Category Archives: Writing

Writing Week Day #5: Five More Quick Things

Here are five more quick things I’ve learned about blogging in the last five years:

1. Pick how frequently you’ll post and then stick to it. Good blogging is a job and has to be treated like one.

2. Write short. Short stuff gets read.

3. Perfect isn’t the goal; practice is. Learning how to do what you do is never over.

4. In writing, big enough failures are their own kind of success.

5. Stay on topic. For an example of what happens when you don’t, look at the engagement level on this week’s posts.

Thanks for putting up with Writing Week, folks. We’ll be back to the regularly scheduled insanity soon.

Writing Week Day #4: Listen Large

ear trumpet

Communication these days happens at the speed of thought which means that exchanges of ideas that would once take laborious writing, printing, and distribution can now happen with the push of a few keys. It’s important to remember these days that any writing (even the traditional dead tree kind) is now just one part of a larger conversation and like any good conversation half of it should be spent listening and giving the other person permission to talk.

This may come as a shock but I am not the end-all of knowledge on any given topic. A bigger shock may be that neither are you. The world is a big place and a lot of it is online these days. Many, many voices have something to contribute.

Here are a few things I’ve learned in the last five years of writing SFL:

1. Expect some percentage of people to misunderstand you, disagree with you, and outright despise you. There are a few in every crowd.

2. Anticipate that some fights are not worth having. Don’t be this guy.

3. Having done 1 and 2, go ahead and invite both commentary and criticism. Just put it out there that you want to listen. Asking people to fix what they think you got wrong with your ideas is the fastest way to start a conversation.

4. Lastly, don’t let it get you down. If your point is thoughtful and your writing is solid more people than not will appreciate your effort — even if they disagree.

So say your piece. Make your point. Then prepare to listen large once you’ve started the conversation.

Writing Week Day #3: Be Yourself but Be Your Best Self

cartoon by By Rubén Hernández Herrera

Be Yourself but Be Your Best Self.

Good writing requires your heart and soul but it may also require your name if you write online. In this age of increasing distance and anonymity online, it’s also increasingly important to let people connect not only to what you write but the person who is writing it. There are some notable exceptions but anonymous blogs generally don’t last long and are much more prone to harsh responses. If I had only two words of advice I could give to the aspiring blogger they would be: “Be Real.”

Now again, there’s a warning that goes along with this bit of wisdom: share too much or too quickly and you’ll end up with a diary instead of a blog. We want to know that you are a human being. We want to see the topic you write about through the filter of your hopes and dreams and fears and follies. We’d rather not know that you pick your nose in the car unless your topic specifically calls for that bit of information. Also be aware that your boss, your mom, and the lady down the street can read what you write and the Internet is forever.

One other key is that the process of being your authentic self in your writing means also that sometimes you’ll have to backtrack, change your mind, or apologize. People grow and mature. The “you” that you presented last year may not be the same person who is writing now. It requires courage to take other people along with you during a transformation process because (and this may come as a shock) not everybody will be happy to see you change.

Along with the challenges, however, there is also a great opportunity: making yourself vulnerable through your writing can be a great motivator towards better behavior, more careful thought, and a little more empathy. In short, it can make you live more intentionally and therefore live better. Sometimes the written word can be your conscience. That’s not always pleasant but it can help make us our best selves if we’re willing to listen.

Writing Week Day #2: But I Have a Day Job

Starbucks in Seoul South Korea

But I Have a Day Job

I have a couple fantasies of the perfect places to write. Some days it’s a coffee shop in an exotic place where the perfect latte sits next to a shiny new laptop with the ubiquitous acoustic strains of some indie singer/songwriter wafting gently around me and I’m high on a heady brew of creativity and expensive caffeine. Other times, I might be sitting by the ocean with a gentle breeze and the smell of salt in the air as the gulls scream around me and my pondering of the imponderables mixes with the crash and hiss of the surf. I have no idea if people actually do write in these kinds of places — truth is I never have.

The reality is that I have an ailing wife and two small children. I have a stressful day job that requires long hours. I don’t write in a coffee shop, or a seaside bistro, or a smoky Hemingway bar. I write in the break room at work. I write at the DMV. I write while folding laundry or doing the dishes or stuck in traffic. I write while waiting for my wife at a doctor’s office. I write at the end of the day before I close my eyes and at the beginning right after I open them. I can write in all those places because actually typing out words is only about one-tenth of the actual work of creativity. Most of writing is simply the discipline of stopping your mind from slipping into neutral while you live the rest of your life. Writing is life and life is being composed all around you every day.

Since I’ve been writing in multiple places this year I’ve found that there is one benefit (along with many, many challenges) to writing in more than one venue. Writing more than one project doubles the chances that when your child throws a screaming fit in Chuck E. Cheese’s or a massive bill shows up in the mail that you’ll likely get a chance to use it creatively one way or another. I’m sure I’ll figure out someday how to use the story of how I had to borrow money from a very kind co-worker this week in order to buy a new battery for my truck. Someday that will make a great post.

There is a warning here: it’s possible to go too far down the creative rabbit hole and only see the world around you as the sum of the content that it will provide you. Not every story must be shared. Not every bit of human drama is an appropriate time to find your muse — but much of it can be. A mind that is awake will be able to discern the difference.

What happened to you this week? Is there something that’s worth sharing? Write it now even if you have to do the typing later.

Writing Week Day #1: Write What You Know but Not All That You Know and Only What You Know You Love


Since this month marks five years of Stuff Fundies Like being in existence, I’m going to take a break from writing strictly about fundamentalism this week and write about something else that is near and dear to my heart and that is: writing itself. The essence of SFL is people telling their stories, comparing notes, and talking to each other — it’s a community full of the flawed, the funny, and the fabulous. I’d love to encourage more of you to strike out and find your own voice, even as I’m afraid that I may not be up to the competition if you all did!

Although SFL started five years ago, I’ve been writing in one form or another for almost a decade now and from time to time people send me questions about how to start a blog, how to create an online community, and how to write in general. I don’t write as many original pieces for SFL anymore, because adding commentary to the pictures, videos, and lectures that fundamentalism itself is producing is about all I have time for at the moment. Life marches on.

I will start by saying that I might very well be the wrong person to be talking about writing or blogging at all. SFL is a very active community but there are blogs that are much larger, much more popular, and far less prone to putting their readers into blinding rages. It’s also worth nothing that I’ve also started several other blogging projects along the way that have more or less starved to death for lack of interest by both the readers and the writer alike. Failure can be a great teacher.

Finally, there is also the danger that once I start pulling back the curtain to look at what makes SFL work that SFL itself won’t stand up well to the scrutiny. So by all means let’s get started as quickly as possible…

Day #1: Write What You Know but Not All That You Know and Only What You Know You Love.

When you set out to write — especially if that writing is a blog — you must be so completely consumed by the topic at hand that you would write about it even if you knew for a fact that only a handful of people would ever read it. This can’t be just a sudden inspiration or passing fancy. It has to be the kind of slow, smoldering burn that perpetually lights up a corner of your soul. Is there something that ALWAYS gets you excited when it comes up in conversation? Some topic that is never quite far from your conscious thought? Start there.

Don’t end there. Take that broader idea and refine it down to its core. There are about ten gajillion (not a made up number) blogs about politics or religion or why moms who don’t breastfeed their vaccinated children are monsters. Once you’ve got a topic try to understand where your story fits into the larger picture and what your voice has to add to the conversation. Find the uniqueness that is your background, your skills, your perspective and craft that into something you can share.

Once you’ve done all that then all that remains is to sit down and write it. And write it. And write it. Then throw all of that away, refine your topic further, find a better hook, and write it some more. Share it with a few trusted friends, then ignore most of their advice and use the frustration you feel at being misunderstood or as fuel to write and write some more.

Have you got a blog, book or newspaper column (do they still do those?) inside of you? I’d love to hear what you’ve tried, what you fear, and what the topics are that light up your world.