Blogservations: Random Thoughts on Writing and Warcraft

This post is a desperate attempt to find a reason to use the term “Hodge-Podge” in a way that doesn't require double-quotes.  Success is by no means assured.

I have been blogging now for about six weeks and have recently been dealing with a minor bout of writer's block.  It's my first, so I'm not entirely sure what to do with it; is there a protocol or tradition for dealing with your first bout?  Are you supposed to frame it and put it on your wall like the first dollar that a fledgling business earns, to forever be a reminder that, yes, things have sucked worse than they do now?  Or is the inability to get past the blank word document a dirty little secret that you need to take to your grave, since talking about it is considered a grievous faux pas like mentioning a no-hitter during a baseball game?

As a complete non-sequitur, I really like abusing semi-colons.  I feel like every sentence deserves one.   Besides, I think that commas are overworked and that it's a good idea to give them a break unless they start a revolution and overthrow the world's governments.  I, for one, welcome our new comma overlords.

It's not that I don't have any ideas on what to write, I have lots of ideas for posts.  In my drafts folder on blogger, on my work and home computer's word processors are snippets, thoughts and orphaned titles of posts that are germinating in my brain but can't seem to get out of the grey matter.  There is no greater feeling of creative helplessness than staring at a blank page or canvas without the faintest idea of what to fill it with.

Even the Blog Azeroth Shared Topics, normally a goldmine for any Warcraft blogger that is feeling lost for a topic, have eluded me.  Last weeks topic “An Open Letter To…” stumped me for a solid week, and after each attempt was mercilessly aborted for being completely awful, I just threw up my hands and walked away from it.  I thought that a topic with completely endless possibilities would be fantastic, but the lack of direction ended up taking my mind in so many directions that physicists are going to have to create a few new dimensions just to accommodate them all.

At least with the current one “Are Five Levels Enough” I can simply say, “Yes” and move on.  Hey, does this post now count as my response?  I can already feel the link love.

After six weeks of writing for my blog, I've managed to observe a few things.  First of all, this project really is the first real writing I've done since university.  I worry that my style has become, well, rather staid and boring at times, having something to do with the fact that the major source of actual, real writing that I've done for the past ten years have been professional letters for work.  Inserting some personality and humour into a serious post can be mind-numbingly frustrating, and at the same time I wonder if small, throwaway posts like this one aren't worth the bother since why waste everyone's time?  There is always the nagging self-doubt hanging in the back of my mind that when I am writing something personal nobody is really all that interested in reading it, and that I'm not enough of an expert to write the IMPORTANT POSTS.

Still, I've really enjoyed writing again.  It's always something that I've enjoyed but never did, so this has been a wonderful outlet for me.  To both of the people who have read this far, I truly appreciate it.

Another thing I've observed is that Twitter is enormously distracting when you want to get any real work done.  Want to sit down and write a post?  Oops, Twitter has a new message.  Need to do the job you get paid for?  Wait, what is twitter saying about Wil Wheaton?  I always feel like I'm missing something vital and game-changing when there is a new, unread Tweet.  I get this weird burning in the back of my brain when I can't click on it to find out what it's all about.

In the past, whenever I've been feeling creatively stagnant, there have always been a few places I could go for inspiration.  For my photography, I could go to an art gallery or peruse any of the dozens of books that I have on the subject.  If I just wanted a buzz and a boost to my overall creativity, I would read U2: At The End of The World, which for some reason works on my brain like putting a packet of Mentos into Diet Coke:  everything gets all fizzy and starts spewing out uncontrollably and eventually you'll end up sticky.

For writing, however, there really is only one book worth picking up; only one book that energizes me enough to face the demon of the blank Word document.  (There you are Semi-colon, my pretty.  I've missed you).  Douglas Adams's The Salmon of Doubt, which in a sense is not a proper book:  merely a collection of writings from one of the most brilliant minds to ever postulate that sticking a fish in your ear was a good idea.  The articles in the book itself are wonderful to read, but most importantly, The Salmon of Doubt shows me how to be a writer.  There is no trick, you just have to write.  You need to write all the time, about whatever comes to your mind.  Vomit it on the page (or in this case laptop... who writes longhand blog posts?) and see if there are any undigested chunks of good writing in there.

I picked it up last night and started reading it, and well, 900ish words later here we are.  In case you haven't guessed yet, this post has nothing to do with WoW and the title was just to draw you in (I'm sneaky, aren't I).  But as a new blogger, and a person who only recently started to think of themselves as a writer, I felt I needed to get this out.  I think there are at least one or two readable bits here, although I'd be careful... it might just be some corn that I ate last night.


  1. Actually, I love this post. I have had many of the same thoughts and doubts, joys and difficulties.

    Now that I've been keeping a blog for a few months, I find myself wanting to write short little vignettes about other humorous things, and not knowing where to put them. They don't really belong on a WoW blog, but sometimes the writing isn't solely about WoW.

    PS. Three days of Twitter; consider me distracted. (I can semi colon, too!)

    PPS. I also need to learn how to leave comments without grammatical or spelling errors. I can do it on my blog posts, but something about the comment box makes my brain go fuzzy.

  2. I always love reading about blogging. I think posts like these are important when your goal is to flex your writing skill. Reflections and self evaluations play a big part in the learning game.

    I've never experienced a time where I have no ideas (but I'm a slow writer and my real life is pretty hectic so I don't use up my ideas very fast!), but I get lots of times where all my words come out looking terrible. The only way to get through it that I've found is to keep writing and tell myself that I'll edit later. The end result usually isn't as bad as I fear.

    Having your favourite punctuations is fine, they're part of your style. People who use the "..." 3 times per sentence are annoying and creepy, but semi-colons are safe. I like the "-" myself.

    Totally agree with you about Twitter. I'm sure I'd update my blog more often if not for Twitter...

  3. I do feel like a strange blogger when I read great posts like this that talk about writing styles and such.
    I've got no writing background at all, so all my posts tend to be random topics and hoping someone likes them. My only block is time really, but I do feel the pressure when I'm not able to get the chance to write anything.
    I love semi colons; and always using them in my post titles, however annoying that may be :P

  4. I haven't come to the any mid blocks yet. However. I do come to a point at times where I ramble on about the same thing; but repeating it in different ways, so end up shortening/re-writing areas, so it doesn't get boring. Easily done.

    Also, I know the feeling about Twitter. Such a distraction.

    To add, I find inspiration in anything I read now! It's crazy. Even if it's just a flyer or newspaper article!

    Lastly. DON'T discard any posts that you do not feel are 'perfect'. How will you get actual feedback? That way you will be sure, or have a better idea at least, of what the problem is. Or maybe there wasn't one in the first place!

    Practice makes perfect!


  5. @Janyaa: I do the same thing with comments on other blogs. I think it's because it is a longer writing process with an article as opposed to a quick thought in a comment. That being said, I find that it's almost as hard responding to comments on my own blog as it is writing the posts, which is weird.

    @Opehlie: Ahh, Ophelie. You have no idea the squee that I let out when I saw your comment. There are many blogs that I read before I started my own, and yours is one of my favorites. Thank you for stopping by and thank you very much for the wonderful words about my blog that you wrote on your last post.

    I was re-reading the last Harry Potter book and I came to a part when JK Rowling begins using a lot of '...'s, which was a stylistic break from what she had been using throughout the rest of that book, and the whole series for that matter. It was quite odd and off-putting, to say the least, so I know where you are coming from... (couldn't resist).

    @druidnaora: I don't have a writing background either, so you're not alone there. The only writing I've done before were essays and assignments from school. I've dabbled in creative writing in my spare time, but nothing serious. This blog represents - by far - the most writing I've ever done.

    And thank you for the "great post" remark. I am highly susceptible to flattery. :)

    @Jamin: I try not to completely get rid of any posts that I start, most of the posts that I give up on get abandoned with just the first paragraph written (or less!).

    It is kind of interesting that once you start thinking about writing styles you end up paying more attention to them. I've noticed some odd quirks in my own style, like dipping into the second person on occasion (see previous sentence).

  6. reading this post makes me want to turn into the infamous scottish USSR submarine captian, asking the oft-hooping kid from downstairs "where are you taking me?" since you're asking about style, have you (re)read Strunk & White's little white book? I also love the quote "write with nouns and verbs..."

    certainly the idea "writers write" has truth to it, but so does "writers read." Wil at WWdN (which i assume you frequent) was going through your current phase back in 2003-5, when he was settling into the idea of professionally writing; you may be interested in checking out the series of posts created by Wil during that time.

  7. @jody: I actually had no idea where this post would take me, either. This was very much a stream of consciousness-type post. I literally sat down with my laptop and a bottle of Gatorade and started typing. It ended up being an extremely easy post to write, and considering it's content, I'm inordinately proud of how it turned out.

    No, Strunk & White's book escaped my attention, somehow. I do, however, have something similar called The Practical Stylist which probably says many of the same things in five times the pages. I haven't really touched it in years, though, because I haven't been actually doing any writing. Now that I am, I'll have to take a peek at it again.

    And for the record, Main Tanks are not supposed to be that articulate, Jody. Please include more grunts in your next comment. :)

  8. @Fannon While this didn't help me with my writer's block, like you might have implied on Twitter, I do have to say this was a very good read (even though I skimmed it). Thanks for trying, though!

    And, like I said, I hope I can get back to WoW when I get the money... Allowance day should be coming around the corner. XD

  9. @Lamesu: The point of this post wasn't necessarily about how to get over your writer's block, but to show how I got over mine. It literally was as simple as sitting down in a quiet room with my laptop and to start typing. Eventually, one stream of consciousness later, I had this post, which has turned into one of my favourites.

    Just start writing, eventually you'll get inspired.