Who I Am (And Why I Write This Blog)

ART HARDER MOTHERFUCKER

This is the 2nd time someone at The Passive Voice has called me a “bad-boy” writer.

I’m not sure precisely the connotation — I’m hoping its more, When you’re a Jet you’re a Jet all the way rather than ooh somebody needs a spanking. Maybe it’s a combination. Maybe I’m James Dean in a soggy diaper? Danny Zuko who can’t share his toys with the other children? Maybe I’m Judd Nelson in the Breakfast Club, except also, I shoved a PB&J in Mommy’s purse.

Anyway.

Getting quoted at TPV is usually a little bumpy — understandably, as my views don’t always line up with the views of the commenters there. I think a lot of indie authors still remember me for my “self-publishing shit volcano” post (though sometimes I wonder if they actually read the post because I like to think that the post contained a very even-handed and honest look at the effects of a perceived lack of quality in that space). But this time around, getting quoted was — at least, so far — relatively painless.

But, then I saw some comments by mega-uber-indie-author Hugh Howey:

I hope so. He’s too nice a guy to go down in history as the person peeing in everyone’s art and telling them it sucks.

I don’t think that’s what he meant, but it’s what he was famous for for a while there.

… and …

He’s a really bright guy and a great writer. If he dropped the weird bad-boy schtick and just wrote his thoughts, he’d be one of the more important thinkers in publishing. I don’t think he knows how to back off the schtick, though. Which makes you wonder: Is he going to talk like that in another 20 years, when he’s into his 60s?

Working really hard to be hip is like getting a lot of tattoos. It’s hard to age gracefully.

(Which is to say, I feel I finally understand the comment, ‘damning with faint praise.’)

Obviously, I can’t control how people perceive me. Or this blog, or my books.

What I can control is what I put out into the world.

And so I thought, I’m going to take a moment to do what blogs were really meant to do…

Which is to talk about me, me, ME.

*maniacal laughter*

*rolls around in own stink for a few moments while you stare, awkwardly*

*stands up, dusts self off, looks shameful like a dog that just ate its own mess*

Ahem.

Sorry.

I’ve seen it suggested in some places that what I do here — the way I write, the attitude I put out, the overall frothing writer honey badger hobo vibe — is somehow orchestrated. That despite the ire I reserve for the topic of author ‘branding,’ this is actually my brand and it’s a very conscious one and all of this is (depending on who you listen to) either well-constructed or clumsily forced. It’s either a very nice mansion or a square-peg violently hammered into a circle-hole by me, an angry man-toddler venting venom and vulgarity.

I want to make one thing abundantly clear:

This isn’t artifice.

This isn’t a mechanism.

This isn’t my brand.

It isn’t, as Hugh suggests, my schtick.

This? Is me.

The way I write on this blog is the way I think. I have this space for me first, for you second. The dopey fuckery and wanton dipshittery that I ladle onto these blog pages are here because I like them that way. I like wonky metaphors. I love creative profanity. I really enjoy writing in a way that is both (hopefully) thoughtful and completely batshit. I write this way because I think this way. I don’t really act this way in public, of course, because it’s a very good way to get Tasered. And when people meet me for the first time (as I’ve noted in the past), I don’t scream “YO MOTHERFUCKER” before spitting in their gaping, gasping mouth. I’m fairly polite in public. An introvert playing at extroversion — or, at the least, an introvert who finds himself extroverting once he’s comfortable with people.

And at this blog, I’m very, very comfortable.

This is me kicking off my shoes and kicking up my feet. Letting the beard grow all mangy and wild, like a snarling carpet of moss or an old, hunger-mad coyote. This is me, comfortable. I’m comfortable with you and, presumably, most of you are comfortable with me since a not unreasonable number of you show up here daily. (And thank you for that. Seriously.)

I write the way I think.

Sometimes I turn the volume up. Sometimes I turn the volume down — and, in my books, I turn it down because there the voice is different. (Despite all this not being artifice, I do remain in control of all the knobs and levers that govern my voice.) But this is my playspace. This blog is for me, first and foremost, and hopefully there are enough folks who gain some kind of intellectual, creative or profane sustenance from these pages to make the juice worth the squeeze.

I’m not trying to be “hip.”

(Is that really a word people use anymore? “Hip?”)

(I still like “rad,” honestly.)

Sure, sometimes I can come across as harsh — a little too much gravel in your wine, a few too many bird bones braided into my silky, luxuriant face-pelt. It is a fair critique to say, “Well, if you didn’t call that post ‘shit volcano,’ maybe you wouldn’t have upset people, and with a nicer title, maybe those people would’ve read the post.” Yeah, maybe. But I did it, and I’d do it again. Because ‘shit volcano’ is funny. Because I liked titling it that way. You might have already gotten this far in the post and wish I wouldn’t do these weird parenthetical asides, or the fake-actions-sandwiched-betwixt-asterisks, or the eyebrow-raising metaphors. Sure, I get that. But I’m going to do them anyway. And, when I’m harsh, it’s because that’s how I feel and because I’m trying to portray the path ahead with all the bumps and thorns that lurk ahead. (Though, for the record, I don’t see myself as “peeing in everyone’s art and telling them that it sucks.” I like to think of this blog as a very supportive space of writers of all stripes. Your creativity and creation is vital, and nobody should tell you otherwise. That said, once you start to charge money for something, ennnnh, you’ve gone from creativity to commerce — and there, the attitude changes a little bit. All that is, of course, between you and your personal deities. But all told, I don’t think, we can all do better is a particularly poisonous message, unless of course, you find comfort in cromulence.)

My mission at this blog is as follows:

a) to enlighten and inform, and when that fails:

b) to make you laugh, and when that fails:

c) dazzle and bewilder with inventive profanity.

The fail state of that last one is, you and me maybe just don’t like the same things.

And that’s okay.

Hell, that’s awesome.

What kind of a goofy world would it be if we all liked the same things? Or we all agreed all the time. It’s important to have different voices and different ideas. Sid and Marty Krofft, could you imagine if I was the dominant voice in writing and publishing? What an ugly pony that would be.

Just the same, this place is my voice.

These are my ideas.

Not a brand, or a schtick, or a lie, or me trying to be hip, or be a “bad boy.”

If you’re going to hang around here, this is what you get. (Sorry, Hugh.)

You’re gonna get the NSFW/NSFL language.

You’ll get all my kooky ranty-pants ideas.

You’ll probably see a lot of CAPSLOCK and italics.

Absurdity will be rampant.

I am likely to poke more fun at me than I do at you.

I will squeeze things in parentheses and between asterisks.

Sometimes things will be in lists.

I am likely to reference any of the following: hobos, unicorns, various woodland creatures, dildos, forbidden sex acts, beards, fluids, volcanoes, toddlers, Transformers, and of course: lots of blathering bloggerel about writing, storytelling, publishing, language, and all the mortar that holds those particular bricks together.

This is it.

This is me.

I hope you like it.

If you don’t, that’s okay.

But this is still gonna be it, and this is still gonna be me.

And by the way I think tattoos are cool, even on 60-year-olds.

Now, if you’ll excuse me — BAD BOY AUTHOR COMING THROUGH.

*writes a novel while riding loud motorcycle*

*flicks lit cigarette into a trash-can full of awful books*

*slams your head in a dictionary*

*throws beer cans at your head as you go into a library*

*autographs books in bat blood*

*flushes your manuscript down the toilet*

*tattoos entire text of Finnegan’s Wake on back*

*poops on your blog*

*flies away on a jetpack made of unicorn bones*

*explodes*

224 comments

  • Thinking about this blog post, I got even more irked than I was yesterday when I first read it. I don’t even know who the guy is who wrote the irritating put everyone into a box blog and I don’t read his blog. But I do know as an artist I hate boxes and I do not want to live in one. I could not be more different from Chuck. I am so conservative. I don’t curse. Nobody I hang out with curses. I don’t agree with everything Chuck says. But I LOVE this blog. It’s inspiring. It’s full of flavor. It’s different. It is hilarious. I feel guilty laughing at it sometimes, like it’s a secret guilty pleasure that I enjoy in a dark closet with the door locked. Why would all artists want to be the same? I swear I think that guy is threatened by Chuck and he’s using some twisted reverse psychology that backfired. If I read one more blog written in the informative, businesslike, yet casual style with a witty personal anecdote followed by professional advice that is specific enough to hook the reader but not so specific as to be truly helpful I think I might hurl. This blog is fresh, it’s different, it’s real, it’s down and dirty and it’s great. If someone likes boxes, then they can go live in one.

    • “If someone likes boxes, then they can go live in one.” Love that line!

      Well, said, Erika. Everybody out there’s got a blog, everyone loves spouting writing advice, but nobody, and I mean nobody, is out there is doing what Chuck is doing in terms of paying it forward to the writing community by inspiring, getting us fired up, making us laugh, helping us to feel like what we do matters when we begin to doubt ourselves.

      I know that on those days when my writerly self has taken to sucking its thumb in some dark corner, sniveling and gibbering nonsense, I can coax him out with some Wendigian treat like:

      “Get out now. Go! Go. I will Taser you in the face, nipples, butthole and genitals if I see you hanging around here when you could be banging out perfectly good word count” (from “50 Rantypants Snidbits of Writing Wisdom”).

      . . . or “If you’re drowning in the deep, no matter how hard it is, you’ve gotta hold the air in your lungs until your chest feels like it’s on fire and you’ve gotta swim hard for the surface” (from “The Days You Don’t Feel Like Writing”).

  • I’d never heard of Howey until the Amazon/Hachette kurfluffle, when it seemed like journalists were bending over backward to get a quote from him. A friend sent me one of his ebooks, and it was okay, but I’ve never understood his popularity. I guess it’s like the bigfoot porn thing: there’s an audience for everything. I just came to the blog to say I’ve learned more about writing and the actual WORK of being a writer from Chuck than from anybody, or any BFA program. I don’t care if your “persona” is an act, or if it’s really you. You’re helping the world, one writer at a time, and this writer sincerely appreciates that! Thank you, Chuck.

  • I like Hugh Howey. I think he’s wrong about a few things. Like, say, Mr. W. here. I am a 66-year-old woman who never, ever curses (not even a little bit) and who’s about to get her first tattoo. And I love this blog. Bad language and general horse-wash included. 🙂

  • I find it baffling that anyone would think you could manage to put that voice on so consistently, but whatever. You’re not mean, or even a little bit unkind, and anyone who thinks you’re known for that doesn’t know you at all.

    What I enjoy is the bit about being 60. You and I are about the same age. I like to think that when we’re 60 we’ll sound exactly the same but the young folk then will be all, look at their funny cutesy old-folk language, ha ha, *uses swear-word so potent 60-year-old Chuck faints*

  • I’m 50 and love this blog. Maybe when Mr. HH gets a few more years under his belt he’ll realize that tearing his elders down to try and make himself look cool doesn’t work in the long run.

    In fact, tearing ANYONE down isn’t good. For a guy who seems to have built his reputation encouraging everyone to do anything they want he seems to not understand it also includes the hard, harsh truth at times.

  • The only artificiality I see here is that you do what any other writer does, and that’s choose your words carefully and also edit before publishing a post.

    I FUCKING LOVE WOOL. Just had to say that. *ahem* I knew pretty much nothing about the author, though. Personally, I’m grateful for a voice in publishing that doesn’t pet me on the head with a sickly smile and tell me I’ll achieve my dreams someday. Your blog is, like, actually helpful. And realistic. And it tends to be a lot less cynical than I am, oddly, which helps. So yay.

  • I like your style. It doesn’t seem fake to me. I
    I have enjoyed your blog and books. I have forwarded links to your toddler essays to one of my sons who has a 3 year old. He and his wife laughed until they cried! I have forwarded links to some of your essays about writing and authors to one of my daughters in law who is a writer who found them very encouraging.
    Rock on.

  • I’ve always found your blog to be supportive and encouraging and entertaining. I come here because I appreciate your style, your colorful language. You are who you. You OWN you, and that’s a pretty admirable thing these days.

  • Seriously DON’T CHANGE! I LOOOEEERVE your caps lock and I especially love your italics and asterisks and hyphenated actions. Just keep being you, Wendig, because this is my favorite blog and it never ceases to entertain, enlighten, and encourage. And obviously my opinion is the only one that matters. Okay, not so, but I’m throwing it out there anyway. I adore this blog. Thanks for your words!

  • Got a review that said my book had too much swearing in it. Whelp, guess I need to start adding ‘parental advisory’ stickers to the cover because that’s how I roll.

  • Embrace your schtick; it is you; you are it. What is schtick but another term for voice? Howie’s premise seems to be that it is false, and it would be a false voice FOR HIM.

    I enjoy your blog very much. I like your books, and I ADORE some of them. I found your blog first, then your books, which seems weird to me (50’s), but hey, brave new world and all.

  • I enjoy your blog, form and content. And thank goodness we’re not all the same or like the same things. When it comes to word creativity, you remind me a little of Arthur Plotnik, whose writing I also cherish, although his form is quite different. I have learned a lot from you both. Keep up your shitty work:-)

  • Wait a minute, you’re a bad boy writer? If only I’d known. I just innocently come here for the wonky metaphors and to be envious because I will never be as articulate with profanity as you are.

  • Hugh Howey isn’t as intelligent (or important) as he seems to think himself. Dude sells one commercial book, the sequels don’t show up in ANY of the bookstores in my area, or any of his other works, and he goes around acting like he’s the current Hemingway. I’d tell that dude where he can stick his schtick.

  • New to this blog and loving it… and rather than bash Hugh Howey here (I don’t even know who he is…), just wanted to say that your 3-part mission is not lost on me. Thanks for enlightening and informing, for making me laugh, and for dazzling and bewildering with your inventive profanity. Still working on branding me (inside: snarky, feminist-y, in-your-face / outside: soft-spoken, witch-y woo-woo healer)… a perfect conflation of the two coming soon… I can feel it. Meanwhile… I’ll keep coming back here. To study and watch and learn how to free up my unapologetically brash self…

  • Found your blog through a Facebook article posted by Erika Napolitano and have been reading random older posts. LMAO at the end as I was reading all the asterisks. Had a hard time not laughing out loud as I’m at work and don’t want to bring attention to the only black person in the room. LOL I’m subscribing to your blog. You’re fucking awesome.

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