Anne Lamott on Writing


“But how?” my students ask. “How do you actually do it?”

“You sit down, I say. You try to sit down at approximately the same time every day. This is how you train your unconscious to kick in for you creatively. So you sit down at, say, nine every morning, or ten every night. You put a piece of paper in the typewriter, or you turn on the computer and bring up the right file, and then you stare at it for an hour or so. You begin rocking, just a little at first, and then like a huge autistic child. You look at the ceiling, and over at the clock, yawn, and stare at the paper again. Then, with your fingers poised on the keyboard, you squint at an image that is forming in your mind — a scene, a locale, a character, whatever — and you try to quiet your mind so you can hear what that landscape or character has to say above the other voices in your mind.”

– Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life

Wisdom for writers everywhere.

The Five People You Meet On The Internet*

5 People2*With apologies to Mitch Albom.

One of the inescapable facts of life these days is the internet. You go there to find leads on jobs. You go there for the news. You go there to connect with friends and family you might not otherwise hear from. It’s quickly become not just part of our world, but in some cases, it’s become our entire world.

Which means that the more time we spend cruising the information superhighway (remember when we called it that?), the more likely we are to run into certain types of people. Five types, to be exact. They cannot be avoided, no matter how hard you try; if you have so much as an email account, you’re guaranteed to run into at least one of them, and the more you expand your cyber-footprint, the more likely you are to run into all five.

Chances are, you’re one of them.

So, who are the five people you meet on the internet? Based on my extensive interactions, here they are, from least active to most:

Lurkers – this might easily be the largest category, and everyone on the internet knows a lurker. This type of person is not engaged online. They might have one email address, just to “get with the times”, but they seldom use it. A Lurker is also fond of signing on to Facebook or Twitter with someone else’s account, just to see what’s going on. Every once in a while they might drop a comment or two on a post, but it’s always under their pseudonymous ID. They also like to use Google Earth to look up people’s houses and see where they’re living. Basically, they’re someone’s grandparent, who’s just trying to understand the world their grandkids are living in.

Likers – These are the people who don’t contribute much in the way of content or information, but they will Like the crap out of every puppy picture, baby photo, eCard meme, inspirational quote, and “Click Like to Cure Cancer” post that anyone, ever, posts. They are nice people who want to belong, and have no problem filling up your Facebook feed with ten thousand of their “favorite” things. If you bombard them with enough Like-able content, they will click Like so fast and so furiously that they’d eventually Like a picture of Hitler kicking a puppy while pushing a nun down the stairs, without even realizing it.

Crusaders – There are two classes of Crusaders. The first class pops up every election cycle, or whenever there’s a hot news item about a controversial topic. They tend to post all sorts of pictures, videos, and links that not only affirm their preferred position, but also attack anyone who holds a different view. They are very nice people in real life, but online they tend to be strident-bordering-on-militant, and they won’t hesitate to hide or unfriend people who don’t agree with them. The second class has a personal cause they love to promote or talk about all the time – to the exclusion of anything else. They don’t post a picture or leave a comment that doesn’t revolve around their particular subject. It can be sports, their kids, their church, or their favorite comic book movie, but whenever they get a free moment, they’re ready to share with you all of the details you didn’t know you needed to know.

Trolls – Perhaps the most famous of all the five types of people, a Troll is a professional pot-stirrer, the kind of person who provokes a Crusader for the fun of it. Trolls love causing trouble, and are often better known by the user names on Reddit, FourChan, or other Troll-familiar websites. A Troll is the kind of person who would pop up in the middle of a discussion about the fair tax suggesting that the IRS is not only a great American institution, they should very well have the power to go after and investigate fringe political groups who skirt the tax code. After dropping that little conversational hand grenade, a Troll will then sit back and watch the Crusaders lose their minds. Trolls are very smart, and probably very tired of living in someone’s basement.

Promoters – This is the worst of all internet users because they are always online. Constantly. The kind of idiot who can rack up almost 2,000 tweets in less than six weeks. They have their Twitter feed hooked up to their Facebook, website and blog, so nothing that rolls through their “creative” little minds goes unnoticed. They are usually pushing you to check out their latest ebooks or sharing something witty they happened to think up while waiting on line at the local Publix, or asking you to go check the blog or book of a friend. They have multiple Facebook pages (personal, professional, and product-related) and are constantly asking you to check them out. They are usually pretty funny, or at the very least offer some form of entertainment, but their single biggest trait is that they are ubiquitous, almost as familiar as the other advertising flotsam you see floating around on any given page. Worst of all, they’re clueless about how much they put out there.

There are variations on each of the types, but as far as generalizations and stereotypes go, that’s a pretty complete list. But in case I’ve missed anyone, sound off below and let me know what kinds of people you’ve met on the internet.

Oh, and be sure to follow, like and connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. And if you haven’t had a chance to read my books, please check out my author page on Amazon. And if you have read my books, please leave a review and tweet the link…

The Christian Humor-ectomy

ImageThis will have to be a fast post, as I’ve got several things to do this morning, but after reading some of the Tweets during last night’s S—r Bowl (don’t want to infringe the copyright), I have decided that many people of faith have a humor-ectomy at some point after their conversion. I’m not sure when this happens, or why, but for some of my brothers and sisters the only unforgivable sin is laughter.

There’s nothing that these humor-fasting folks can’t make holy. Doesn’t matter if the topic is as fluffy and ridiculous as a championship game for a sport played primarily in America yet deemed a global title, they’ll find some way to add the trombone of sadness.

It really struck me last night, in the midst of the Big Game Blackout, when approximately 4 billion Christians decided that the world needed 30 minutes of extended metaphors on darkness, spiritual blindness, evil, pain, suffering, and the efficacy of being the Light. Sure, some of my less holy friends made jokes about the outage, but far more people commented on the “message” of the moment: the message being, apparently, that we should always be on the lookout for Debbie Downer.

I’m the opposite. I sat there and tried to think of as many good jokes as possible. That says something about me, I’m sure – probably something unpleasant – but mainly it just means that in the face of absurdity I like to laugh. It’s sort of my family’s main way of dealing with the world; we subscribe to the idea of “If you ain’t laughing, you’re crying, and ain’t nobody got time for that.” My grandfathers taught me the power of a good laugh, and I incorporate humor into my teaching and writing because it helps make connections.

Heck, if you’re a parent, you know full well how powerful laughter can be. Either you laugh at the stuff your kids do, or you waste your life seething. I would prefer to teach my children laughter rather than unending rage. Maybe it’s just me.

Is there a time when humor is inappropriate? Absolutely. I’m not talking about being jester all the time. But the converse is true: we don’t have to be serious all the time either. Solomon said it first, but The Byrds made it culturally accessible: to everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to laugh is included in the “everything.”

I believe that we can look at our daily lives and find ample evidence for the grace and power of God at work. I think we can stare deeply into the sadness and seriousness of life and find God’s truth; I believe equally that we can look into the joy and laughter of life and find His DNA as well.

So relax, Serious Christian. Have a laugh. Find a funny. It’s okay. And for you newer Christians out there, don’t feel like you have to cut off your sense of humor to be holy.

Honestly, it’s probably the opposite.

Christian Meme of the Week

Just a little humor for your Monday. (Assuming you find this sort of thing funny.)

And for those who don’t understand the context: in the South, the “wine” served in communion cups is often grape juice. Thus the reference to “the fruit of the vine” as opposed to wine. Don’t want to be misleading, you know…

Most Baptist Man Drink