Tuesday, August 19, 2008

How I Write

Continuing with the mini-theme of writing I've had going on lately, I thought I'd take a couple days to focus on the mechanics of it. Today I'm jotting down some thoughts about how I blog. Next time, I'll turn the questions outward, and see how everyone else does it.


After briefly flirting with word processors of various types, I'm back where I started - text editors and ASCII files. It became too difficult to keep track of various document types over multiple computers. None of the word processors I used did a competent job handling a blog format (which is sort of a hybrid between plain text and HTML).

HTML itself was overkill, because the markup I use is minimal. I'm pretty unimaginative when it comes to formatting - I use mostly italics, with a hint of bold here or there. I add weblinks either using a text clip, or add it in Blogger's editor after I write my post. Pictures are usually the last thing I add. And I'll even use colour, but only on rare occasions. I'm like the kid with the big box of crayons who only uses black.

Normally I'll use a text editor, like TED Notepad, but I do use one word processor: XyWrite. It's a DOS editor from the early 90's which saves using an ASCII text format (sort of a proto-XML). I'm still in search of a free text editor which handles Unicode and will let me use editable macros, but what I use gets the job done for now.

For online composition, I have had some success with the Firefox ScribeFire extension. But I use the "post to draft" option (see next question for more details).


I rarely post anything directly to the blog. After the composition phase is complete, it usually gets posted as a draft, and then I make sure all the formatting is right. I would say close to half of my posts have been done completely away from Blogger's editor. That that number moves up to 2/3rds or more when you start talking about longer posts.

My typical pattern is compose and edit offline, post as draft, add markup, links, and pictures, and then post.


It's pretty simple, actually. I usually just see something, and think "that would make an interesting blog." It can be from something I read or from a discussion I'm having with someone. Many times a point that comes up during one-on-one conversation seems like it would be interesting enough to throw out there for a larger audience.

When I was younger, my dad was always clipping newspaper articles. Some he saved for himself. Certain articles were clipped with certain people in mind. Sort of a way of saying "thinking of you."

I picked up the habit in high school. Later on, as my reading moved more to online stuff, I started sending e-mail links. Blogging was a natural fit. Sort of an online clip repository, where you could link to something and then say "this is interesting" and say what you liked about it.

That's how my blog started. It's kind of grown from there.


J. Michael Straczynski, creator of Babylon 5 and accomplished screenwriter (as well as writing comic books more recently), once said that his demographic was himself. He said "Basically, I write the story that I would like to see as a viewer."

That's pretty much my approach to blogging. I hope others are interested and read. What writer doesn't hope that? But at the end of the day, I write mostly about what I'm interested in. There are exceptions to this, where I have one person or a small group of people in mind. But those are for specific posts. For the blog as a whole, it's basically what I'd like to read.


As I said, one hope is that others would be interested and read. That's the writer part of me. The father in me hopes that this will serve as a record of some sort, and that there will be something redeeming in it for the next generation.

My expectations are pretty modest. Most weeks my readership is between 20-25 people per day. With rare exceptions, my best weeks have been in the 30s. Big numbers aren't why I write. Honestly, a post that gets a couple of comments is better than one read by bunches of people with no reaction or feedback.

My primary hope and desire is to honor God. After that, it's basically to express myself.


Kim said...

I like your last two sentences the best.

Patrick Chan said...

I'll second what Kim said.

And thanks also for some insight into the creative mind that is "Gummby."

threegirldad said...

I'm still in search of a free text editor which handles Unicode and will let me use editable macros, but what I use gets the job done for now.

Have you tried PSPad? Works great for my private website (which isn't a blog, so I can't speak to that).