Citizen of the Month

the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: writing (page 1 of 4)

Categories of Writing Themes

blank slate

Today’s post is very short, but an important one to me, because it focuses in on something very unsettling about my writing style, and how my mind works when I face the blank page.

Most successful writing on the internet falls into two categories:

1) How I Can Teach You how to Live Better Based on What I Have Learned About Life.

Example: 40 Odd Things I’ve Learned in 40 Odd Years.

2) Friends, This is Why Those Who Disagree With Us Are Bad.

Example: How a Generation was Captured by Thrashing Hysteria

When I sit down to write a post, an action I intend to do every day for the entire month of March, the two categories of writing themes that immediately come to MY mind are —

1) I Do, Think, or Act WRONG, and That UPSETS ME

2) Friends, Despite Being My Friends and Generally Agreeing with Your Worldview, You Still Do, Think, or Act WRONG, and that UPSETS ME.

That’s not a healthy way to live.   Or write   Or see the world.

You see — this post is Topic #1 — I Do, Think, or Act WRONG, and That Upsets Me.

I’m stuck in a vicious cycle!

The Board Meeting in Queens

On Friday, I learned that one of my blog posts has been chosen to be part of the keynote Voices of the Year reading at BlogHer ’12 in New York.  I am delighted to be included with so many talented writers.

The announcement couldn’t happen at a better time.  After all my fretting over my lack of niche and tribe, the choice has been made for me.  My category is humor, and my tribe is… women.

I take all ceremony with a grain of salt.  It is part of being a humor writer.  I know that in August, a whole bunch of new people will discover my blog for the first time, read it once, then say to themselves, “Jesus, this guy isn’t that funny,” and never come return.

I look forward to the experience.

The honor is most meaningful in that it is nice to feel accepted, especially by a group where I don’t quite fit in for a number or reasons.   I’m not a woman or even a daddy blogger.   I’m just a guy , a straight man, who — for various reasons that need to be discussed in therapy some day — has a sensibility that connects him with female writers.

I know for a fact that some women don’t appreciate the presence of men (the marketers excepted) at the BlogHer conference.  I’m sorry for that.   If you can’t see the feminism of men befriending women, learning from women, and discussing writing with women, with no clear business agenda other than friendship and creative inspiration, than it is YOUR problem.

For better or worse, the annual Blogher conference has collided with real events in my life, connecting with me on a personal level, like a secular Yom Kippur.

In 2009, in Chicago, I met so many bloggers for the first time.  I cried with joy when I finally met Schmutzie.  I introduced myself to Kate Inglis.   Amy Turn Sharp and I did a session on writing, which went on to influence a whole writing track.  A woman hit on me at bar, which was both flattering and scary.

In 2010, I attended BlogHer ’10 in New York.  It was a traumatic time for me.  Sophia’s parents had just passed away, one after another.  On Saturday night, I walked around the city all night, by myself, in a daze.

In 2011, Sophia and I handed in our divorce papers and then I drove to San Diego to attend BlogHer ’11.

It’s now 2012.  Time for some positive energy.

Being honored by BlogHer has had another unexpected result — a brand new writing gig!  Yesterday, my mother called me with the news.   Here’s the story —

One of the apartments in my mother’s apartment building in Queens was vandalized recently.  After much hand-wringing, a “Board of Directors” meeting was called, to be held in the board room (the former laundry room).   All residents were invited to discuss the matter.  The topic at hand:  too many strangers were coming in and out of the building.

The residents of my mother’s building are a polite group, and therein lies the problem.   They hold the door open for everyone approaching the front door.  There is no doorman, so the tenants are the only security system.

The meeting started with a stern announcement from the Board of Directors:  tenants shouldn’t hold the front door open for strangers.  If a person doesn’t have a key to the front door in the lobby,  the visitor should be required to ring the tenant on the intercom system.

Simple enough, right?  But if you know anything about the residents of a Queens apartment building, you know that they LOVE to argue, the more mundane the subject the better.

Two camps formed that at the meeting.  One was the “law and order” group.  They were gung-ho about protecting the tenants from the outsiders.  The progressives, including my mother, were more concerned about hurting the feelings of the strangers.

“How can we just close the door on people?” she asked. “We will look so impolite.”

David Feingold, the President of the Board, rubbed his beard like a Talmudic rabbi.  He was the building’s King Solomon and came up with a compromise.   The Board of Directors would tape a note to the front door, informing outsiders that the residents of the building were not trying to be impolite by closing the door on them.  The residents were just trying to be safe.

Betty Langer, a retired school teacher, and former civil rights advocate, brought up the elephant in the room, the racial overtones of the problem.

“I don’t believe that this will be treated fairly!” she said.  “Wouldn’t you all pick and choose who you let in?  Wouldn’t you refuse entry to the black boy in the hoodie, but hold the door open for the elderly white woman with a walker?”

The progressive tenants held their head down in shame.  No one likes to be confronted by their own racism.   But the members of the Board of Directors were adamant about taking action.   Something had to be done.

“Let’s get a doorman!” yelled Lillian Vanelli from the back row, who always felt inferior to her sister, who married well and now lives in an exclusive building on the Upper East Side, with a doorman.

“Oh yeah? And who’s going to pay for it?” said Russell Ross, the cheapskate tax attorney on the third floor, who was once caught stealing the Sunday New York Times from the front door of a neighbor, rather than paying for it himself.

A vote was taken and it was agreed that a note would be placed on the door.   But who would write it?   Who dare undertake such a dangerous task?

Most of the residents of my mother’s building are hard-working men and women, but inexperienced in the creative art of persuasion.

“I know who can write it for us!” said my mother. “My son is a writer!”

“What kind of writer is he?” sneared Lillian Vanelli.  “He’s been in Los Angeles for years? When is THAT movie coming out anyway?”

“Hey, Charles Dickens was rejected a 100 times before they published “A Tale of Two Cities.”

My mother, who worked in publishing for forty years, knew this wasn’t true, but is quick-witted, and knew that Lillian was clueless about literature.

There had been tension between my mother and Lillian for years, ever since Lillian was booted out of my mother’s mah jongg group for playing too slow.

“And besides,” added my mother.  “Neil  is going to one of the keynote speakers at BlogHer this year, along with other talented women.”

“Ha, ha.  I always knew Neil was gay,” replied Lillian, chuckling.

“He may be gay, but I love him no matter WHAT he is!” said my mother.

(note: my mother didn’t really say that, but I wanted to add a positive pro-gay message to this post in case I want to submit this post to BlogHer next year.  They LOVE THAT STUFF!)

After the Board of Directors meeting concluded, my mother called me up on the iPhone I bought her that she still doesn’t know how to use.

“Neil, I have a writing assigment for you,” she said. “There is no pay, but it will be seen by a lot of people.  In fact, everyone who walks into our apartment building.”

“What are you talking about?” I asked.

“We need a note that says something like this, but written in your own unique style  — “I am sorry that I am slamming the door in your face, whether you are a black boy with a hoodie or an old white lady with a cane.  It doesn’t matter.  I slam the door on everyone who is a stranger.   This does not mean I am impolite.  I like you.   Maybe one day, you will live here, and I will hold the door for you.  But right now, I am closing the door on you, for your own protection.  But have a nice day.”

Yes!  Thank you BlogHer.   Can’t wait for the conference.  I feel this is going to be MY YEAR!

The Accidental Viewing of the Gay Porn

This was my Facebook status update this morning —

“I will participate in the “Shop-In” on Sunday, February 12 and stand up to the idiotic, homophobic One Million Moms by going to my nearest lesbian bar and… oh, wait, I mean shopping at my nearest JCPenney to thank them for retaining Ellen as their spokeswoman.”

It was only later that I realized that I just committed myself to shopping at… JCPenney. OMG!  I called a gay friend who was aghast at even the prospect of walking into a JCPenney.

That’s when I started worrying. If you know me, you know that I worry.  Was my status update an authentic one?  Did I really intend to shop at JCPenney this weekend?  Or was I just joining the social media bandwagon?

I am a liberal who believes in social justice. Or at least that is my self-identity.  But who was I speaking to when I wrote that update?  Who was I trying to persuade?  Certainly not the 99.9% friends online who believe exactly the same as I do.  Is it possible that my update was self-promotional?

Does my motivation really matter?  If companies see us supporting Ellen, we defang the stupid One Million Moms.   My motivation is irrelevant.   Social media is about influence.

Social media. I am getting bored with it.

“Social” is not writing.   Writing is solitary.  Writing is digging deeper to find an inner truth. Social media is the enemy of alone.

When I sit down in front of my screen, I don’t need to prove my political beliefs to myself.  I frequently start with the question, “OK, what is wrong with me today?”  I want to take a journey within, not persuade you to act or do something.

Many of us want to take this inner journey, but are afraid of the reaction of others.  We might discover a version of ourselves that doesn’t belong on a Facebook status update.

A few weeks ago, I was searching for a video.  OK, so it was a video of some actress in a sex scene that I read about on a movie blog.

By accident, I clicked on the wrong link.  I found myself watching two men shtupping each other in a scene from a gay porn film.  I closed the browser so fast that I almost knocked my laptop onto the floor.   Watching the scene made me uncomfortable.  I do not want to see two men shtupping.  Two women shtupping: hot.   Two men shtupping: uncomfortable.

I am a good-hearted, pro-gay, equal-rights liberal who has real-life gay friends who have seen me naked (that’s another story).   But I was afraid of gay porn.   Why?   Was I afraid that I would secretly like it?   Was I concerned that I would suddenly be transformed and have the urge to change the drapery?   And what if this page accidently re-opened while I was sitting in Starbucks, and everyone looks over at me as hunky male porn actor on my laptop actor screams, “F*ck me, Joseph!”?   Would I be embarrassed?   Would I be slightly less embarrassed if it was a hot babe screaming the same thing?

Do gay men have trouble watching regular porn?   Do I need to force myself to watch several hours of gay porn in order to prove to myself that I authentically believe in gay marriage?

Of course, these worries are neurotic.   Hey, it is my brand!   And I can easily convince myself that I am still a good person.  After all, I am a straight man.  Why should I care about gay porn?  And unlike the Million Moms, I believe there is nothing wrong with two men shtupping.   You can enjoy your brand of chamomile tea; I will enjoy mine.

WTF is this post about?

I am writing about writing.   And how easy it was to write a status update about a well-liked celebrity.  Social media is about joining the mob.  Writing is about neurotic musings on gay porn.

Sure, this post is ridiculous.  Again, it is my brand!  But so much of what we talk about on Facebook and Twitter is downright fake.   We point fingers at the racism of others, then move our kids to private schools because the public school is too “ethnic.”  How many of us equate a “black neighborhood” as a “bad neighborhood” and lock the car doors when passing through?  If you say yes, that doesn’t make you a bad person.  It just makes you real.   And I bet writing about our own individual biases will advance society faster than the constant feel-good preaching to the social media choir.


December is a month where many of us look back, and look forward, preparing ourselves to take the next step into the new year.

During the past, this would be a time where I would go into my blog archives and compile my ten favorite posts.  This year, I haven’t been motivated to do that.

2011 was an odd year for me online.

I felt more isolated as a blogger in 2011, as most of my peers grouped together under the parenting umbrella.

The energy moved away from personal blogs to social media and group blogs.

I had a troll bugging me for months.

I wrote less on the blog, and lost touch with others.

I went from someone who hardly knew how to use a camera to a person running around New York City taking instagram photos, feeling that I could better capture my daily emotional state with images than words.

I seriously thought about ending my blog, and focusing my energies on more practical endeavors.

But I plan to continue.   I am crazy like that.

Do you have any plans for your blog in 2012?  Do you feel that personal blogging is dead? Do you feel that only 1% of the bloggers get 99% of the attention?  Do you believe that you can make money with your blog?  Can you still be honest about our lives online without being called a freak?

Usually, we discuss these issues at expensive blogging conferences in far-away cities.  But a couple of us came up with an idea —  why not just come onto Twitter tonight, for free, in an organized by free-wheeling conversation on this subject?   No sponsors.  Just talk.

Want to discuss the state of blogging heading into 2012?  Tweet w/ @Schmutzie & I and many others at 10pm EST (7PM PST) tonight, Monday, December 12.

use the hashtag #blog2012

And remember, despite our many concerns as bloggers in an unstable economy, we should celebrate another year of online writing!   This Sunday, December 18, is The Sixth Annual Blogger Christmahanukwanzaakah Online Holiday Concert!  

Please submit all songs and photos by December 17th.

The One Essential Writing Question

There are so many blogging and writing conferences nowadays, that it is getting a little crazy.  And what good are they?  They take us away from our families and cost too much money.  Wouldn’t it be nice if one of us would just whittle down all our concerns about writing into one succinct question — a single query that explains it all.

I have done that for you.

Here is it  –the ONE essential question about personal writing that you must ask yourself, and once answered, will save you time, energy, stress, and gray hair, as well as bring you to incredibly success and fulfillment —

“How do I continue to be honest and open about my life, exposing my weaknesses, neuroses, fears, and failures, expressing my battered mind, broken heart, and timid soul with authentic words and emotions during the day, and still convince others that I am normal enough to have sex with at night?”

The Obvious

It is so obvious.  Really.  I’m not sure why it has taken me so long to see it.  Perhaps I wanted to be blind.  To humanize everything.  But every blog, every status update, every tweet that I read at three in the morning — it’s all about words.

Only words.  Not people.


Everything is writing.  Words.  And sentences.  And commas.

People write these words.  Nice people.  Jerk people.  Friendly people.  Even people who don’t care if I live or die.   All writing words that elicit an emotion from me.

But they are still words.   Words strung together in a meaningful manner like carefully chosen laundry on a backyard clothesline arranged by color and size to evoke a specific passion.  Love.  Disgust.  Or laughter.

Words  can create RED FLASHES in my brain, or make me cover me ears to protect myself from the SCREECHING ON THE BLACKBOARD.  But they are all words.

It is all writing.

You are all writing.  I am all writing.  We are all words.

That’s all.

We are not people here.   We are words.

Word and Image

I am in McDonald’s staring at a poster for the new McRib sandwich.  The photo shows this huge, juicy, succulent rib — the size of half a cow.  The photo is just begging you to buy a McRib.  Although I have never eaten a McRib, I do have experience with McDonald’s hamburgers.  I’m sure you all know what I’m talking about.  The photo shows a thick patty with a watery tomato, pickle, and lettuce packed on high on a bakery-fresh bun, and then when you get the burger, it is… a typical McDonald’s hamburger, a grayish, flacid disc that barely fits in the soft, limp bun.  So, I am asking myself — and you — why is this not considered false advertising?  There are stringent controls on the words that go into advertising.  A company can get sued for lying to their consumers with their words.  I can’t run an ad saying that if you come into my car dealership, I will sell you an Acura, and then give you a Corolla.  So, why hasn’t anyone ever sued McDonald’s for the fakery of their food photos?

My photographer friend, Kim, recently went to a class in Los Angeles to learn the techniques of commercial food photography.  From what she told me, it sounded like a fascinating class, with food photography an art form in itself.  She told me how sandwiches are stuffed with cotton to make them thicker, and food coloring is used to make chocolate look more chocolate-y.  And photographers get big bucks for this deception, on-the-set fakery done before the use of Photoshop.

Do you ever notice that readers like the “real” and “authentic,” in writing?  We like to read about struggle and drama.  On the other side, have you noticed that we tend to love the photographs that should be in a glossy magazine?  Beautiful settings.  And beautiful people.  Our families look near perfect.  Our yards are always clean.  The laundry on the couch is always hidden. Everyone has nice hair.  Special filters are used to create a mood.  Photoshop is employed to rid us of blemishes.

Of course, writing is also fake.  We have our own literary brush tools.  We can completely change the mood of a sentence, but switching a word, or adding punctuation.  Some of us are more poetic in our words.  If I say that my friend was “as angry as a bulldog,” I am giving you a visual picture.  But it is still manipulation, like a yellow filter, or the Hipstamatic app in the iphone.  My friend is not really a bulldog.  I’m not even sure bulldogs are “angry.”

I am not a photographer.  So I am curious.  Are you searching for any truth in your photos? If you take a perfect photo of a perfect family in front of a perfect home, are you trying to express the Platonic ideal of your family?  Are words more suited for communication and expressing truth (if you so choose), and photos more for beauty and glorified image?

I know media images of beauty are always a popular topic with my female friends online.  But I’m not sure we should trust corporate America to determine what is “real” for us, women or otherwise.  When I see those Dove “real women” campaigns, I mostly see photoshopped size 8 models instead of photoshopped size 2 models.

We tend to look down our noses at the use of  “advertising” techniques in writing, seeing them as manipulative, but applaud the same techniques in photography.  Why does beauty always have to be so “prettified?”  Why do we always talk about our search for truth and authenticity in art if we don’t really want to see it or express it in our images?

Does any of this make any sense?  Maybe not.  I’ll tell you one thing — that McRib sandwich looks good!


About two weeks ago, I wrote a post, and as the cursor hovered over the publish button, I decided against pressing it.   Instead, I picked five bloggers out of the proverbial hat, individuals who I thought could relate to the sentiments in the writing, and emailed them the post.  It was if I wrote a blog post for an audience of five.  They all emailed me back with “comments.”

It was nice.

I’ve been thinking about this today.  Writing to five people, and getting their undivided attention was in many ways MORE satisfying (and also more scary) than publishing online.  Question to self:  “If I was able to blog in this manner every day, emailing to five people you trust, could I comfortably close down my blog, stop ranting on Twitter all day, delete Facebook, and avoid Flickr?”  And my answer was surprisingly — yes.

But don’t worry.  It ain’t happening.  This is all theoretical.

Still, my answer disturbs me.  As a writer, I supposedly to want to communicate my ideas and feelings — and my words — to as large an audience as possible.  Isn’t this what ambition dictates?

I appreciate my readers, and love getting attention from others, so maybe I’m just bullshitting myself.  It was fun to go to BlogHer and be recognized because of my avatar.   I do link my posts on Twitter and Facebook so I can get readers.  I do get pissy when no one comments on a post that I like.  So why should five people reading my work feel as satisfying as ten thousand people?  Or is it?  Am I talking about two different things?  Relationships vs. audience?

Perhaps this is the importance of becoming — that hated expression I seem to be obsessed with — a “brand.”  Being a brand means you separate yourself from your work, so your writing can be a product, the equivalent of dish detergent being sold on the shelves of the supermarket.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  In some ways, it is essential to making money or having a career with writing.  You don’t go into business to make friends.  Your goal is to push your product to as many as possible, so you can show something tangible for all your work.

And besides, I’m sure these five bloggers would start getting annoyed — even send me a restraining order — if I sent them a personal email every single day.

Are Blog Commenters “Real” Writers?

A few weeks ago, there was a raucous argument online over the unimportant question of the day — are bloggers “real” writers?

I have my own thoughts about this, but I’m all about spreading the love, so for all practical purposes, I edge towards saying “yes.”  If you write, you’re a “real” writer, whatever that means.  A “professional” writer might be a better writer, but then again, there are a lot of shitty books published about cats.

The problem is the word “writing,” which like “blogging” is too broad and meaningless.  A doctor is a doctor, but you don’t want a pediatrician doing your heart surgery.  Blogging is a new art, and a singular discipline.  A good blogger might write a boring book.  On the other hand, I have read blogs written by novelists that bore me to tears.  These professionals  just don’t “get” the community aspect of blogging, or the soap opera-ish, episodic nature of a personal blog.   No writer can write anything.  Screenwriters are considered the low end of the writing totem pole, but both Hemingway and Fitzgerald took stabs at screenwriting, with awful results.  Every art form is different.  A play is performed live.  A movie uses editing.  Blogging is writing.  But writing isn’t blogging.  And really — who cares?  The whole conversation reeks of insecurity.   I’m not ashamed to say I am a blogger.  I’m ashamed to say I make NO MONEY blogging.   But I am proud to blog.   I love it!

When we talk about “real” writers, I’m assuming we are all thinking about someone like Jonathan Franzen, a guy who writes BOOKS you can buy in a store.   Of course, I only mention him because other bloggers are talking about him, which just proves that blogging is all about immediacy.

Yeah, I hear you.  Blogging is exactly like writing.  For every person who says that blogging is real writing, I wonder how many times you have gone into my archives to read my “writing,” as if my blog was a collection of short stories.   Never!    Gotcha!

In some ways, bloggers are not “real writers,” in that blogging is just plain different.  Bloggers use links.  Links are as revolutionary as editing in a movie, and completely unique to the online experience.  You never see links in a traditional novel.  Imagine a novelist describing Doctor Zhivago’s house, and then including a link to a photo in Flickr.  Bloggers play off of one another, like improv players.  Someone writes an angry post.  Two hours later, someone writes another post responding.  Blogging tends to be topical and immediate, like my name-dropping of Jonathan Franzen.  “Real writers” write in isolation, their beards growing gray as they toil over their masterpiece for ten years in an abandoned cabin in the woods.  And here is the real big difference, at least according to me:  most bloggers allow COMMENTS!  Not too many “real writers” allow comments on their novel, unless you are one of those crazy readers who scribble notes to the author on the side of the page.

“WTF?!  Are you saying that his wife is his OWN SISTER?! You are a perv!”

If you want to feel like a “real” writer, shut down your comments and let your beard grow.  If you want comments, and enjoy the adoration, you are a blogger.  Be happy.

Of course, as times change, so will our ideas about “writing.”  In ten years, all books might have “links” embedded, as we read them on our Kindles.

Which brings me to the real point of this post — blog comments.  If you are one of those people who shook your fist and shouted “Bloggers can be REAL WRITERS!,” I have a another question for you.  “Do you consider commenting to be real writing, and if no, why not?”

I do.  I consider my comments an integral part of my post.  The comments on one of my posts can be more interesting than my post.  They are very important in humor blogging.  Have you ever read the comments on The Bloggess?  They are hilarious.  Her blog would not be half as fun without her comments.  Jenny and her commenters FEED off of each other.  In fact, their relationship is so strong, I think she should SHARE all of her advertising dollars with her commenters.

I see many bloggers complaining about a lack of comments.  They usually blame Twitter and Facebook.  I say, it is your own fault.  You don’t respect comments as “real” writing.  You consider stupid one-liners on Twitter as “writing,” but the comments on your blog as an appendage to YOUR brilliant post.  Is it any wonder that there has been a brain-drain from the comment section to the Twitter stream?   There has already been a book on Twitter Wit?  Can you imagine a book of blog comments?  Can you imagine anyone getting a sitcom deal or book deal from a blog comment?  Of course not.  No one really respects the blog comment.

The first lesson I learned at film school is that the auteur theory of film-making was hogwash, created to fulfill the need for critics to analyze a movie in the same way that they would a book — written by one author.

We tend to view our blogs under this same “auteur” theory, dissing the community aspect of the medium.    Of course, this doesn’t stop us from pimping our blog posts on Twitter, or constantly networking.  Blogging is not only writing.  It is part circus, part Borg.

I write my blog.  It is my words.  But during my five year writing journey, I have been guided by YOU as much as by my own life.  YOU have been part of my experience.  We all have been part of each other’s blogging life.  This is what we mean when we talk about this “community.”  If we all just want to write on our own and think of ourselves as “writers,” then let’s drop blogging and write our books.  But if we are going to blog, we should embrace “blogging.”

I am not a good commenter.  I am more comfortable talking about my own life, than reflecting on yours.  I consider this a fault.

Commenting is a skill.  It is real writing.  I greatly appreciate smart comments.  For the longest time, I have wanted to come up with some sort of blog award, solely for comments, something that would undercut the typical “Best Blog of All Time” idea, a concept that would embrace the community, not just the individual blogger making believe she writes in complete isolation.  Perhaps by enobling the comment as an art form, as “real” writing, we can energize commenting again.  Wouldn’t it be great to see a session at a conference where the speakers doesn’t suggest ways to “get MORE COMMENTS” but instead — “how to write more meaningful comments on the blogs of your friends?” — taught by some of the best commenters amongst us.

If I actually started a Commenting Award, my personal nominee would be Headbang8.  When he comments on one of my posts, he takes my topic to another level.   This is, despite the fact that I rarely comment on HIS blog, mostly because he lives in Europe and isn’t in my usual circle of friends.  I can tell that this isn’t a reader who has zoomed though 100 blog posts in one morning.   He has actually thought about the subject, and when he writes a comment, I consider him to be a collaborator on the post.

And just to show how much he means to me, I will now share all of my advertising dollars with him.

Here is one of his recent comments on my post about my “big ears.”

Americans are plastic people. Often, in the best sense of the word.

Live your dream. You want to be an astronaut? Sure! A doctor? A scientist? A millionaire? Anybody can be anything they want to be. I was born in a log cabin but grew up to be president. I was once a football player and now I’m an actor. I was once a cheerleader and now I’m a movie star. I was a Catholic, now I’m a Buddhist. Live your dream. If you don’t, you have only yourself to blame. You didn’t try hard enough.

That sort of thinking spreads to your body. If I have only one life, let me live it as a blonde. You can shape your body. If you’re fat, it’s your own fault.

I once worked on the advertising account of a product that had to do with teeth. My god, what baggage teeth carry! If your teeth are bad, it’s a marker of poor discipline (did you brush right as a child?) or social class (could your parents afford braces?) or old age (yellow = old and decrepit). People around the world shake their heads in amazement about an American’s obsession with his smile.

Amidst all this obsession about be-the-best-you-can-be, it comes as a comfort, from time to time, simply to say “I am what I am”.

That’s what your tribe is for. The people amongst whom you feel comfortable. Who know your experience. The people with whom you can let your hair down.

Generally, we are born into a tribe. Few of us change ourselves to be part of a tribe to which we don’t naturally belong. We see or find people like ourselves. And discover that though we may differ, the thing we have in common makes those other differences unimportant. That’s a source of great serenity, self-confidence and strength.

The big-eared. It may seem slight to build a tribe around. But it was enough to make you feel bad about yourself growing up. It had an effect on you.

These wing-nuts, these head-kites, these flesh-made Flying Nuns, these Basset Humans, these Dumbos are your people, Neil. Embrace them. Love them. May you never have to grow your hair long, ever again.

Now THAT is “real” writing. In a comment.

I Write

I write to share my wisdom arising from my life experience. My words are like the rain, and you are like the soil, and when my nourishment satisfies your thirst for knowledge, you grow tall, like the grass and the flowers and the mightiest of trees. I write to educate you, to guide you to greatness. Once you were lowly, but after reading my words, you will be flying with the eagles in the clouds!

I write to lie, to make up shit, to come up with ridiculous statements like the first paragraph because I can imagine some asshole really writing that nonsense, and it makes me laugh.

I have no idea why I write. I’ve always written.

I write to clarify things in my own head.

I write to remember things.

I write to express love without having to say it out loud.

I write to imagine myself as other people, like an actor.

I write to be the real me, because, in real life, I am TOO much of an actor.

I write to impress girls so they will fall in love with him.

I write because writing is powerful, and I don’t own a gun.

I write just to amuse one person, who I know will get the joke.

I write because I don’t have a choice.

I write because good writers turn me on more than naked Playboy bunnies, and writing well is the only way I know to get them to talk to me.

I write to waste time.

I write to hide.

I write to be passive/aggressive in a cowardly way, and then feel guilty about it.

I write to be political, but not often enough.

I write to be truthful to others, because I rarely get a chance to be truthful in my daily life.

I write to force myself to stop lying… to myself.

I write because I’m not very good at football.

I write because when I read books, I’m always saying, “I can do better than that!”

I write because you can’t masturbate in Starbucks, but they do allow you to bring your laptop, so it gives me something to do while drinking coffee.

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