the creative process, writing

Best of the Blog: My Top 10 Most-Viewed Posts of 2020

Insert “hindsight is 2020” pun here to launch this list of the top-viewed posts on this blog in 2020.

As it turned out, some of my most popular posts in 2020 weren’t actually written during the past year. For the sake of completeness, I’ve included these in the list – they were quite popular this year – but I’ve also marked them with an asterisk (*) to indicate they were written at some time prior to 2020.

I’ve also left off pages, like the “About” page, because they are…not blog posts.

Enjoy!

*10: If You Like It Then You Shoulda Put a Paycheck On It: My Real Problem With The Mighty

Written for the #CrippingTheMighty hashtag campaign in the mid-2010s, this post hits right at the intersection of two topics that are near to my heart (and life): Paying creatives, and recognizing disabled people’s work has value.

I don’t mean some intangible “all human lives have value” value. I mean recognizing disabled people’s lives have value in the only real language of value the capitalist world has: Cold hard cash.

You can read about my issues with the fact that “disabled voices” website The Mighty decided to invite disabled people to contribute to its site but not to pay them here.

*#9: Top Five Books for Figure Skaters

This post will be ten years old in June 2021, which means it’s due for an update. And by “update,” I mean I’ll be adding more books to it, because I still believe that the five listed here stand the test of time.

This post gets pushed into the top-searched posts by the advent of the winter gifting holiday season every year. I guess there just aren’t that many gift guides for figure skaters who also read.

Check out my top five recommendations for figure skaters here.

*#8: “Happy Birthday” Is the Worst Song Ever Written

I wrote this in 2019 because I hate the song “Happy Birthday.” You know the one. The one we all sing off-key at people when it is their birthday, not because we are all horrible singers (I am, but not everyone is), but because a song specifically written to be sung by anyone, anywhere, several times a year, is such a hot mess that it is practically unsingable.

I hate it. I hate it with the fiery passion of a thousand suns. Here’s why.

#7: The “Tea Party” Is Back, But It’s Not on the Side You Think

During the Black Lives Matter protests of the summer of 2020, I got so heck-dang-frack annoyed with people comparing the protests unfavorably to the Boston Tea Party that I did a little research on the Tea Party.

Turns out that if you’re rooting for the Sons of Liberty on that one, you’re…er…on the wrong side of history.

Angryclick my controversial opinions on the topic here.

*#6: How Much Is My Girl Scout Handbook Worth, Part One

I wrote this post about a decade ago, when collecting Girl Scout handbooks was my Thing.

And, in true ADHD fashion, I then promptly forgot about the entire series. I didn’t write Part Two until 2018.

The Internet has not, however, forgotten that at one time I tried to help folks navigate the collecting of Girl Scout handbooks. This post and a couple other posts in the Girl Scout handbooks series regularly show up in my “most-viewed” stats, and there’s always at least one search term related to Girl Scout handbooks in the mix every month.

You can read Part One here and Part Two here. Check out the posts on 1912 to 1947 and 1950 to 1977 too, if you’re into that sort of thing.

*#5: Using Brodart Book Covers: Or, How to Protect Your Investment in 6 Easy Steps

Another post from the early days, in which this blog spent far more time thinking about book collecting and less time on freelance writing, fiction, writer lifestyles and silly AI antics.

This one is pretty much exactly what it says on the tin: I walk you through how to put Brodart dust jacket covers on your dust jackets. Check it out here.

*#4: Keeping the Pace: Legal Writing Versus Academic Writing

I wrote this post during graduate school, exploring the differences between the legal writing I had been doing as an insurance defense lawyer and the academic writing I was being asked to do as an English literature MA candidate.

It’s also one of the most consistently-viewed posts on this blog. It’s also one of the posts that most often leads people here via search engine: “differences between legal and academic writing” and variations thereon appear in my top search terms nearly every month.

You can read what I was thinking about legal versus academic writing half a decade ago here.

*#3: Five Reasons I Hate Les Miserables (The Show, Not the Book)

I wrote this piece in a fit of pique nearly ten years ago, and it’s been one of the most enduring pieces on this blog. For some reason, hatred of Les Mis strikes a chord with viewers across time and space.

You can check out the five reasons I hate Les Mis (the show, not the book) here.

#2: How to Practice Social Distancing Without Losing Your Mind

I’m something of an old hand at social distancing, having grown up on a farm with parents even more introverted than I was and gone on to have a loner’s dream job of working from home on my laptop and (almost) never speaking to other humans.

When the pandemic began, I shared my tips on how to live this life. They’re still being passed around various social media sites, and you can read them here.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

Before we get to the top blog post of the year, here are a few that didn’t make the top ten but that I’m particularly proud of or otherwise love:

  • How to Ruin Perfectly Good Books: If you don’t want to ruin them, do the opposite of this.
  • So You Want to Write a Book About Autism: I co-founded Autonomous Press, which handles books about neurodivergence, including autism. Here’s my advice from the perspective of someone who used to approve (or, often, reject) manuscripts about autism.
  • Notes From My Upcoming AWP Recording Session: This post hasn’t had a chance to make it into the top most-viewed posts, since it’s only been up for about two weeks. I recently recorded a panel discussion on “Neurodivergence in Literature” with several colleagues. Here’s what else I would have said if we’d had several more hours.

And, finally, the most-viewed post on this blog in 2020:

#1: What It’s Like to Have Auditory Processing Disorder, as Demonstrated By Auto-Generated YouTube Captions

This post was my most-viewed of the year not only here, but also on Medium, where it was shared in at least one publication.

I wrote it after trying to watch old reruns of BraveStarr (I wanted to see whether it was a real cartoon, or just a fever dream I had during the chicken pox) with YouTube’s auto-generated captions running. I needed the captions because, having central auditory processing disorder, I struggled to understand what several of the characters were saying.

YouTube, as it turned out, struggled as well.

The result was a sample of what listening is like for me on a daily basis. You can read this blog’s top post of the year here.


Help me bring you even better content in 2021! Leave a comment, share this post, or buy me a coffee.

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satire, fiction and humor, writing

What It’s REALLY Like To Be A Professional Writer

The number-one question I get asked by people who find out what I do for a living is “What is it like to be a writer?”

And I…I don’t know.

I HAVE NO IDEA

I’VE NEVER NOT BEEN A WRITER

THIS IS MY ONLY SKILL

Which is to say, sure, let’s talk about my amazing writer lifestyle.

I Work From Home

This one was a lot more impressive before COVID-19. Now, a bunch of people who did not previously work from home are now working from home. And everyone is realizing that it’s actually not as cool as y’all dreamed back when you were trying to envision yourselves living my unattainably glamorous writer life.

The primary features of working from home for me, A Writer, are:

  • Cats
  • Self-direction, aka “being able to get work done without someone breathing down my neck”
  • Not wearing pants

I’m Kind of My Own Boss, I Guess?

The truth is, no one who sells their labor for a living is their own boss. You may call your boss by a different name than “boss.” I call mine “clients” or “editors.” But I still have people who expect me to deliver certain things by certain deadlines and who are varying levels of helpful to me in that endeavor.

What I don’t have is someone to manage the details of how I deliver those things by those deadlines. I don’t have anyone who expects me to be at my desk at a certain time, or who makes sure I have the tools I need, or who barks at me if I stand at the water cooler too long. I don’t have someone who processes my payroll or deducts my taxes or keeps track of my healthcare spending, either. I have to do all those things myself.

In other words, being a professional writer is having to do all the work of both labor and management without getting any of the benefits of being the latter. But if you are a hermit slash control freak (like me), it’s an ideal setup.

“You Should Be Writing” Memes Can Go to Hell

Judging by how much they post and share “you should be writing” memes, a lot of amateur or aspiring writers seem to find them extremely helpful.

I’m not one of them.

The reason I don’t take “you should be writing” memes seriously is because my writing time is scheduled. Always. I write for about six hours a day – four in the morning and two in the evening.

If it’s writing time, I don’t need to hear that I “should” be writing, because I am writing. If it’s not writing time, I don’t need to hear that I “should” be writing, because I should not be writing – I should be doing whatever that time is for, like running errands or cleaning my house or playing Skyrim or having hot sex with my spouse.

This, by the way, is my number-one piece of advice for aspiring writers who want to be actual writers. Schedule your writing time, and then show up to it like you would to any other obligation.

If you don’t need “you should be at work during your shift” memes, you don’t need “you should be writing” memes, either.

I Eat Food, I Guess?

Food has actually been one of the hardest parts of being a full-time writer for me. I like my zone. I do not like interrupting my zone to tend to the needs of my body, especially when it wants food again, ugh, I just fed you *checks watch* four whole hours ago.

Some of my favorite food hacks:

  • Eat the same things every day, if you want. It significantly reduces the brain power I have to waste on food.
  • Think macros, not meals. As long as I get carbs, fat and protein in every Instance of Putting Food in My Facehole, I’m good.
  • Leftovers are your friend. Eat your friend.

Sometimes I get more creative with the making of food items. Sometimes I blog about them. Blogging about food generally leads to regrets and is not recommended, unless you are not me. Then you do you.

I Mess Around on Twitter Quite a Lot

To the onlooker, I appear to mess around on Twitter too much. Indeed, one may wonder how I get any writing done at all. (This is why people insist on sending me “you should be writing” memes.)

In fact, I do a lot of prewriting and field-testing of ideas on Twitter. I love Twitter because I can brain-dump whatever ideas I’m kicking around into the void, and the void tells me which ones have traction.

I don’t know why you all enjoy 280-character political shitposting so much, but here we are. Also muffin recipes. And that time I broke my own notifications. And making fun of my cats.

I Live in a House and Own a Car

Like a lot of Americans, I too live in a house and own a car.

The car is extremely lonely thanks to the need to quarantine. “Why am I stuck in this garage?” my car asks. “I’m not the one who will get COVID and die if I leave the house.”

If you also live in a house and have a car, congratulations! You are two steps closer to living a glamorous writer lifestyle just like me.

If you don’t live in a house and/or own a car, maybe you are one of those writers who doesn’t live in a house or own a car. Those writers also exist!

Have more questions about what it’s like to be a writer? Drop me a line or maybe a tip. After all, I glamorously require money to buy food in order to survive! Livin’ the dream!

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satire, fiction and humor, the creative process, writing

Real-Life Writer Lifestyle Blog!

I have been glamorously fighting a cold for the past week, which has involved ingesting copious quantities of glamorous chicken soup, Vernor’s and Tylenol; glamorously sleeping 15 hours a day; and glamorously sneezing into an ever-expanding pile of glamorously wadded Kleenex.

At some point during one of my virus-fueled fever dreams, my muse came unto me and told me I should start a lifestyle blog. Featuring my actual lifestyle.

I’ve already fielded a couple different questions about writer lifestyles on Quora this month, and I’m also full of cold medicine, so my response was a resounding “Yes!”

…Followed by a resounding “What’s a lifestyle blog?”

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Since Googling things and then pretending I knew that all along is completely on-brand in my particular writer lifestyle, here’s what I have learned have sagely always known about lifestyle blogging.

1. It’s basically a digital zoo exhibit.

This post at MediaKix says:

A lifestyle blog is best defined as a digital content representation of its author’s everyday life and interests. A lifestyle blogger creates content inspired and curated by their personal interests and daily activities.

I’ve been trying to write content inspired and curated by “things I find interesting about writing and creativity that other people might also find interesting about writing and creativity.” Apparently, my illness-impelled muse says this is all wrong, and I should just be badly Instagramming my food instead. (“How to Take Photos That Are Definitely Not Insta-Worthy,” coming soon to this blog!)

2. …Except it’s supposed to teach you how to brush the cheetahs.

Meanwhile, blogger Ashley Coleman has this to say about the difference between personal blogging and lifestyle blogging:

Personal blogs will rely heavily on personal narrative, essay, opinion. Lifestyle blogs include personal elements but often give you some really tangible things to take away. How to make a great cake. How to design your workspace. Meanwhile, personal stories will either inspire you, inform you, or maybe make you laugh.

…I mean, I can definitely teach people how to emulate my glamorously snotty  writer lifestyle. In fact, here’s a free printable (I guess that’s a thing now?) for emulating my glamorous writer wardrobe!

writer dress infographic

Actionable takeaways! This lifestyle blog thing is really taking off.

3.  I’m supposed to make people jealous, I guess?

I’m a little confused on this point, because Googling “lifestyle blogging jealousy” turned up a ton of posts on how to stop being jealous of other people’s perfectly-curated lifestyle blogs and Instagram accounts, but the whole point of perfect curation seems to be to make other people jealous of your lifestyle in the first place.

So here’s my best shot at making you all jealous of me:

I write for a living, which is to say that I have no day job or side gig: Writing is what I do. I’ve been doing that for about ten years now. I live in an adorably venerable house with three adorable cats who adorably destroy things for fun, I have a husband who thinks I’m the greatest thing since sliced greatness, I have spent the last week sneezing my brain matter into handfuls of tissues, and I only sometimes wear pants.

And I can show you how to do it, too. I guess.

4. Write about everything but also only these things.

So: My muse wants me to present my life the way it is in order to engender jealousy in others, which is obviously not going to work. I mean, just check out my totally cute and enviable kitchen:

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WRITER LIFE is all about the deluxe-sized bag of corn chips, empty food containers nobody’s put in the recycling yet, and a sinkful of dishes I’m ignoring in order to write this blog post. You, too, can have this amazingly glamorous lifestyle!

What the heck is my lifestyle blog supposed to be about, then? MediaKix recommends:

Lifestyle bloggers share a broad variety of content centered around and inspired by their personal lives — most notably family, home, travel, beauty, food, recipes, fashion, makeup, design and decor.

*rubs hands together* *cracks knuckles* Okay, I got this.

Coming soon, from my totally awesome writer lifestyle blog that is totally awesome and definitely not something I got told to do by the Nyquil-addled voices in my head….

  • Family: How to Spend Quality Time With Your Manuscript Instead of These Weirdos!
  • Home: My Favorite Houses to Not Die of Consumption In
  • Travel: The Bright Thing In the Sky: What It Is and Why You Shouldn’t Stare Directly At It
  • Beauty: Hey, This Ink Smudge On My Hand Kinda Looks Like a Cat
  • Food: How to Make Coffee Part of Every Major Food Group
  • Recipes: Coffee, Coffee With Milk, Coffee With Vodka, Coffee With Milk and Vodka, Okay That’s a White Russian You Literally Just Invented a White Russian Now Stop It
  • Fashion: *points to infographic*
  • Makeup: 1.2 Ways to Make Yourself Presentable Before You Run Out for More Creamer (You NEED to Do At Least Number 0.2, Okay?)
  • Design: Creating Your Perfect Writing Space (and Then Ignoring It In Favor of Scribbling on the Toilet)
  • Decor: 50 Fun Organization Hacks to Avoid Your Looming Deadlines

…Y’all, I am so excited about this new lifestyle blog! Praise to my plague-prompted muse!

 

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