the writing and photography of Neil Kramer

Tag: writing (Page 1 of 4)

Veronica’s Letters


Most people don’t know they are crazy until they sit down for an intervention with themselves.

My friend, Veronica is a artsy-craftsy woman. She creates gorgeous birthday cards using ink and collage. On Facebook, she is a member of a group named, “Save the Post Office,” which advocates for old-school letter writing by hand. For those who might not know what that means, it includes licking stamps, sticking them on store-bought envelopes, then sending the letter, non-electronically, person to person, like Ben Franklin might have once done, through the United States Post Office, something many of us haven’t done since 1992.

Veronica and I met in 2005, during the early days of personal blogging. She stopped writing her blog a few years ago, but recently she said that she missed sharing her personal stories. Social media just didn’t do it for her. She had an idea. She would write personal letters to her friends, scribed by hand, as if she was sent back in a time machine to her teenage years. One of those friends turned out to be me.

I did not know Veronica had included me in this experiment, but I certainly wasn’t surprised when I received her letter in the mail. She enjoys pushing herself creatively, someone who will take the time to write you a personal letter rather than take the easy route of pushing a button on Facebook Messenger.

I opened the mailbox that day at noon. Inside the box were the usual suspects — bills, a New Yorker magazine, and a coupon from Bed, Bath, and Beyond. Stuck in between the pages of the magazine was Veronica’s letter, my name hand-written on the envelope in a non-perfect cursive; it made me smile. I had a phone call to make, so I decided to open the letter in the evening, when I could give it my attention.

At 8PM I went to my desk and picked up the letter. It was time to read it. But when I tried to open it, I froze. Something was preventing me from opening the envelope, by why? What was there to fear? To avoid the discomfort, I opened Facebook on my laptop, but when I saw the glowing green light of Veronica in Messenger, I worried that she would ask me about the letter, so I shut off the computer. I grabbed the envelope and took it with me to bed, but when I started to tear it open, my mind filled with movie images from the past.

There was the Army messenger handing over the grim letter to the young woman, now a widow, at her front door. The lover awakening to a goodbye letter on the bed, signifying the end of a relationship. The suburban man’s suicide letter left after being fired from the company, being too ashamed to face his family.

Why did these melodramatic scenes pop into my head? Did I know they bore no connection to Veronica’s letter? Of course I did.

I waited until the next morning to open the envelope, when I had a renewed sense of reality. Veronica’s letter was personal, but contained nothing she couldn’t write publicly about on Facebook. She said her kids were growing up, getting married and going to college, and this was creating changes in her life as well. Nothing scandalous or scary.

That day, another letter arrived. Veronica’s letter-writing experiment was going to continue all week.

I found it easier to open the second handwritten letter. When I unfolded it, I immediately noticed that Veronica did some editing, crossing out a sentence with her pen, then scribbling her new thought sideways, in the margin. This raised the stakes in her letter-writing. The imperfections of the second letter was reminiscent of the notes you might pass in homeroom during elementary school. And again, I froze, for a different reason that the day before. Seeing Veronica’s edits, and touching the same paper that she once held in her hand was too visceral, like I could feel her pen still vibrating on the page. It felt too intimate, like I had walked into the bathroom while she was there, and I froze in a combination of curiosity and shame.

Yes. I know what you are thinking. Crazy. I was beginning to think so myself.

My letter reading improved as the week went on, until I received the seventh and last letter, which I couldn’t open for another four days.

Let me make sure you understand all this. None of these letters were intense or extremely personal. These letter were not sent to torment me, but as a creative exercise for herself. I know this because after reading the last letter, I finally called her on the phone.

“Veronica, I want to talk to you. It’s a little weird and personal….” I said, telling her my tale of the five handwritten letters. And as I proceeded, I gained the ability to step away and analyze my craziness. Maybe this is the true power of storytelling. You begin to understand yourself.

My hangup was about intimacy. Intimacy and anxiety in the digital age. For eleven years, a large bulk of my socializing has been mediated through electronic means — laptops, tablets, and phones, blogging, Facebook, instagram — to the point where I never hold a hand-written letter in my hands or speak to a friend on the telephone. My conversations are on IM or email, outlets without physical contact. Even Skype is a two-dimensional representation of reality. Since my divorce, I’ve had two romantic relationships, both based online, but the major background to our romantic tales doesn’t primarily take place in romantic cities like New York or Paris, but behind the lighted screens of our laptops, hundreds and thousands of miles apart.

Yes, I meet friends and lovers in person, but I wonder if my online existence has become so habitual that I have grown uncomfortable with the intimacy of something as innocent as a handwritten letter. I have grown so comfortable chatting with a thousand people at a time on social media, that sitting with a personal letter written just for me freaks me out. That is crazy. The truth is I felt myself unable to handle the intimacy of reading the letters, the lack of control. Would I have to write back? What if I connect too deeply? What if I don’t know what to say, or she says something that makes me cry? What if she is telling me that she is getting a divorce or has some mysterious disease? Can I just press the like button? Have I forgotten what it’s like to have a real friend? And what does this say about my relationships with others? Romantic ones.

“Maybe I shouldn’t write you again,” she said at the end of our conversation, laughing. “I didn’t realize it would affect you so much!”

But I hope she does. Or even better — maybe I should write back.

Writing for Self, Writing for Reader


This is a post about writing online. It is written for myself, just to clarify something in my own mind, but I’ll share it with you anyway because if you also write online, maybe you have had similar thoughts.

Yesterday, I posted about the trip I took with Jana to Walt Disney World.  I titled it, “Walt Disney World: World of Laughter and Tears.” Clever, huh? Originally, I named it  “Walt Disney World: A World of Laughter, a World of Tears,” which  better matches the lyrics of “It’s a Small World,” but when I googled the title, I saw it was already taken by TEN OTHER writers!

Still, I liked the post.   When I started out writing it, I had three objectives, and I satisfied all of them.

1) Show off some new photos of Walt Disney World since I didn’t feel comfortable posting a million of them on Instagram where I would be mistaken for one of those dreaded Parent Bloggers.

2) Prove to my friend Danny that I could effectively mock the Disney ethos AND kiss Disney’s ass at the same time, just in case I ever want free tickets to some social media event there.

3) Prove to my friend Tanis that yes, I could go away for the weekend with a bright and attractive woman, and not have her break up with me.

Mission Accomplished to all three.

But did I really prove anything? And is this real writing?   What type of writer am I?   The stakes are so low.  It’s almost childish.

Recently, I had bookmarked this article titled “6 Simple Ways to Get More People to Read Your MEDIUM Posts.” (via Medium).  I read it yesterday while travelling in the subway.   The writer had very strong opinions about online writing.

You have to SELL your ideas in Medium, and the best way you can do that is to make it about people. Don’t say “I did this and that”. SAY, “You can experience this and that.” … why?… Because the viewer wants to learn something FOR himself. Not about you..

Let’s say you really want to tell a personal story about yourself and your horrible experience at a night club.

Don’t say, “I went there, I did this, and this happened, and then this happened…”

Start with something like,

“Don’t make the same mistake I did when you go to a NIGHT CLUB.”

See how that changed everything? ..The prospective? To other people?..

You can ALWAYS make any personal story about others if you told them what they can learn from the experience and how they can take caution so they don’t end up doing the same thing you did.

By the way, It could be a HAPPY story too.

But don’t write, “I went to Disneyland and did this and this and that, and it was amazing.”

No, you should start with something like,

“Here’s how YOU can maximize your trip to Disneyland with these simple (but essential) tricks.

I looked back over my last post. Immediately I notice that I failed to even write the traditional “I went to Disneyland and did this and this and that, and it was amazing” post.  My post is a slight of hand, nonsense to fill the space until I have enough nerve to say publicly that I had a nice time with Jana.

Now, let’s imagine I come home from Walt Disney World, but with a different perspective, one of professional writing. The first question I would ask myself if “Now that I’m home from my trip with Jana, how can I best use my writing and/or photography skills to make at least a measly $100 by sharing something about my experience?” I know.   $100.   But better than nothing, right?

Now to make some money out of this, I would need to pitch some story idea to an outside website or publication. Which one? And what is the pitch?

Of course, the story is already there, hidden in the middle of the post, when I write this sentence —

 “Can romance be found at a Disney theme park, a location crowded with crying children, stressed out parents, and senior citizens aggressively driving their rent-a-scooters like the extras in a Mad Max film?”

That’s it. That’s the story. Everything else is the piece is irrelevant to a reader looking for content.  This becomes a post about me using my experience to HELP OTHER PEOPLE decide if they should go with their girlfriend to Walt Disney World. That is a successful pitch for a travel or dating site, no?

Now is the bigger question.   Do I want to help others to “maximize the romance of going to Walt Disney World?”  Do I want to write this post?  Not really.

But that’s another problem.


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.

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