If A Tree Falls In The Forest, Are You Still A Writer?

“No one reads your blog” my sister said sharply. Her words cut me, mostly because they were true. I had been reflecting on the sad state of my blog’s readership well before my sister stated the truth so bluntly. The situation made me think of the philosophical question – “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Only as the question pertained to me – If a person publishes their work and no one reads it, are they still a writer?

Four years ago, when I started this blog, I had grand plans; I was going to be a celebrated writer. Like Kurt Vonnegut but less beardy. Like Jenny Lawson, only with fewer taxidermy bobcats. All I had to do was practice my craft, and wait for the world to recognize the brilliance of my prose. So I wrote and waited. Then I wrote some more and waited but still neither WordPress, nor the Huffington Post chose my work. And Oprah wasn’t declaring my blog to be one of her favourite things either. But through all those posts and those couple of years, I held to my dream of being a professional writer, of making it big, of being paid to tell stories and do what I love.

In that time, a funny thing happened; two of my friends became professional writers. One chased down and caught her dream of being paid to travel and write. The other, an accomplished scientist who happened to have an exquisite way with words, landed a position creating a magazine. From the sidelines I watched them, their success but also how their relationship with words changed – both ceased to write for fun. That seemed like a small tragedy to me because recording my stories and antics brings me endless joy, I would mourn losing that.

As my interest in the publishing and literary world grew, so did my knowledge of it. I learned how book talks are given, and the rigors of traveling to promote one’s work. Jenny Lawson, creator of “The Bloggess”, frequently recounts the horror and exhaustion which comes with being forced to overcome one’s introverted qualities and tout her work to the world. I also read how John Grogan’s meteoric rise to fame from a weekly column writer to celebrated author of “Marley and Me” affected his family; how deeply his children missed him while he traveled around enjoying the fruits of his success.

Through that time, my blog continued along, I continued to do ridiculous things like create absurd letters to my upstairs neighbours about what I’d do to them if I was a mermaid or a robot and then I would write about it. After watching my friends give up writing for leisure and learning more about the associated work of being a paid writer, I came to a surprising and slightly sad conclusion – I didn’t want to do this as a job.

This decision coincided with the worst month for my page views that I had ever had. Quite literally no one was reading my work. I had mistakenly thought that after nearly four years, I would have built a dedicated readership. Instead, even the people who had once routinely read and celebrated my blog, no longer would mention posts to me. My three hundredth post was met with little fanfare; to me this was an incredible achievement but the world didn’t bat an eye. It was then that I asked myself who I was writing for. The answer was and always will be- me. Suddenly my page stats and number of readers weren’t as important.

In deciding to let go of both my dreams of being a professional writer, and also my need for an audience, it makes me question myself. Along the lines of “If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”, if a person publishes their work and no one reads it, are they still a writer?

A writer is someone who enjoys stories and communicating, someone who feels compelled to record their thoughts. A writer is anyone who takes the time to sit down and assemble words into sentences. At three thirty in the morning, I pulled myself out of bed to type this post because the words refused to remain in my head any longer. I can’t answer the question about the tree, but I do know regardless of who, or how many people read this, I am still a writer.

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No Excuses November

Three years ago, I completed the National Novel Writing Month challenge which involves writing 1,667 words a day for thirty days. It was unforgiving, creatively taxing, time consuming exercise. For a month, I actually embodied that life of a writer as I sat drinking and writing my way into the night. I lost nine pounds because although Baileys and milk is delicious, and prevents you from reflecting too hard on your two thousand word defecit from yesterday and the day before, it isn’t dinner. Especially not for a week straight.

I’m not going to do that again because I have a child, so in addition to mixing booze and breastfeeding not being a good idea, I feel like child services might intervene if I threw handfuls of crackers at my son in lieu of all meals for thirty days straight. However, I can commit to 334 words a day. It’s one fifth of the NaNoWriMo goal but given that I have a small person who depends on me, it’s both a challenging and acheivable goal. Because I’ve been known to sneeze out four hundred words on occasion. Those of course would be the kind of sneezes where you cover your whole face and glance in a panicked manner around the room because your arm, face, sweater and the two people standing next to you are coated in snot. An epic sneeze in short, but a sneeze or almost a post no less.

Also, I’m changing the rules which states that the challenge begins at midnight on November 1st and ends at 11:59 November 30th. In case anyone was wondering, I finished at 11:58 November 30th in 2013 and I’m starting my challenge now on the 29th of October, it will come out November first so it totally counts.

I should add that I will be WRITING 334 words a day, not posting them, which takes longer and involves that dastardly and time consuming process known as editing. Instead I shall bank them so I can sit on my laurels a while.

Boom, That’s 335 words. Watch out world, Unwashed is coming.

 

My Friend Tom : A Fan Letter That Foams At The Mouth

I have a new obsession. And for once it doesn’t involve these girls.

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Don’t worry ladies, I still adore you, I just think about other topics sometimes now. (Photo Credit people.com)

Let’s just say his name. Tom Bricker. Or as he’s being referred to in my house currently “my friend Tom”, in the same tone that the acne covered, coke bottle glasses wearing girl who was just invited to sit at the popular lunch table would confidently and hopefully say “my friend Brittany”.

Anyway so this Tom fellow, we’re totally BFFs and by that, I mean he has no clue that I exist. Anyway my friend Tom runs a wildly popular website disneytouristblog.com. I suggest you pay a visit, even if Disney isn’t your bag. Because everyone loves good photography. And robots.

Did I forget to mention that my friend Tom is a robot? Yes he claims to be a human being with a job and the like, however in reading the Disney Tourist blog, this electronic side of him slowly became apparent.

Case and point. Tom is a lawyer. While not the most beloved job in the world, it’s a difficult one and requires a lot of education, thus we can all conclude that Tom is smart and well spoken. Robots incidentally are well spoken and extremely smart, take for example the Googles, totally brilliant and also a robot.

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You can rely on me for this one; I’m well informed when it comes to the interwebs. (Photo Credit : updatealways.com)

Now, being a lazy, layabout artist, I’m not too familiar with the rigors of being a lawyer, but the phrase 100 hour work weeks have been bandied about before. When this is considered, the fact that in addition to working full time, that Tom runs a successful blog and posts regularly, one must conclude that he is a definitely a robot who doesn’t sleep.

On top of being the world’s busiest, almost-human writer, Tom takes beautiful pictures. He takes theme parks and makes art. It’s beautiful; my friend Tom’s photos make me wish I knew how to operate my phone so that every image didn’t look like this.

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What is this? It appears to be a marine creature. I don’t even know, yet images like this appear on cameras operated by me ALL THE TIME. (Photo Credit : I wish I could say the The Drunk Unwashed but I don’t drink and breastfeed, so it’s just me and my terrible skills.)

I’d post an example of Tom’s work but that would be stealing, so you’ll just have to visit his website HERE. At first, this talent for photography made me question the whole “my friend Tom is a robot” conclusion, because robots don’t have souls and therefore are incapable of creating art like Tom’s. But then it came to me- Tom is a Martian robot. While our meager earthling robots are limited by their inability to feel the beauty of a sunrise, aliens are a superior race and thus their robots outpace ours in many respects.

Anyway, being a Martian-robot-lawyer and celebrated blogger wasn’t enough for Tom, after all, he was still getting about three hours of sleep per night or whatever it is that Martian-robot-lawyers do in the wee hours. Tom and his alien motherboard thirsted for more, so he bit the Flash. Or at least, I think that’s what happened, I mean isn’t that how Peter Parker became Spiderman? By biting? Or maybe Tom was bitten, seems unlikely given that his skin is made of Depertron the hardest element known to Martians. Regardless, some sort of exchange occurred between my friend Tom and the Flash because in addition to being a Martian-robot-lawyer-writer, Tom started running marathons. Without training. (Click the link to read about it.) And he began using all of those hours that he’d previously wasted “sleeping” each night to zip around the world. While the rest of us mortal earthlings were sleeping, Tom scaled the Great Wall of China and then he swam around Alcatraz.

Then because all of that awesome can’t be contained, it must be shared, our favourite superhero-Martian-robot-lawyer-blogger created ANOTHER website that he frequently posts on; Travel Caffeine in case any of you are interested.  With all of this busyness, I did question whether Tom was time traveling to get all of this done, but quickly rejected that idea. My friend Tom is far too generous a superhero-Martian-robot-lawyer to keep such a wonderful life changing concept as time travel to himself.

Now that everyone knows what I’ve been spending my time on, you should go check out each of my friend Tom’s blogs. I’m not greedy, I can share him. And to conclude, a message specially for my new pal; sorry to blow your “I’m a normal human” cover Tom, but it had to be done. No doubt your lovely wife will be surprised however I imagine you will quickly subdue her shock with an offer to jet her to Jupiter for your wedding anniversary.

Five Things Friday- The Insults Just Keep Coming

  1. Remember when your mom would subtly leave deodorant on your night stand when you were twelve?

My husband totally did that. Only not with deodorant. He arrived home yesterday and brandished a drugstore bag at me. “Look what I bought” he proudly proclaimed, first pulling out the items he had purchased for himself before getting to the real purpose of his visit to the mall; “I bought you razors and soap.” Essentially my hubby just called me hairy and dirty. Point taken Tex, I won’t wait for an instructional tutorial on how to use both, I promise.

 

  1. My new spa routine

I thought Mini-Tex’s bum being infested by ferrets was bad until this week when he learned how to whistle. Well, not whistle exactly, but exhale using his mouth. He likes to practice this trick while we are feeding him. So not only is everything in the kitchen and living area covered with spatters of breastmilk mixed with apple from when Mini-Tex creates an impromptu catapult using his spoon, but now every time we put some food in his mouth, he reacts by creating a fine spray of baby slobber mixed with gruel. It’s making me consider bathing more than twice a week.

 

  1. The Canadian version of “A Dingo took my baby!”

Much like his parents, Mini-Tex loves the great outdoors. So every day, I haul him, his toys, his jolly jumper and his ring of neglect outside. He loves it, I love it, and the mosquitos love it too. I thought it was bad when at his six month checkup, I had to explain that Mini-Tex didn’t have chicken pox, those were bug bites.

That was nothing compared to watching a small bird half hop, half fly off with a part of my son. Initially it was a small mosquito, but after feeding on Mini-Tex’s chubby little leg while he played in his exersaucer until the tiny pest was actually full to bursting, it morphed from insect into small avian species. Honest to goodness, when I finally spotted the bloodsucker all but draining my son’s little calf, it had the mosquito version of a pot belly. It was so bloated when it tried to take off, it dipped back down to the ground. The mosquito had fed on my baby for so long that it was too fat to fly. I’m pretty sure I’m sucking at this parenting gig.

 

  1. I’m moving to a trailer park

Not really, but I might as well given that I’ve started answering the door topless and if one is going to be super classy, it’s best just to rent the mobile home too. This event caused me to question our neighbourhood as well because the mailman didn’t bat an eye. This may in part be due to the fact that I was wearing a baby and a brassiere at the time, so there was a lot to distract from the nudity.

 

  1. I’ve started an anti-Post Secret blog

That sounded way more negative than it meant to. What I meant was that instead of the world sending me their secrets, I’m sending mine to the world. Only they’re not secrets, it’s mostly nonsense or manatees with facial hair Sharpie-d on. Also the entire world isn’t receiving them. Currently I’ve contained my weirdness to North America and people I know, but I might start looking up either politicians or business executives to infuse their life with random anecdotes about whales.

The Great Unwashed, Coming to a Mailbox Near You -Travesty Tuesdays The Spam Edition

I recently came upon a collection of postcards. The images ran the gamut from Babysitter Club book covers, to remote locations in the US, to beautiful pieces of Italian art. Clearly when one comes upon such a bounty, there’s only one course of action- start inflicting yourself on the world in the form of postcards like you’ve discovered how to make 457 dollars a day and want to share the secret with everyone you know AND  all their friends.

No longer am I asking for volunteers to send cards to (for the record, I received one lone reply last time in response to that request) instead, if we once had a conversation and your address is listed- you’re on the list. I’ve got a lot of postcards and nothing but nonsense to cover them with. All I need are your addresses. Happily, over the years I’ve amassed an equally large collection of contact information that could almost but not quite keep up with my childhood love of 35 cent souvenirs.

Here’s an excerpt from the first batch

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Next to opening up their mailbox to find one of those novelty cheques for a million dollars, it’s everyone’s dream to receive a postcard like this, no?

Dear Iris,

I don’t know you well but I thought you’d enjoy receiving images of random cyclists exiting a tunnel in a place that I don’t remember the name of and that you likely don’t care about. It’s a part of my new campaign to treat the mail like the internet. I’m going to send 300 of my closest friends an offer to enlarge their vagina next.

Socially inappropriately yours,

Unwashed

 

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Don’t these people look hangry to you?

Dear Ben,

This is what it looked like in Ancient Rome when the lunch cart was late- people standing around, their stomachs rumbling and all of them grumbling about how Aelius must have gotten into the wine again and taken a dip in the aquaducts. If they’d had Twitter, they might have tweeted something passive aggressive like “Still hungry #thelionsaretooAelius” But instead after the fourth time this happened, they just fed the tardy man to the beasts. Then regretted it- no one could quite make his beef and fig dish the same way.

Much carnivorous action,

Unwashed

 

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The ghost of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s clothes is even more terrifying if you know that her father was a prison warden during the era of straps and racks in Canadian penitentiaries.

Dear Jared,

People are all “Wow, I can’t believe you write even though you have a baby” what they don’t know is that the mannequin  from this card appears to me in my dreams and threatens to suffocate me with her moth eaten veil that smells of mould if I don’t put pen to paper. It’s like the literary version of “Nightmare on Elm Street” The wallpaper also starts to spin in those dreams. This may be why I prefer paint. Happy Writing!

Sincerely, your friend and the undead spirit of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s clothes

 

My Grandfather is having a love affair with his new car. Incidentally his new car is Tex and my new car. Well, they’re the same make and model, so close enough. I wrote this to him because when Sula informed him one night over dinner that I had bought a car, (Yes, Sula is so lovely I have to share her with my grandparents.) apparently my grandfather’s fork just hovered in the air while he stared at my friend in disbelief with his mouth open. The idea of me doing something normal like buying a car was shocking I guess. I sent this to him to tease him, because trading in our lovely, practical minivan for something absurd would be just the kind of ridiculousness I strive for every day.

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As you can see my ride comes pre-pimped, no need for a reality TV show.

Dear Granddad,

Did you hear the news? We decided to trade in our can for something more practical. Our new car is pictured on the front. After all, how is one supposed to go joy riding in something with side air bags? Where the fun? Where’s the sense of peril? There’s just no point in driving unless you can feel the wind in your hair, the rain puddling at your feet and your childrens’ fingers pinching your side as they cling to you with their nails while trying not to fall out of the car. I’m off to pick up Betty and Archie for the shin dig, Archie’s jalopy broke down again, thank goodness mine is reliable. It’ll be a swell night.

Love, Unwashed

The next card was sent to a man who began as a friend of Tex’s and became a friend of mine, so much so that when I sent him an unsigned postcard, he figured out who had sent it. If sending weird pieces of anonymous mail and then being called on it isn’t a sign of a good friendship, I don’t know what is.

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Hammy’s post petite potatoes diet head shots

Dear Wyatt “Why did I give Tex’s crazy wife my address” Strumpber,

This is Hammy Swine. After spending his childhood working the petting zoo circuit thanks to his momager, Larda, he tried out for the role of “Bebe” hoping to make it big. Obviously he was rejected seeing as the role went to a younger, pinker, thinner pig. Ever the fighter, Hammy was determined and went on a diet of small potatoes when he learned of a Babe related opportunity- “Babe 17: Bringing Bacon Back”. Hammy was elated when his newfound weight loss led to a supporting role. Tragically Justin Timberlake passed on the role of the hiphopping farmer so the project was kiboshed. Now Hammy spends his days sitting on street corners trying to sell future shares in his own pork roasts in exchange for watermelon. It’s a story that reminds us to just let pigs be pigs.

Wow, that got dark and very weird fast. Even for me. I think I’m going to stop there.

An Open Letter to Undergrads

Dear Young People,

Based on the sheer number of you loitering about the university campus staring at your phones when you ought to be lying in bed nursing a hangover, I’m forced to conclude that the younger generation has become too responsible. Twenty somethings, it is your duty as the legal aged youth of the world to cause havoc, not only are your inebriated nocturnal adventures endlessly amusing to watch through partially closed curtains in the wee hours of the morning but they give me something to write about. As the newest crop of drinkers, it is your job to provide the entertainment. Someone has to do it, and it certainly won’t be the elderly.

Wait, I take that back. This looks like it's about to get wild. (Photo Credit : jackcollier7)

Wait, I take that back. This looks like it’s about to get wild. (Photo Credit : jackcollier7)

After all, even the hippest of the hip old people; Hugh Hefner has been married for almost two years.

Don't pretend you didn't see this coming. Even the world's biggest bachelors have got to settle down. However young people, now is not your time. Please sleep with everyone. (Photo Credit: justjared.com)

Don’t pretend you didn’t see this coming. Even the world’s biggest bachelors have got to settle down. However young people, now is not your time. Please sleep with everyone. (Photo Credit: justjared.com)

It isn’t only your recent penchant for studying and attending classes that has led me to this conclusion; there has been a distinct lack of debauchery in my life recently. I can’t recall the last time I found a hamburger upside down on my car or woke to the sound of shrieking only to see a bare bum flash past my living room window.

This new found studiousness and sense of responsibility has to stop, one of you needs to get drunk and make poor decisions. Ideally in front of my house. I won’t even mind if you pee on my garden in the process. At this point I would settle for a drunken soliloquy about how midriffs are so hot right now.

In conclusion undergrads, please think more about vodka and less about your business ethics course. If not for your sake than for my blog’s.

Why Keep Writing?

Welcome to the sophomore slump. A year ago, or maybe two, three or four, you started your blog because you loved writing and wanted to share your work with the world. You were proud of what you did and had grand aspirations, however a couple of years in, it is becoming obvious that you’re not rapidly transforming into the next J.D. Salinger. With tens or even hundreds of posts under your belt and maybe even having dabbled a bit with National Novel Writing Month, you can recognize quality but are struggling to produce it. Life is encroaching upon your precious free time and it seems easy to cast your once beloved hobby aside in favor of cleaning the house, finishing that project at work or just hanging out with friends. The question which pops up is “Why keep writing?”

  1. This is what you love

You started this blog because writing was your passion. Sure you aren’t going to be the next Hemingway, but in the end, the person you should write for is you. Keep writing.

 

  1. Your words are yours and you are the only person who can share them

Everyone’s perspective is unique, no one else is able to tell your story, whatever your method of storytelling, it’s valid and yours alone to share. Keep writing.

 

  1. This is your outlet

That feeling of creativity needs to go somewhere; pen a short story, a poem, a fictional piece, a limerick, a paragraph about the Boer War, anything as long as it lets your express who you truly are. Keep writing.

 

  1. Real work, house work and even friends can wait

Jobs are important, but so are hobbies, take a break from that project. Use that fifteen minutes set aside for housework to write- you can sleep in dirty sheets for one more night. Remember the dirt hypothesis; you’re actually protecting yourself against developing allergies. No doubt your friends are among your readers so they’ll understand if you need a half an hour to create. Sometimes life can wait however that perfect paragraph will only dance on the edge of your consciousness for so long. Keep writing.

 

 

  1. Practice makes perfect, or at the very least makes better

No piece is ever perfect, but through persistence and hard work, taking the perfectly formed words from your head and putting them on the page or screen becomes easier.

 

 

  1. Even if you don’t enjoy what you wrote, someone will

My most surprising discovery over the past year and a half has been that the posts which I’ve hated, that felt forced or boring, received as many “likes” as those that I’ve loved. Even if you don’t like it the words you’ve penned, someone else will. Share all your words with the world and be surprised by the reactions you receive. And above all else keep writing, this is your passion so it deserves your time and care.

 

This post is dedicated to my friend and reader Natalie*, who patiently waited for me to get ready yesterday morning because I chose to write rather than get dressed for our outing together.

 

 

*Names have been changed to protect the identities of understanding people who make a point of telling me they like my work.

Goodbye Cruel World

Dear Readers,

I had great intentions of writing a post today however that idea, along with brushing my hair and drying my shoes which were soaked by the torrential rain yesterday, fell by the wayside. At eight pm, otherwise known as my Unwashed bedtime, I find myself in the library, taken prisoner by a merciless and punishing villain. Some call this creature a French essay, I prefer to call it by its true name “My Doom”.

*Any errors or random words from other languages found in this post can be attributed to the fact that I’m drunk, or possibly French, or maybe that’s the same thing. Regardless, this was written from under a table. The essay has vanquished me. I bid you all adieu.

Reeling

I’m still feeling lost. Although that’s not unexpected when you lose a part of yourself. My netbook held my work but it was also my connection to the world. The place where I could show my reality to everyone else, explain my point of view and talk about my thoughts.

Rarely in my life do I feel that I am being perceived for who I am, but through my writing, I could be myself. Like most writers, I live in my head, the same rules and laws do not apply in my mind and the expectations are different. Through blogging and typing on my little writing machine, I could build bridges between the two places; the world and my head. Even if I didn’t publish a piece, often I would share it with family members or friends, reading my work aloud when we were together.

In that quick moment, when a stranger sped away from my car with my computer in his hands, the link between myself and the world was severed. Effectively a flamethrower had been taken to the bridges I had carefully built. All of those thoughts that were so jumbled in my head but clear on the page were gone. I’m still trying to make sense of it.

*I wrote this a couple of days ago. After publishing my last post I was so touched by the outpouring of support from friends, family and readers. Between the many kind words and the passage of time, I am feeling a little better than when I penned the above words. Thank you so much to everyone who “Liked” my last post, left a comment, called or emailed to offer comfort. It was sincerely appreciated.

Loss and Lost

Normally I do my best to create paragraphs that fit together and have a bit of humour added in. They’re written a safe distance from my true self, never venturing towards the rambling, disjointed, personal words which I put in my journal. I know bloggers can be that personal but I’ve never been comfortable with it. However, occasionally events happen that leave you so confused and hurt that only disjointed, personal sentence fragments are left.

My netbook was stolen this week. On Monday an anonymous man on a bicycle swiped my little writing machine from my car. I know this because I was shown the footage form the security cameras. On that computer was my nearly edited book and every piece of writing I had produced for the last three and a half years.

I mourned. I’m still mourning, every word that I didn’t put out to the world, all of the ideas that I kept in there for myself, the book that I had almost finished editing. All of it gone.

These past couple of days I tried to put words together, to push myself through the pain of my loss and be a clown but I couldn’t. There weren’t any words, I couldn’t find a place to start.

I’m sad and disappointed and angry at myself for leaving the possession I love most because it has so much of me in it, in a place where it could be taken. I’m frustrated that I never actually followed through with backing up my words on Google Drive or a separate device.

Part of me is glad though, that I thought to release my work to the greater world, that I put so much of what I loved and was proud of, up for the internet to see. That all of those words are still there.Eventually, when the initial pain of my loss has worn off, I know I will be more grateful for this and recognize how much content was saved in my one hundred and fifty posts. But for now, all I can see are the files I had yet to edit, the words I sweated over but hadn’t published, and all of the pieces I wrote just to write them. Those are the only paragraphs in my head at this moment.