humanity in one syllable - even if it is decontextualised a lot.
And, in addition, I am a pirate. A lot of people are. Piracy isn't a bad word, nor is it a bad thing - piracy is simply allowing anybody, regardless of class, to engage in our human right to culture, and allowing them to own any piece of media for free and forever. There is absolutely nothing bad about this ideal, and the best part is, it's an ideal that is a reality every single day, for tens of millions of pirates around the world. While an artist has every right to charge for media, the customer has every right to enjoy it without being discriminated against on the basis of wealth. When you copy a work of art, both people have it forever, and its impact is amplified because of this. This is a beautiful system, and one I will always protect.
And I suppose, for good measure, I'll summarise again that mastery is a combination of positively influencing your field, and the amount of skill you have. To get popular (assuming this is your goal, and if not, why the fuck not?), carve out a niche and stick to it for a long while, and if that doesn't work, find a new niche. Never settle for less quality or for broader appeal, as either of these things causes you to be forgotten in a world where "average" is a dime a thousand. And always take the time out to practice, so you can keep doing good work, so you will keep changing lives!
More on marketing and the arts:
What is the purpose of writing? That's a lofty question, I suppose. I suppose the purpose of writing is to communicate, but then that is a general, and honestly boring, point of view. Yes, writing is used for communication - and this is why it is important to be a good writer. If you write as you speak, you become a good talker. If you become a good talker, you can talk to people and get them to understand you, persuading them in various ways. And by being a good talker, it loops back around and helps you be a good writer, which also gets people to understand you.
Writing is as much of a practical skill as it is an artistic one, as you write in some form every day of your life, and to have good writing is to exert your character in ways that few people can. Note that good writing should not be equated with "formal" writing, as formal writing is just a style of writing. Nor does it mean being uptight, or always correct. Good writing is, simply, speaking to your audience in ways that few other people can. If you audience talks in ways that those outside your audience would laugh at you, so be it. For instance:
"i was playing team joker 2 on bozobowl and we had three heehees and no monkeys and i asked the team spooks to switch to something useful like a jester or a popo and they spammed honks in the chat while the enemy dingaling ran over my team with a clown car and crit us with the cream pie launcher and megahonked us in the jokepoint. the blue razzler rubberknifed us and dead ringa-ding-dingered into the clowntrol point and claptured it, taunting with the rubber chicken. i was so mad."
You'd probably be shot if you submitted that to an editor. But fuck the editor. The great thing about the Web is that there is always, always, somebody willing to look at what you make. Granted, if you make complete fucking shit, then your audience will, too, be complete fucking shit. More positively, it means that even if your style is pure, patent nonsense, then you will develop an audience who enjoys that type of humour. Even if something appears to have been made without any effort at all, if it brings you some small benefit (a laugh, a chuckle, a charity titter), then you must assume that the construction of the thing had a lot of effort to it - like the above paragraph taking about three minutes to refine.
"But Froge," you say, sensibly. "What does this have to do with marketing?". My boy, this is marketing! Everything that you do is marketing. Everything that you write, everything that is published, everything that can be seen to relate to you in some strange way, is marketing. A lot of people think of the practice as manipulating people, of telling lies to get them to buy stuff. While indeed, a lot of bad advertising is full of lies, it is a folly to put the entire practice under the care of a lot of bad apples. Marketing is, simply, appealing to people. Everybody is a marketer, every day of their lives.
Now, this might be a scary thought to you, making you nervous, making you on edge. Don't be - as I say, it's easy. Dead easy. There is no need to be afraid of what is a completely passive and unconscious thing. When you go in for a job interview and convince the employer to hire you, that's marketing. You're branding yourself, essentially. Your saying to them "I can do things for you that nobody else can, and together, we can make the company stronger". You're appealing to somebody, and so long as you never, ever lie while appealing to somebody, then it's marketing that is both honest and useful to society.
Now, what is a brand? A brand is you. A brand is everything that you do. When you select a name that represents who you are, like "Froge" being a reference to an obscure meme that is still unique to those who don't know about it, or "froghand" implying some sort of sticky, nonsensical endeavour, then that's branding. When you reply to a comment thanking them for their criticism, that's branding. When you return your e-mails, that's branding. When you say that you'll do something, and you do it, that's branding. Everything is branding. Everything positive, everything negative, is branding. And over time, all that you do, all the decisions that you make, will come back to you; positive decisions build a better brand. Negative ones pummel you into the dust.
And this all relates to writing, simply, because you want your writing to be seen. "But Froge," you say, a little tear in your eyes. "I don't want to be seen!". Very well - continue to be unremarkable, insisting that you are a good writer despite having done nothing to earn that distinction. Continue to wallow in averageness, where you never improve because your only judge is yourself and no-one else. Continue to be just like everyone else, perhaps working at a job you hate, or letting your dreams lie dormant while everybody else, who bothers to do the work, who bothers to publish it for the world to see, fearless, and without care for the opinions of those outside your audience, will be fulfilled. Here I am. I will wait for you.
Your writing gets seen by finding an audience and building a brand that relates to that audience - and your brand must be consistent, too. If you promise to take money to write a book, or to create a painting, and you fail to deliver on that promise, then that's a black mark that stains your reputation for the rest of your life. If you say that you're going to update every day, and you only update every few days, then you're seen as unreliable. If you are proud of your failures, if you make fun of your inability to do the work (such as many webcomics like Homestuck having made fun of their fucking awful update schedule), then you brand yourself as a person who does not do the work.
Now, exceptions exist, and this is not to say that you must be a workaholic (more on this later), and I am not asking you to be perfect. I am asking you to take a good, long look at yourself, and think about what you can honestly do, what you can live up to, before you embark on any decisions that affect your entire art. If you can't take money, then don't say you can. If you have no idea how a payment system works, then be honest - your audience will understand. If you can't make an update, be up front about it, and explain why - don't try to hide it under the sheets! These simple principles mean that, not only do you become a good business, but you become a good person.
The business is so often directed by the person who runs it. If you have a leader, let's call them the perfect leader, who does everything on time, delivers consistently great work, goes above and beyond what their audience expects of them, treates the audience with more respect than any other competitor, and can run a business efficiently, effectively, and with a minimum of complaints or other such problems, then the word will spread very quickly, and your audience will not only flock to you, but they will be intensely loyal. For every Rareware that gains the admiration of the gaming community, there's a hundred Valves who gain its hatred.
If you are a good person, a respectable person, you will develop a good business. If you are not a good person... there is still hope. Like, I wasn't a good person. I was lazy, irresponsible, and with no ambition in life. Not entirely true - I still had glimmers of hope, like working hard on whatever interested me (like video games, fanfiction, and the like, and yes I wrote fanfiction but it's all lost now so there's no point in asking for it), and having the capability to learn things quickly. But when I was younger, I didn't do anything at all beyond play video games and go on Tumblr and watch anime and all that. Oh, youth... and addiction to Valve games, but oh, youth...
Here I am, a respectable man (source: me), and I'm creating a respectable business. I talk a lot about myself, but why shouldn't I? I write what I know, just as you should if you want to be genuine. And I know that I've been updating my blog on a consistent basis, with more content per day than most companies make in the same time frame, and I always act responsibly while doing so. My website design is meant to enhance reading, not take away from it with irrelevant advertisements, live nudes, pop-ups, flashing animations, and other such nonsense. It's all intuitive. It just makes sense. I made this way because I wouldn't want to create work that I know I wouldn't be proud of.
When I do this, it isn't because it's just something I pump and dump in order to make money. Yeah, I can put it on a resume - it's my right to showcase the work that I do - but the only way I'm making dosh off this is if somebody drops a bag of swag in my lap and tells me "good job", and that's not happening. I made this because I had the ambition to make something great, to show that, not only did I have the potential to make better work than almost every other entity that I've seen throughout my life, but that I can actually make it. I set out to do something, and I did it. It's brilliant.
I always act with the interests of my audience in mind, always act ethically, always act to ensure that I'm not wasting their time, and it's because of all this that I get nothing but positivty from those who read my work. Am I perfect? Far from it - I still fail to update sometimes. Sometimes I second guess what I write, but then keep it published, because I'm not afraid to be wrong. I look at some of my earlier work, think to myself "maybe I should have thought this through", but keep it published, because I know that removing it won't make it go away. I never act out of selfish interests - I act out of what benefits both me and you.
And you can say that, "you're just saying all of this to make yourself look better and build your brand in an effort to market yourself". To which I reply, what's wrong with that? If I'm of quality, then why shouldn't I try to spread myself onto the world? Marketing isn't bad - it's just finding an audience. Branding isn't bad - it's just a record of the decisions you've made as part of your life history, or your business's history, or the project you're making now. The reason these terms have such a sour connotation is that so many companies don't realise that, beyond making money, the purpose of a company is to change society for the better.
And that's what I'm doing, and that's what you should strive for as well. If you want to become popular, you must always choose the ethical route, as making bad decisions is a short-term solution, and in the long run, you will develop so many black marks that your company, and your person, is constantly haunted by the past. It only drops out of the public consciousness if you're lucky, is forgiven by your audience if you're lucky... but the history is still there. And if you're a big company, and you have so many black marks against you that you have entire Wikipedia pages dedicated to them (Google, Apple, Microsoft, for instance), then you can expect your business to sizeably drop off in the long term.
I realise that these companies are still filthy fucking rich. But every day, every single day, they get hated on. They get hated on by the media, who publish all of their unethical deeds, and how much they screw over the consumer. They get hated on by their customers, because they are screwed over by the company in various ways, with so many problems with either their products, their customer support, or their ethics that cause the customer to immensely regret their support of the company. And this is not even mentioning being hated on by groups that are devoted to hating these companies. And if you have a group dedicated to spreading hatred against you, and they have legitimate reasons to (as oppsoed to being permenently offended, prudish, or some other fucking stupid difference in opinion), then you know that your company fucked up.
So long as you are a person of good moral standing, a person who always thinks of how their actions affect others, and a person who is willing to admit and learn from their mistakes when they do make mistakes (and indeed, you will make mistakes), then there is nothing stopping you from building a great brand. Of course, you need to be greater than average in order to get people to notice you, but attitude is half the battle, and hard work is the other half. Together, they create a combination that is only limited by your ability to find what people want, what people need, and deliver it to them. That's just good business.
Art is a business as much as business is an art. You can continue to make art - please do! Art is one of the most important things in the world, being able to make people feel what they could have never otherwise, being able to appeal to the desires of their audience in ways that nothing else can, and can teach the audience lessons in ways that no other medium can. Art expresses messages and creates beauty in ways that the world would be completely and utterly amiss without. And, in an age where we have almost everything we could ever want, art is one of the only things that people are willing to go out there and defend with their entire being.
On doubters and trolls:
There are some pragmatists, horribly delusional pragmastics, which say that art is worthless in the fields of science, technology, math, and engineering. They say that it is of little practical use, not being a "serious" field, not being one worthy of our admiration or our study. They say that it does not change the world, because it cannot be industrialised, and a world without it would not affect the world. They say that it is something you grow out of in order to develop a "real" worldview.
Do I even need to explain just how wrong they are?
How do you expect people to care about the sciences if there is nothing tangible for the public to latch onto? Who would care about space if it was not for the descriptions of writers and the depictions of artists to allow our imaginations to create an infinite world where anything can be out there? Who creates the abstractions of the sciences, and who allows the heavy, heavy materials that scientists publish every day, to be trimmed down, illustrated, and then shipped off to the populace which is affected by its discoveries? Who appreciates the natural beauty of the natural sciences, photographs it, documents it, and then published it? Not the scientists - but the artists!
Who allows the public to understand how important technology is, and how it affects our lives, if not for the writers who create stories of the future, where everything went wrong, where everything went write, and how we can maximise benefit while reducing damages? What makes the public care about what goes behind the scenes of research firms, beyond the skill of an artist who can concisely describe just what the hell they are doing? What popularises the future more than the ability to create the future out of nothing more but imagination? When technology is made, who makes us care?
What good is math if nothing tangible is created out of it - what good is it if it is made only within its field and its field alone, within a closed space where only mathematicians can see what it does? When a programmers creates the algorithms that make computers work, do you expect anybody to care if the algorithms are not described in ways that are as beautiful as they are? Who applies the beauty to works, with proportions in painting, rules in games, and tools in programs, beyond those with the imagination to make something great out of what is essentially numbers and the way they are manipulated?
Who do you think sells the products that the engineers make, designs the interfaces of their programs, designs the way that the product looks, designs how it gets into the hands of the customer? Who combines form and functionality better than somebody who has dedicated their life to creating beauty out of raw materials? Who can create intituive design in a way where the customer actually knows how to use the product that the engineers create? Who turns a grey piece of metal into something that somebody is actually excited to buy? How ignorant is the engineer of these benefits?
Somebody who pretends to be an authority on a field that they are not in is not only an idiot, but they are also a liar. You will see a lot of idiots in your life - and a lot of liars, too. For some reason, the Internet provides great opportunity for all the idiots and the liars to come out of their jizz-flooded basements and voice opinions about things they will forget about with a few minutes. It is not necessary for you to even consider what they have to say, and those few people who are rational are more likely to contact you in a way that doesn't make you go "uh-huh", followed by closing the browser tab.
If you are young, your parents will likely think you're an idiot for wanting to be an artist or a blogger or whatever - further proof that family is worthless except as an obligation. We are living in a cultural revolution where the arts are being, not just fetishised, but commercialised, and as such there are more opportunities than ever before to make a living off of the arts. We are in the connected world - the only thing you have to do is connect an audience, and sell, sell, sell. Ethically, of course, and never make selling the main point. Anybody who are not aware of this opportunity is, simply, ignorant. And ignorance is a sign of a worthless human being.
It is a mistake to assume that all people's opinions are equally valid when no evidence has supported this to be the case. I would not trust the vulture capitalist to comment on the state of their slave shops. I would not trust the racist to talk about the races. I do not trust anybody who comments on a thing without being aware of what that thing entails. You must consider that, in an age where everybody has the opportunity to comment on anything regardless of any prior knowledge, it is impossible to take everybody's opinion and use it to improve yourself.
If an opinion is well thought out, if it is constructive, and if it aims to help you out, even if it hurts your ego, even if it means admitting you were wrong, then it should not be ignored. Some people will use the phrase "good medicine tastes bitter" as an excuse to be a right cunt and insult you, saying that your work is shit. Regardless of whether or not they are right, they already lost the battle. They lost the right to comment on your work. They lost it because they don't respect you enough as a person to show basic manners in your company, you having done absolutely nothing to deserve the insult beyond having the courage to exist. People like these are not worth your time thinking about.
Now, here is the interesting thing. In addition to angry commentators, there are also angry artists. Those who can't take any criticisms at all, those block you because they think that their work is so perfect that any insult to it is like insulting their entire being. An important distinction to make: the work is not the person. Thinking the work is bad does not mean that the person is bad - but if the person refuses to improve, if the person is unethical, then yes, please think the person is bad! They deserve it! If I did business with somebody who did not give me a product that I paid for, then I have every right to warn people not to do business with that person. Plaster their name across the walls, everywhere you can, but only so long as it is true. It is a simple fact of business that a reputation takes a lifetime to build, and seconds to destroy.
Storytime, gentlemen, and this story was years back, so forgive the sparsity of details. I had joined an artist's stream, an artist whose work barely registered on my radar and yet was significant enough for me to join their stream, and they were in the colouring stage of a piece. With my experience from pixel art, I knew that having a high contrast was important for distinguishing pieces. So I typed into the chat, "i think it needs more contrast". Not an optimal statement, but a true one. And suddenly - like a bolt from the blue - I got reprimanded from people I didn't know! The artist told me to mind my own business, and I had typed some statement about pixel art. And then, before I could further chat with them, I got banned from the stream. Could never view that stream again.
What do you think I did with such a person? Did I throw a fuss for not having the "privilege" to view their artwork that was so perfect that they did not want me to make a comment on it? Do you think I made a big mess of myself because one person, out of dozens I admired, thought so lowly of me that I was not given permission to speak in their presence? Of course not. I simply blocked the person, and moved on with my life. If they do not respect me enough as a person that I may politely give an opinion about a piece, and their social skills so poor that they did not give any response at all to my opinion, then what do I gain from doing business with them? Not a damn, damn, thing.
Not only do these bad artist relations occur when an artist makes a bad action, but when they make no action at all. If somebody doesn't answer your e-mail, or doesn't reply to your comment (so long as it's worthy of some response - it doesn't make sense to relentlessly comment on everything that crosses your field of view), then how do you feel? Rejected, of course, like the effort that you spent to get in contact with them is not valuable enough for their tastes, that they consider you to be beneath their notice. The nerve, assuming that you are better than your fans! Do you realise that when somebody wants to share something important with you, a funny story, an anecdote, a compliment, a thing they think you'll like, it means that they actually care about you?
Every time somebody asks you a question and it goes unanswered, it's sending a message that you don't care enough about the asker to even reply to them with what you think of the question, or to reply to state that you don't answer such questions. When somebody gives their opinion about a work, and they have your best interests at hand, then it is in your interest to relate with them. If somebody wants to start a conversation with you, then why don't you bother to converse with them? Granted, there will be idiots with no social skills, but all you need to say to them is the reason why you don't want to talk with them, and then leave. It's simple human relations.
It is so easy to ignore that the little computer people that you write for, are actual humans. They live and breath and do things that humans do, and though you don't have to care about those who don't deserve your respect, you must be optimistic that the very same fans who spend their time in order to read your work are the ones that you should at least be willing to meet halfway and talk with them if they want to talk with you. There is a very small minority of people who will ever want to contact an author, less than 1% of your entire audience. What is going through your head when you think that you can afford to brush off your most loyal fans?
There are some issues, too, and you may be thinking that this is bullshit. "Froge is too optimistic," you may be thinking. "He's never had to deal with the harassment and malice that I've had to deal with!". To which I answer the question of how to deal with harassment: you don't. You don't deal with it at all, you take a zero-tolerance stance on it, and you remove all such offenders from your life entirely. A person with so little to do with their lives that they have to make people feel bad for no reason except for a difference in worldview, is not worthy of your notice, let alone your time. Block the idiots, and always focus on who your audience is.
This is not to say that you must assume that everybody is an idiot because they disagree with you. This is not to say that a mistaken person is an idiot, unless they show a callous disrespect for your work. It is not to say that somebody who doesn't like your work at all, and makes no positive comments about it, is an idiot - if they are being honest, and with good intentions when they criticise your work, then they are actually being very helpful. There is always a line, always an exception, that you must consider when choosing whether or not to deal with somebody, and the line is typically when a grudge against a person's work, turns into a grudge against the person themself.
If their opinions are honest, then you would do well to listen to them. But you must make sure that they have reasons for their opinions, to determine if it's worthwhile. Otherwise it is an opinion without context, and opinions without context are worthless opinions. I cannot stress enough how important examples are to criticism, to persuading somebody to take your advice! People need concrete reasons, concrete evidence, for the opinions that you give them, because otherwise it's like saying nothing at all. You must point to examples in a work in order to show why you have developed an opinion about a work. This is often hard, I know, and I don't often offer examples for opinions outside of my art reviews. But if you fail to offer examples for your criticisms, for your opinions, then it means as much to the artist as nothing at all.
If I say that artist Cathy is an unscrupulous artist because they have not delivered goods that their customers have paid for, have not apologised for any such delays in goods, have argued with their customers when they complain that they did not receive their work, and fails to mature from such events despite a mountain of criticism, then it is completely fair to say that they are not an artist you should do business with. All of these criticisms are true given the examples that you make for each point, and as such, it is necessary to warn the public about this scandal - so long as it is true, so long as you act more ethical than the person you are exposing.
If you were to extort me by saying that, and this is an absurd example, I was a rapist (as so many celebrities are accused of nowadays), I would not need to dignify that with a response, and my audience would understand that it's patent nonsense. If the accusation was from somebody who is batshit insane and is actually gaining media attention, evil for trying to ruin somebody else's career and life prospects for no benefit of their own, then it may be necessary to give some pithy response, state that it's nonsense, demand proof, what have you. Say somebody says that "Froge is a rapist, here's the (fabricated) evidence", I might say something like, "That's a very good story, and it's a shame none of it is true". You do not need to put more effort defending yourself than somebody did trying to slander you - and indeed, if it is slander, then you can sue them if you can afford it.
And, needless to say, when somebody compliments your work, it is necessary to thank them in some small way. Not for everything, mind you, as thanking everybody is often a tiring work. It is necessary to thank the most thoughtful comments, as those are the ones you need to encourage, as thoughtful comments come from loyal fans. At the same time, don't except compliments blindly - at the same time that not all criticisms are thoughtful, not all compliments are helpful. Always look out for those with examples of why they like your work, as examples are key developing a strong sense of self-worth. The most damaging thing you can do to an artist is tell them their work is perfect, when it isn't.
On self-evaluation and the schools:
I've already talked at length about other people commenting on your work, and how you may comment on other people's work, and the reactions you might expect from doing so. To summarise those thoughts, not everyone who walks through the Louvre should be allowed to comment on the art, as the artists featured within it have spent their entire lives to such devotions of beauty, symbolism, technique, and cultural commentary, and the dismissive twat who either thinks of it as "meaningless", or the gormless idiot who thinks of them as "pretty", fail to show any respect for not just the artists, but the arts in general.
But, you don't have to deal with such people during the creation phase of your art, your writing, your stories, your what have you. When you publish it - and please do publish it, publish with courage and with everything that you've got - you will have to carefully consider who you reply to, whose advice you listen to, who you want to produce your art for, and not for the idiots, and not for the twats. It's necessary then, to always strive for high quality, as a person who aims for a low target and hits that mark is not worthy of any praise at all.
This is a common complaint, and a boring one, but it's true. When you see another generic first-person shooter, or a third-person action-rpg, or a platformer game, or a party game, or an indie game, none of which innovate in any sense with mechanics, story, writing, graphics, controls, or even just having a big dancing bear in a fez, then it damages our culture by giving the impression that aiming for "average" work - aiming for uninspiring, unintelligent, unimaginative, work - is not only a respectable thing to do, but is the only way to make progress as an artist.
There are millions of people who eat at McDonald's every day, and yet they are still damaging their health because of it. There are millions of people who watch reality shows, and they become stupid for it. There are millions of writers who produce absolute trash, and they destroy their reputation for the sake of popularity. There are millions of programmers who get by on hack jobs, who get by on the laziest code and the most basic of design, because nobody taught them the important of good practice. There are millions of perfectly average people out there, making perfectly average work, and the worst thing our culture has ever done for us is tell us that it's okay to be average when the world is in absolutely no need nor want of any more average work.
Average products for average people is unsustainable in a world where average people can find average products at any time they want, at any price they want, all across the world, just by using their cell phone. The only way to win this battle is to become so average, so uninspiring, so inoffensive, that you appeal to the lowest common denominator who is willing to spend money on the next distraction from the grave that prevents them from doing their best work, pander said products to them so long as they have the money, and then sell it at the lowest price. It is the race to the bottom. It is the natural consequence of the connected world.
Do you see the parallels between big business and you, independent, as an artist? Perhaps you can pause to think a little - I've been horribly rude by not even giving you time to think. I stress though, that these words will always be alive, and as such, you can pause to think about a subject at any time, like I so often do.
Right then. The parallels are simple: you cannot be average in a world where average is the norm. You must be, in some shape or form, exceptional. Exceptional in the brilliance of your prose, the crassness of your attitude, the aesthetics of your website, the way you interact with your audience to go above and beyond their expectations, the humour that you provide, the way you bind together a community of like-minded individuals... any of these alone would make you a cut above the rest. Imagine then, what will happen, when you combine all of these aspects into the fabric of your being? Imagine just how much impact you can make on the world!
You may be thinking it is a lofty goal to strive for all of these aspects, to go above and beyond, to exceed expectations and to be the best person you can be. Let me show you a little test, which I stole from Seth Godin (and will continue to name drop because, once again, p l a g i a r i s m b o i s). Raise your hand, if you would please, as high as you can. Not for long, just do it if you have an arm. Alright, perfect. Now raise it a little higher. It went up a little higher, didn't it? Now my question to you is: what happened to "raise your hand as high as you can"?
Seth used it in the context of the school system always allowing you to settle for average, and not just allowing it, but encouraging it, too. He goes on to say that the school system encourages consumerism by training students to be as average as possible to make it easier for companies to sell average products to them. I'm not saying that there is a conspiracy between schools and companies to make this happen, and I'm not trying to misrepresent his position. What I am saying is that it's very convenient for schools to produce such average students, so that companies may come in and market to them. Anybody who was aware of the United States 80s knew it was most occupied with consumerism (unlike Canada, which was occupied with becoming a fucking country). The history continues well into today.
Why is that? Why do schools inspire such average work? Well, consider this: your entire self-worth is determined by a number, and not having a two-digit number that starts with "9" means you're a failure. The curriculum is as impersonal and as generic as possible, teaching you skills that few students care about, and those who do care are held back by work that does nothing to inspire them. Students are disciplined by removing points from said two-digit number, and all creativity and uniqueness is stamped out by the teachers, who seek to make their classes as uniform and obedient as possible. Social pressure and fear tactics are used to support conformity, and failure to conform means that you are punished for it. Failure to do the work that you are forced to do, despite having zero interest whatsoever in it, means that you are disciplined, with no other options available. In some respects, you are like cattle.
You may think this is conspirational, but here's the important part: there is really no conspiracy involved. It's just a natural result of what parents and teachers expect of the school system, which is to be as generic as possible, because being generic is easy to process. Treating human beings as numbers is easier to process. Focusing on a number as opposed to personal achievement is easier to process. It's easy to find outliers, the students who don't fit the twelve-year daycare sentence (or prison sentence), who know that they're more special than what the school system has set out for them, who knows they can make their own path in life without following a life plan that encourages them to, in order, get the best grades they possibly can on every subject they possible can for the next twenty years of their life which they could spend doing literally anything else, and then get a job that doesn't fulfill them so they may die. It's efficient. It's impersonal. The worst part is that people believe in it.
Typing this up makes me a little uneasy, because I realise I sound exactly like some retard on YouTube ranting about a broken system that is exceptionally hard to fix, just like they rant about the government or taxes or what have you. Well, if you're reading this far, I appreciate you reading into my wide and varied opinions about such topics. I wish not to imply that you should think the way I think, nor imply that I am asking you to take action (as nobody did the last time I asked you, so fuck you, lazybones). I am asking you to consider this point of view which has a lot of evidence going for it, as to ignore it would mean that you either have a lot of evidence counteracting it, or are simply ignorant. And if you are ignorant, I must ask you to be less so.
How this all relates to you is that, you haven't learned to be self-reliant. I'm generalising, of course - I learned to be self-reliant, but that's because of my own studies, and not because of a school. You haven't learned to take a good, honest look at yourself, and see what's wrong with you, and what your strengths are. The school system isn't interested in improving you as a person - they are interested in, chiefly, fitting you into slots to support the needs of society without any interest in you as an individual. They didn't support critical thinking skills, and they didn't allow you to indulge in the arts to find beauty in the world. What they did was sell you a big lie, the lie that it's okay to be average, and you'll still be a success. And you have every right to be angry for that.
They weren't interested in making you create the best work you possibly can. They were interested in creating work that fits a rubric, that fits a criteria, that's easy to mark. If your prose is brilliant, if it provides food for thought, if it is exceptional in ways that most students could only imagine... so what? It didn't fit the criteria. Fail it. If it makes somebody cry, if it makes somebody think, if it gives somebody perspective on the world, then what does it matter? It didn't fit the criteria. Fail it. It has swear words? Fail it. It insults a point of view you don't like? Fail it. It's easier to fail somebody and call them broken than it is to appreciate the good qualities of them. Much easier to punish than to inspire. Much easier to fit in than to stand out.
I recall one time in a programming class an example of failure to comply - back when I thought I could learn anything from school, as opposed to just getting through six hours of my life every day as I laze away writing things in my notepad. A gentleman was working away on his own personal project, a little funky display of flashing lights and colours, all sorts of shapes bobbling about, with whatever memes were popular at the time, making my eyes panic whenever I glanced at his direction. I have absolutely no idea what we were supposed to be working on, the course was so boring, but his project wasn't a part of the curriculum. It was a labour of appreciation, a work that took much more effort to make a reality than what any of us were doing, and the teacher failed it because it didn't fit his curriculum.
The student came out fine - it was less about the grade he got and more for the act of creating something that he could be proud of having made. I barely talked to him, and it's presumptuous of me to assume what he was thinking when he was making the thing, but his attitude sums up what school is missing most of all: the faith in the students to explore their own interests, and to create what they want in an environment that gives them the time to do that. The only way to make somebody learn something is to make them want to learn it. I have forgotten everything I ever learned in any class that I would not have already learned on my free time, and the only parts of school I remember is the parts of school where I was doing what I wasn't supposed to be.
You haven't learned to be independent because the school system has not allowed you to be independent. You could be fourty years old, and I could be telling you this stuff, and it would still be true! And if you're a teenager? You better believe you have some work to do, because otherwise, your life is going to come right at you like a speeding bullet - and wham! What are you going to do but be kicked out into the world with no practical skills whatsoever, feeling like you didn't learn a single damn thing from the last decade of your life? What are you going to do but break down and play catch-up from a system that has completely and utterly failed you on every level?
You may have realised already that this isn't really a guide to writing - it's a guide to life. Alright, before you close your browser tab, here me out. The arts are a business, and until we live in a post-scarcity society, it will always be a business. Business is not scary, nor is it a hard thing, because business is just applying life on a large scale. When you act responsibly as a person, you act responsibly as a business. When you give somebody the time of day, that's good business. When you always seek to be the best person you can be, so does your business, and this makes you a stand-out in world full of perfectly average people who were taught that it's okay to be average.
When you haven't learned to be independent, how are you going to be able to write on your own? Make art on your own? Do anything on your own? You always had teachers babysitting you - telling you to fit in and do your work despite having no reason to do the work. They'll call it a job, and give them credit where it's due, being on time, handing your work in on time, and striving for excellence are all things you should do. But you have to do it for yourself, and not because somebody is barking orders at you, and especially when you're not getting anything for it, whether it's money or self-fulfillment or anything else that benefits you in a tangible way, and not just with vague threats of "you'll regret it" if you don't fit into their system.
We do things because we care enough to do these things. Why would I write if I did not care enough to write? If I did not care about drawing, do you think that I would draw? If I learn things, do I learn them because I hate it? Then why would I ever subject myself, not only to be forced to do work that I hate, but also to expect to be good at it? This is not to say that, when you start to dislike a subject, you should give up. I am referring to subjects that, even with all the convincing in the world, you don't plan to do any study in whatsoever after you are out of school, and not those subjects that are very good for you, but lend a certain positive stress to it, such as exercise, programming, and even writing (as writing does have a lot of positive stress associated with it).
When somebody guides you along like a dog, expecting you to do as they say, when they say it, and be punished if you don't do the work they expect you to do, with no benefit to you at all, then what motivation could you possibly have for wanting to listen to them? Teachers who inspire fear instead of inspiring dreams, choose to take the easy path of punishing students for not complying instead of promoting a healthy lifestyle, irreversibly damages the fabric of our society, by encouraging sloppy work, by saying that you will always have somebody hounding you to do this sloppy work, and failing to create students who would walk around the entire world in order to learn what they wanted to learn. The students who would walk the world, the students who choose to learn as much as they can, be as great as they can, in their chosen field, are the students that our society needs most, and to have them oppressed by a system that just doesn't care, is some of the worst wasted opportunities I can ever think of.
On the real world and understanding systems:
Here's a secret: I hate talking about the real world. A bit of an exaggeration - I don't hate much at all. But when I hear somebody talk about "the real world", as if they were better than me, as if they were pandering to me like I was naive, then I feel a little bit angry at their condescending attitude. And I believe you have felt the same way, too! You may have heard some - fill in the blanks, kids - "responsible adults", "mature individuals", "people better than you", discourage you from fulfilling what you most want to do in life, because they believe that it just won't work "in the real world". I understand that the way our society works lends it a little bit of grittiness, where there is much our kids do not know and must be taught and yet is failed to be taught in our schools. But to say that you are the final authority of what the "real world" is? How big of an ego do you have?
The real world is not some magical land, where certain individuals exceed in it by fulfilling a template, by choosing to be as unremarkable as possible, by choosing to follow in the footsteps of somebody who does not deserve to be respected, let alone followed, much like most of your teachers, much like most of the "mature individuals" in your life. And this is not to imply that you are berated only in your youth - you will be berated your entire life, by people who do not deserve to speak with you. They will talk about the real world, whatever their interpretation of such is, and they will not shut up about it at all. I suppose, also, that I am not shutting up about it, so this requires me to talk about my own interpretation of the real world.
The way the real world works... well, take a look at it. How does it work? What do you see? What do you experience? What has your life been thus far? What has other people's life been thus far? To understand the way the world works, you must simply take a look at it. Learn about it. See the world for what it is and not how your perceptions of it has coloured your view. Never think of systems as abstractions, as to generalise culture, to generalise people and countries and entire ways that things work, lends you a special type of ignorance that is so very persuasive, that you may not even know you are ignorant. You have to, when trying to make your way in life, trying to develop success, popularity, whatever you want, in the "real world", always look at the real world for how it is, and to never settle for ignorance of it because you are too lazy to understand how to rise up and be better than your peers.
Do you think that a painter draws about their experiences like it was this magical thing that affected them one day out of the blue, like it was simply created out of thin air like they create masterpieces out of canvas? Of course not! There are contrivances and complications to every single thing that has ever happened to their life. If they paint people in a certain light, then it means that they have experienced so many different things, discarded most of them from their memory, has so many opinions about so many topics, and uses those opinions in order to express their subject matter in the way which they have chosen. There is no magic to their imagination. It is simply a complicated system, well-used over time, that they choose to abstractly make out of some materials.
And the way these materials interact, too, is no accident. If somebody chooses to be ignorant about the arts, about the hundreds of little techniques that painters, writers, manufacturers, musicians, and designers, have passively embedded into their being after dozens, or perhaps hundreds or even thousands, of hours of study, then there is very little hope for them in discovering the ways that the real world works. The real world is not beautiful - except for some parts, mostly aesthetic parts -, and it is necessary to not fetishise it. What the real world is, is chaotic. There is hardly any rhyme or reason to it, and whatever systems we do make light of, is simply abstractions of the way the world works, and we are but scratching the surface of a system which we may never fully understand. Art is designed to minimise chaos in favour of creating beauty. A person who does not understand the exceptionally sensible, easy-to-understand systems of the arts, has absolutely no chance at all in the chaos of the real world.
The arts are designed to capture but a small segment of our reality, whether deliberately designed to be abstract, or designed to be as technically concrete as possible, and represent it in ways that a populace can understand. The real world is hard to understand, simply, as there are so many different elements to it, like each individual fibre in a quilt, like each bone in a body, like each material in a cocktail, that interact with each other, to the point where it becomes as obscure as a dead language, and a billion times more complicated. The arts seek to simplify reality, and represent it in different ways. When you write an opinion, you are capturing one opinion out of a billion. When you paint a scene, that is one scene out of a billion. One melody? One in a billion. Everything you do is one in a billion, because the world is so large and varied, that there is a billion ways to represent it, and a trillion ways you can only try.
These are lofty subjects, aren't they? I can understand if they are hard to grasp, as even I am simply writing these by spitballing subjects, in a little "flow" of writing where I write based on what I know, without much proofreading at all. If you've been poring over what I've been writing, trying to understand it, then don't be alarmed when I say that I don't quite understand it myself either. I just write, and by the end of writing, I can't remember a damn thing about what I wrote. It makes me confused to think about what I wrote, because I simply don't remember. Last paragraph? No clue. Last sentence? You better believe I've already forgotten about it. But even so, I make every best attempt to develop a writing flow to the point where I at least am making some sense of things, even if I write like I have absolutely no abandon at all, even if I write to the point where I don't know what I'm writing about.
Oh, and another benefit of getting good at writing? You can express yourself with more density, with more clarification, more ability to detail abstract thoughts and ideas, than any other medium. Granted, I am ignorant of many mediums, but consider just how many ideas I have expressed in this humble little article? It is a long article, but even so, what would be its equivalent in another medium? What could express better what I have expressed, with as much knowledge, with as much exactness? What could detail the plight of the schools, the inspiration of life, the writing process, the ability to be a great person, and the means to make your own way in life? Yes, there are other mediums which can make you feel ways that very few can, but when it comes to the amount of information being developed, writing is king. And so far as I know, it will be king for a very long time.
And, of course, it is much more freeflowing than the other mediums. If you were to tangentalise on, say, a piece of music. Well, then it would be a very sudden genre shift indeed, now wouldn't it! If you were to throw a bunch of different elements into a picture, then that would mean that you have a very cluttered piece of scenery, eh? Put a bunch of different ideas into a video game and you have a schizophrenic experience. Combine a ton of styles into an animated series, and you get a right fucking mess. But the secret, the secret the secret the key, of writing, is that you can do whatever the fuck you want without worry!
Consider the sheer breadth and scope of the topics I have discussed thus far. What are they? Hell if I know - I've been writing this over two weeks! And not to have a big ego, but I believe that I have created so much content in this piece that it is a bit of an oddity, where there is so much to talk about in it that I have not talked about in other, more focused, articles. There have been articles that focus so much on one particular topic, but here? I am open. I am free. I have everything in the world on my platter, and I will snarfle snarfle share it. And it is only because of the ability to write so much in so little time, with such freedom as afforded to me with the generosity of language and the opportunity to write so much in this great medium of smashing words onto a page, that I can do so.
You can shove so much into writing in such a little space, change the entire world in just a few minutes, express so many ideas in more efficient means than other mediums, in a way that does not require any sort of special training or admiration in said medium, in a way that requires no more materials that your basic computer, and if not even that, then a fucking pen and some fucking paper, and be able to do this on your lunch break. It is dead easy to learn and dead easy to write, and though more experience will give you the ability to express your voice in stronger and stronger ways, talk about pretty much anything you know about to the point where it is effortless to create words, and treat deadlines and word counts like they aren't shit - because, let's be honest, at my point in my life they aren't shit. It is a miraculous medium, and though I do not discount the sheer emotional impact that other mediums can develop, there is almost no excuse at all for not being a decent writer, as writing is just talking and reading means that you become exceptional at writing.
But that's just writing... in general. You can throw words at a screen and make them stick and it will stick because it is the way you write and the way you write is such that it is your voice, and your voice happens to stick. That's reasonable. You expect me to be good at writing in this way, because it is effortless, and the less effort you exert on a great work, the more that you are likely to have experience with producing such works. But what about developing systems, like, novels? What about developing stories? These complicated things? When you develop, as I expressed in this article a long time ago, something as complicated as fiction, and then learn how to develop such complicated things, then it benefits you so much because it allows you understand how to create complicated systems, making you not only a much better writer, but a much better commander of language. And if you can command something as complicated as language, with all its rules and exceptions and ways of speaking, then that means you can command pretty much anything.
As I have said before, all art is an abstraction of the real world, and the real world is a series of complex systems that nobody really understands, and yet tries to, in the hope that one day we will discover just how it works. When you develop art, you develop abstractions of these systems, and understand just how they work. When you develop art, you create your own systems, and manipulate how they work in order to create a large impact for your audience. All things are systems - the world is a series of systems, and the way we represent them are a series of systems. Society is a series of systems. Everything we make is systems. There is more thought and effort that goes into every single thing that is every created, natural or otherwise, than we ever have to spend thinking about it. This is our privilege. We have the privilege to ignore the complexities of the world in order to indulge ourselves in its comfort.
To command a system that you control and to make it work, means that you have the ability to see certain parts of the world for the way it is. When you peer into art and understand just why it works, what makes it work, how you feel while viewing it, what you are supposed to feel, what the artist put into it, why the medium was used, what the characters represent, why the scenery as such, why the rules are developed the way they are, what the obligation of the audience feel, and understand this system which is complication, though pales in comparison to the rest of the world, then you are but a few steps away from commanding systems which would otherwise be completely above your comprehension.
Art is abstraction, and the ability to abstract complicated things into simpler things - complicated systems into simpler systems - is a bloody brilliant skill. To make something complicated and turn it into something not complicated is a skill deserved for brilliant people with a lot of imagination, people who bother to do the work and read articles like these, and benefits absolutely everybody, even the anti-intellectual trogs who live their life for the purpose of dying. When you create art, you are partaking in this abstraction, this means to make the world a little bit simpler, and as such, it benefits you in ways that only artists understand. It is for this reason that anybody who tells you that art has no use in the "real world" is, in abstract terms, an idiot. Art is representing the real world in all its complexities. It simply does so in a simpler way.
I wrote the following section in regards to updates with less words, and with less variety:
Due to an unusual combination of excessive sleep, mental fatigue, and eyesores, this blog is having a harder time updating as of late. This is not to say that I am unwilling - I always make my best effort to update on a daily basis. But as to what is unwilling, well, the flesh is weak. It is weak and it is demanding and it will have a little cry if it doesn't get its way. So I'll be updating in the mornings intermittently, for a little bit, and see what benefit that brings me.
I read up on a few webcomic artists, and a few bloggers, who have updated every single day, without fail, under the assumption that it's good for them. Well, consider that these artists and bloggers are often only writing three hundred words or so, or a few panels of a comic, and not the two thousand that I try (though have cut in half as of late) to update daily. As you can see, I've been doing a lot of work, and that isn't mentioning, as well, the word counts of the BUAFYs and the site layout and the pictures I create and the time spent playing the things I review, and so on. There's not much time to do much of anything, and it's a miracle that I do at all.
This type of workaholism isn't good for the body. It's good for the audience - but the audience doesn't give back. The audience enjoys the work on a charity basis, as I give you the work for free, and you enjoy it for free. All the incentive I have to create work comes from within. There's no cash. There's no employer saying "good job, sport!". I'm the employer, and I have to be certain that I'm doing a good job every single day, otherwise the entire effort is meaningless. When I fail a deadline, or fail to update, it hurts me on a core level - which is why it's so frustrating to me when I'm forced to miss a deadline because it physically hurts some part of me to start writing.
Yeah, I could spend my time better - but given that I'm doing things like learning how to program properly, spending my time learning new languages, doing research for the BUAFYs and just what the heck to write about, doing computer maintenance, as well as fighting off the inexplicable desire to sleep far earlier than I usually do (despite sleeping for twelve hours - twelve damn hours! - yesterday)... it's hard simply. And I know this doesn't affect you, and I'm not expecting any pity, or even empathy. I expect you to understand why it is difficult to update.
Even reading this, some of you will think I'm making excuses. I say to you that you are supporting a dangerous mindset of workaholism, where you work and you work every single day without regard for your health. And you don't need to tell me about that, eh? When I was working on an indie game, I spent eight hours every day, until dawn, for fourty days, making my dream a reality. It was the worst I've ever felt, but I was so overjoyed to be learning new things, to be getting experience in art, writing, programming, business, marketing, and development, that I ignored all of that just to get it done. My deadline was unrealistic - and I was a complete nutter for thinking it would work out without affecting my health.
Well, it stuck with me, and my penchant for damn good content affects even this blog. Two thousand words a day takes time that I have to sacrifice other things to create, and when I do have the time, I'm often fighting against my physical processes to get the work done. I have to create the mental space in order to write properly, write in a way that is sensible, write in a way that isn't pointless rambling, write in a way that you'll actually care a bit about, and then also combine that with the physical motivation to do it on a daily basis. It's my struggle, but I must iterate, it is a struggle.
To avoid being redundant, as I often am when writing half-asleep, I will say that I will do all that I can to manage my time, to write when I have the full capability to, and to continue to update in some capacity in every day - except for those very rare days when everything goes to fucking pot. Should I thank you for your understanding? Well, thanks. I'll keep improving even if you don't give me permission.
And the section ends.
Workaholism is, basically, continuing to do work even when it creates adverse health effects, such as sleep disorders or physical pain or mental stress, and so on. While there is always some sort of mental stress involved with doing work - the good, positive stress that helps you manage tough situations and lets you grow as a person rather than be a recluse -, when it starts to turn into negative stress, such as when you keep saying to yourself "I don't want to do this", or when you are forsaking basic things like food and exercise in order to keep working, then it starts to be a problem, because the work can't be made without the person who does the work, and if that person isn't being healthy, then they won't have a life to keep working with.
I understand these sentences will be both discomforting and with the air of a sex education teacher, though bear with me, as it is important. Your body is a perfect machine - designed to do anything very well, and nothing exceptionally so. When you see an outdoorsman run, jump, climb, throw, chop, build, manipulate, and cook, then you are seeing the perfect machine in action. When you see an athlete fighting or wrestling or running or performing gymnastics, you are seeing the result of an evolutionary history that nobody else has. When you evoke the privilege to read and to speak and to be a part of society, the traits that no other animals have, then you know what it means to be human. There is no reason to throw all of this away for the sake of doing work.
The body is a perfect machine, and it knows how to take care of itself. It sends signals, natural signals, grown out of an evolutionary history dating back millions of years, to try to tell when something is wrong. If you are thirty, that's a signal. Hungry, that's a signal, When you feel pain or discomfort or disgust or fear or uneasiness, these are all signals your body is telling you when it wants you to know that something is wrong. Animals act on these signals all the time - they don't have the mental capacity to ignore these signals, and so they act on impulse all the time.
This is not to say that all stress or all discomfort is bad - it is necessary to get comfortable with being uncomfortable, in order to grow as a person. When you become okay when getting dirty or wet or exhausted or mentally fatigued, then you become a much more flexible, durable, and honourable person, doing things that few others do. Having the opportunity to get past fear and anger and the other basic emotions lets you steel your nerves and become the rock that everyone else relies on in order to get the stressful work done. Your grandparents will probably call it "building character". It's hard to appreciate how important it is until you have actually built that character.
But when you accept instinctual impulses that do absolutely nothing for you, like the impulses that tell you not to present a lecture, or not to do anything out of the ordinary, or not to say anything controversial, then you no longer become a finely tuned machine, but become a victim of the evolutionary desire to stay as nonthreatening, as unnoticeable as possible, in order to stay alive. You're afraid of failure, because failure means admitting you're imperfect, and admitting imperfection provides opportunity to lose social status. It's the same behaviour that monkeys have. And it's why so many people act like monkeys.
We live in a world where the confident people who get past all that instinctual bias, that evolutionary desire to fit in instead of standing out, dominate over those who remain a victim. The ones who speak up and make a scene, make trouble, are the ones who change the world. There is no longer room for the average man who decides that he will wait and see what happens to him, to be led along like a child, like the schools taught him how to be led, because there are billions of average people just like him, and there is no shortage of average people to choose for average work. In this situation, you either be the cheapest and most average person, or the luckiest one. Neither of which is a good situation to be in.
This is the positive stress I'm talking about. Every day I write is positive stress - the wonder, the pondering, if what I'm making is good enough, and the desire to keep improving myself to make good work. If I never got past that stress, if I never bit the bullet and decided to start a blog, then two hundred and fifty thousand words would have never been written, and I will have been just another nobody in a world full of seven billion nobodies. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable, because there is no longer any room for people who fit in, because those who fit in are the ones who get absolutely nothing compared to those who stand out.
So how does this relate to workaholism? I will say that there is a limit to this stress, this positive stress, that you can impose on yourself before it becomes negative stress. You can justify anything under the assumption that it's good for you, but something that's too good for you for too long, ends up being bad for you. Your body gets burned out - you get fatigued, you get tired, you get hurt. Your brain doesn't know what to do, because it's not used to such fatigue, so it naturally tries to shut itself down and rest. Trying to push past this point, trying to cause undue stress to your body past its breaking point, is one of the worst things you can do. It is necessary to know your limits in everything you do.
Bill Watterson, which is another name that may be meaningless to you and yet I bring up so nobody accuses me of plagiarizing a single sentence out of a thousand, said that the brain is like a car battery, in that it does not recharge by being idle, but by being run. I don't know much about cars, but it is true for the brain that subjecting it to cheap, mindless, entertainment like reality television and modern shooters and popular music and professional sports and other things I like to call "prolefeed", so disassociated from its original meaning that it takes on a new one, causes you not to become smarter, but to become dumber. Much, much, dumber. So dumb that I find it very difficult to respect anybody who subjects themself to this garbage, and not to be a complete cunt, but anybody who focuses on this entertainment for no reason but to be entertained, is a worthless human being.
But at the same time, to try to focus on "intellectual" content all the time, without pause, without break, without reasonable limits, is also dangerous, because instead of making you dumber, it makes you physically weaker. The brain can only handle so much information in such a period of time, and failure to respect the brain's limits will cause it to rebel against you, causing you a great deal of headaches and stress and other such things. When I go far into the depths of the night trying to update my blog, at a point in time where much of my audience isn't even reading my blog, then it affects me in such a negative way that every time I try to update so late at night, my whole being rebels at the idea.
If you feel hungry, then ignoring that hunger in order to work causes your body to be damaged over time. The same if you're sleepy, or thirsty, or fatigued. Ignoring the impulses that have been finely-tuned over millions of years to keep you alive will keep you, well, much less alive than if you took a break to address these issues before they became damaging to you. The important thing to remember is that, above everything else, you are a human bound by your body and are required to take care of it so that you may continue to live. To be a workaholic, to rebel against the human condition, is a mindset that will bring you little more than trouble.
The benefits of art:
Or, "What is it good for?".
Another lofty subject, and one that is simpler to understand. I suppose it helps to define what art is, but it really is simple. It's just expressing a message, is all. Alternatively, you know it when you see it. When we think of art, we commonly think of works of great beauty, which are most often works that are technically sound, or works which elicit some form of emotion. These are all elements of art, though we must take care to never narrow down the definition of art, otherwise we might not be pleasantly surprised. I could also define what art isn't, but this would continue to narrow down the definition, so I suppose it wouldn't be a positive endeavour. In this case, you know it when you see it - the doctrine that works for porn also works for other arts.
What is art good for? As I have expressed a long time above, under the section of doubters and trolls, that it can communicate subjects in ways that other disciplines can only dream of. This is a boring, practical example, a bit like saying that writing is good for communicating better, or that drawing helps you pay attention to detail, or that animation teaches you to do the same thing a billion times. All of these are boring, but they are also true. At the same time, they are boring, and I cannot get past the principle of them being boring! So we have to continue on with the subject.
What is art good for? I think it should be obvious. It makes you feel things that nothing else can make you feel. To be able to see a thing that is so totally unique that it could never exist in the real world without the imagination of some sick individual with a creative mind, is such a great ability that all of humanity has dedicated some portion of its existence to the cultivation of the arts. It is our natural born rights to partake in the culture which we have created, our right to partake in the wonderful, wonderful creations that humanity has given us, and to never have it taken away from us. This is why I am so insistent on removing all copyright - it prevents people from being exposed to the culture that they have every right to be a part of, are prevented from indulging in it through whatever means they wish, and prevents them from developing a strong sense of community by freely associating and creating works with people who have been impacted by the same art they have. Copyright goes against the very idea of culture, and indeed, the very idea of the arts, by prevent art that was meant to be shared, from being shared.
What is art good for? It makes you think about things in ways that other mediums lack in. Consider the following: whose information do you retain more? Do you learn best from reading Wikipedia, in all its beige prose glory, or from reading up on somebody who is actually really quite funny, who expresses the knowledge in ways that entertain you, and allows you to feel attached to the subject in a greater way that a neutral tone can. By giving the subject more respect than simply recounting information about it, the reader gains more knowledge about the subject, more energetic ways of displaying it, and the means to continue their studies in a form that doesn't discourage them from abandoning the subject because of the boring way it is presented. To be able to teach your disciples in a way that encourages them to come back is, in itself, a discipline. It takes persuasion and performance to do such, and it is the mark of an artist for somebody to teach without boring.
When you indulge in arts that are not designed simply for spectacle, or not designed simply for wonder but works which intend to teach you using themes that you would have thought could never have been dramatised, then that is a very special type of art, and one which must be protected, admired, and brought to light by gentlefolk like you and I. When you see a self-help book like How to Win Friends and Influence People be not only a joy to read, but also inspiring in its ability to make the audience understand what in the world it wishes to speak about, then it is greater than the sum of its parts, because all the effort that went into the book is directly transferred to the enjoyment that the reader has for indulging in it.
Creating works of beauty is much, much, much harder than simply creating works of education. To be an effective teacher is equal parts art as it is information - in the physical sense, you must be charismatic enough to get your students to care, and be enough of a showman to make your students remember what you teach. Now, I will admit, even with the best of teachers I found myself dozing off in classes, unless when I actually cared about the subject (zoology will always have my heart - sure wish I remembered a damn thing about it). But I always remembered those teachers that bothered to care about their students, to engage them, and to allow them to do things far beyond what the scope of the classes entail. I may have never thanked them for their work, but they have taught me how to inspire a new generation. Such as you young whippersnaps, so don't disappoint me and tell me you're sixty-nine or something.
What is art good for? Imagine that, in your head, you have this entire world panned out for you, where you would have the means to fix it, if only you had a little bit of power, and a little opportunity. The way things are going now, there's no way you're going to become the leader of the free world, whatever that means to you. But, what you do have is both the imagination and the ambition to think of yourself in such a position, and though there are idle thoughts that shouldn't be acted upon (I'll leave those thoughts to you), the ability to change the world for the better is a very strong ability indeed. And while you may not be there, or even ever get there, you do have the closest thing - to change the minds of those who inhabit it. And a person who can persuade is a very powerful person, for the brain is a weak organ, and it is easy to break.
To be charismatic is to make people trust you. It lets them listen to you and care about what you say and follow you through everything. It allows people with background similar to yours to get together and become a force of nature. This does not involve manipulation, nor does it involve deceit. It involves being a gentleman, polite through everything except for when you must be angry, and to have more understanding and empathy than the vast majority of people. It means getting to know your friends and talking to strangers and caring about whatever problems they have, and apologising for not being the best gentleman you can possibly be. Not everybody will like you. Do not expect them to - move fast, ignore the untrustworthy, and always self-reflect to see if you're doing well. But when you do get people like you, to like you, then it means that you have developed a social force which is rarely rivalled.
Being a leader means you have a small army at your disposal, who, if they agree with what you are saying, will allow themselves to do what you recommend, and if not take action right away, to allow your ideas to influence them in a positive manner, benefitting them for as long as they accept you into their life. Charisma allows you to get away with what lesser gentlemen can only imagine, such as being able to survive through mistakes which would cost ordinary people their living, never losing face when something doesn't go your way, and being able to entertain crowds on a level where everybody knows your name, and though they will never be universally positive, it will usually be so positive. It allows you to walk into an establishment, say "I own this place", and allow yourself to use your power to benefit everybody residing in it. Charisma builds a reputation that will leave you a lifetime of ease, so long as you maintain that reputation, and so long as you use it for the sake of decency, and not malice.
It is not malicious to want to make people agree with you, because if you are espousing a philosophy that more people need to hear, more people need in order to make their lives a little less worse, and a little more virtuous, then you have every right, and every obligation to make people at least listen to what you have to say. It will not work all the time - and if it never works, then you are clearly talking to the wrong people. But if you, say, set up a little blog, and allow your opinions to seep through, and develop a philosophy that is sensible, smart, and has the means to benefit all that read it, then you will adopt a small congregation who treat you much in the same way that they treat a best friend. It's unthinkable to take them out of your lives - they impacted you so much! It is necessary, then, to keep your audience, and to allow it to grow by finding people just like you. And, also, persist through the hard times, through the unpopular times, because if you try a project for a year and only get 500 readers, then you learn much more, develop more character, teach yourself more about business and the arts, than if you tried for a month and only got five.
We must understand, though, that none of this comes out of nothing. You cannot be your regular old self and expect everybody to like you - that is, of course, unless your regular old self is a stand-up gentlemen, of extraordinary politeness, empathy, appreciation for all humanity, and a willingness to be the best you can be. If this is you, then congratulations, on being better than most of the population! Too often I see secretaries who sound like they are bored on the job, or librarians who don't seem the slightest bit interested in their clients, or shop workers who do the bare minimum necessary to help their customers and show no effort to connect with them in their limited capacity. Too often I had a boss with no force of leadership at all, trying to lead a workforce, and failing because they either lacked the discipline to lead their army, or the respect necessary to have them agree with their boss's decisions. There are few things more discomforting than seeing a human not earn the respect of their peers.
Charisma is performance art, and this is not ingenuine. There is no trickery or manipulation beyond willing to improve yourself, and willing to improve how others interact with you to make themselves feel much better about themselves, if only in that moment. It's taking the knowledge of what people like, and giving it to them, without any expectation of reciprocation. While you do tangentally earn respect and admiration, earning the ability to perhaps influence people down the line, there are very, very few interactions where you attempt to impose your charm on people in order to get what you want at no benefit to them. All such attempts are likely to fail, because people are good at detected ingenuinity, not to mention looking out for themselves to the point where any offer that may not benefit them is not one they are likely to consider. Earn your respect - never force it.
It is performance art because it requires knowledge of what people like about others. It requires knowing that people like it when you appear interested in them, and are in fact, actually interested in them. They like when you talk about what they talk about. They like it when you look good, because it means they are in good company. They like when you assist them with whatever they need to the last detail, because that makes them feel like somebody cares about them in some small way. They like it when people give them what they want, because, well, who doesn't have a want for things? They like when you smile, they like when you acknowledge they are there, and they like when you treat them like they are equal to you. These are a lot of things to learn, and I assure you, once you do learn them, they are passively applied to your everyday life to the point where these small techniques allow you to actually, really, start to care about people.
And this is not even mentioning where the voice comes into play, creating diction out of nothing, like a miracle. When you speak things with certainty, with dignity, and with the appropriate tone and pacing for what you are saying, it impacts people like a flying brick. To not only listen, but to speak well, is a thing that so many people lack. To say the right thing at the right time in the right way is a combination that allows ideas to spread far more effectively than if they had simply been whispered, or spurt out, at an inopportune moment. You may have heard that communication is key, and perhaps not have understood the full impact of what that statement means. I will explain that communication is key, for the reasons above, and to communicate well is to imprint yourself onto those who choose to listen.
I understand I cannot get too into detail with this, as this is not a guide to charisma, but I will state that having these abilities, these clever arts, are exceptional things. A person who writes every day and writes specifically to convince people of their point of view, is a person who has such effective communication that everything they say is made with more confidence and with more compelling ideas than what the vast majority of people offer. They create more ideas, better ideas, and present them best. Practising writing means sending e-mails is dead easy, as you know just what to say, about what, and in what tone. It allows you to be polite at most times, and to be firm in the times where it is necessary to tell people some hard truths. It is the art of persuasion, and as I have explained, it is an exceptionally good art.
Well, I won't waste any more of your time with a wrap-up. Nor can I say anything that isn't already covered above. I could try, but you see, there are a great deal of ideas here, and to introduce new ones into one, large, wasteland, without consideration for where they might be more appropriately applied in other articles, shows a lack of discipline on my part. Indeed, the lack of discipline is what allows me to let this section run on for so long, throwing it into the largest post to date. In this respect, I have completed my goal of upending "The Industrial Steamworks", a work that I made out of the heat of passion and so do not visit for the complications involved in revisiting old memories, in understanding that I had done everything with very little thought, and so I do not want to look at such a work, as it does not represent me in my normal state of mind.
I made this article, originally, as a means to express more ideas than what I had in my 10,000 Update Special, which was made in about three hours as a way to address some concerns about why I made this blog, how I'm physically able to write so much (the secret is doing it a lot), the original purpose of it, why my focus shifted to Web culture and reviews, the physical construction of the blog, and how things have changed from when I first started writing to now. It covered a lot, and it's one of the articles I'm most proud of - not because it is the grandest, or because it challenged me the most, or because it had the most information. I am proud of it because it let me reflect on myself in ways that no other article has yet made me do, and no other since. Not even this article made me think about myself too often. Indeed, the majority of it was simply expressing what I already knew, and teaching you lesson that I hope will affect you the same way they affected me.
Now, to avoid going into a "Best of" list of articles I liked (note: save this idea for the biannual awards show, I won't self-reflect any more than necessary. I talked a lot about a lot of different subjects in this article, and though they are all related in some way to the arts, the original intention of this being a pure writer's guide was bogged down by my desire to include a great deal of other topics in it. This is not to say this was a bad decision, and in fact, I would say that this features some of the most varied discourse of any article I've ever made (if only for the sheer length). But the original intention of being a guide to writing like me was quickly derailed when I quickly realised that I wouldn't follow my own advice if I give you generic instructions on how to write just like me (trademarked), and it just wouldn't be helpful to you.
There's no guide to being an artist, no magic bullet than lets you be a good artist. Just a lot of practice, a lot of time spent learning and respecting the craft your in, a lot of getting knowledge from people better than you, and a lot of self-respect. I never focused on the specifics because, to me, the specifics don't bloody matter in comparison to the larger picture of living an excellent life. Yes, learn the tropes, please! Learn the tricks of the trade and the topics that have been done to death and how you can make anything you write of much better quality than others. But you will never get through the gate unless you have built up a base in your life so substantial as what I have developed here. And this is just scratching the surface, if I'm being optimistic.
If you can understand that, above all else, improving your writing means having enough respect for yourself where you actually want to, where you actually do the work and publish it, mean to create things of beauty, mean to leave the world a better place than you found it, and mean to change lives before your own short life runs out, then everything will sort itself out for you. You will be a good writer. If not now, then eventually, because you care enough to be one. Nobody who knows they are going to die is incapable of doing their best work. And doing your best work, work good enough to be read long after you die, grants you a special type of immortality.
I have always met you half-way by encouraging you to be the best you can possibly be, in everything that you do, because it costs nothing to try your hardest and do the work, and it costs you your entire life to be mediocre. I will always meet you half-way in treating you proper. You must meet me the other half, and when you do, you will be an exceptional person, not because of the skills that you have developed, but because you tried to develop them at all. In an age of mediocrity, the person who cares enough to be a better person, is already one.
The living proof - Froghand.
Today's page was updated on November 14, 2016!
There are few things worse than a life that lives to die.