Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground: My First 10,000 Hits

Thanks for 10,000 hits.

I am not a writer who consistently relates to mainstream readers.  People have to find me here in the back corner of the Internet.  It’s because I want my writings to speak louder than me the person.  I make a point to avoid shameless promotion.  Because the way I live my life, I say if a product is worth buying or trying, it travels through word-of-mouth and that’s what leads to a solid following.

Not everyone “gets” my writing.  It’s not for everyone.  Because not everyone is in touch with their “weird side”.  But the weird side is the only side I’ve ever been on.

I write for people who space out like I do.  People who stay to watch all the credits roll after the movie is over.  For those who don’t think Dane Cook or Larry the Cable Guy are funny.

It’s not an exclusive club.  Everyone is welcome to this hideout.  But not everyone wants in.  Not everyone wants to come back.

I want to be perceived as “down to Earth” but I know I’m a little too abstract to actually be.

Just like Dexter (the fictional serial killer) has a certain code he strictly follows in the first two seasons of the show (he has to always be one step ahead, he only kills murderers, he only kills people who he has proven guilty), I have a certain code for the way I write.

My code is inspired by a book my wife got me a year ago for my birthday on how to write professionally. It helps keep focused and hopefully from sounding like I think I’m cool just because I have a website.

Now that has received its 10,000th hit this week, as a thanks to those who keep coming back, I will share my secret code.

Nick Shell’s Code of Writing:

1)     Avoid the use of the word “you” and the phrases “you know what I mean?”, “now I gotta tell you”, and “think about it”. There’s an importance of maintaining a balance of both a professional distance and a personal connection.  This is a non-fiction commentary on life, not a campy sitcom like Saved by the Bell.  Therefore, don’t break the 4th wall by talking directly and casually to the audience.

2)     Avoid using the phrases “I think”, “I feel”, “I guess” or “my opinion is”. While everything posted on the website is an educated opinion, don’t make it obvious.  Speak with authority.

3)     Avoid putting the unnecessary details of your personal life in the writing. This isn’t a reality show or facebook.  There’s no reason to list the full names of people close to me in my life or to make a habit of inserting pictures of my personal life unless it directly relates to what I am writing about.

4)     Avoid profanity. I’ve heard it said before, “If you have to curse to get someone’s attention or to get your own point across, then you need to find a way to be more creative”.  I don’t go around using “awesome” or “stupid” in every conversation, so it’s just as lame to overuse curse words.

5)     Avoid referring to the website as a “blog”. Blogs are for people still using MySpace who are stuck in 2006 or that are obsessed with facebook status updates.  I write.  I put up new posts.  I even write articles.  But I don’t have a blog.

6)     Be edgy but not controversial. There’s no need to preach about abortion or turn my website into a breeding ground for debate.  Finding ways to use the certain words  in the majority of what I write tends to give me the edge I need.

7)  Write about weird stuff but make it seem normal. Or is it more like the opposite?  Write about normal stuff and make it seem weird.  A mixture of both.  That’ll work.

8.) Find somewhat unusual pictures to integrate into the writing material, giving the reader a sense of reading a magazine article. I, for one, like cool pictures to look at while I read.  It’s a way of adding another sensory feel to the experience.

9)  Write an excessive number of posts every month. They won’t all be awesome, but it’s often the ones that I predict won’t really connect with readers that  are the ones that really do.  The more I write, the better I’ll be, and the better I’ll know how to connect to readers.

The Way a Name Sounds Compared to How a Name is Spelled

My name is… My name is…

Some people have long, complicated names. Like Ben Roethlisberger. Or M Night Shyamalan. I’ll even throw Weird Al Yankovic in that category. But just because a name is short, that doesn’t mean it’s not complicated. My name, in theory, is very simple. Especially when it’s written down.

But when it’s simply spoken, especially over the phone, to someone who has never heard my name before, they usually don’t get it right on the first try. Some popular variations include, but are not limited to the following, in all possible combinations:

Mick Shale
Mike Snell
Rick Schell
Nicky Shaw
Nic Snow
Mickey Show
Nate Shelton
Ned Shells

Because when all a person has to go on is what they simply hear, they are working with a muddled form that sounds literally like this: “Nicgtkahshelahw”.

I remember how fascinated I was when someone pointed out to me about ten years ago that often, when we say a word, we don’t correctly pronounce it, because we can get by without doing it clearly. When we say “cat”, we pronounce it “caaa”. We leave off the “t”. I had to practice a few times at first. Then I realized it’s true.

But if we are sure to emphasize the “t”, the word “cat” literally sounds more like this: “cattuh”. We tend not to hear the extra syllables we add on to the end of words. And we make a habit of leaving off the strong consonant sounds on the ends also, as previously mentioned.

I wonder, too, what mental image my last name gives people. Personally, I’ve always envisioned a turtle shell, hence the picture of a turtle at the top of this site. But people usually tell me they think of “a seashell at the ocean”. When in truth, “schel” is simply the German word for “loud and noisy”, which over time evolved into “Shell”. It would be nice to imagine my ancestors were a bunch of cool hippies hanging out at the beach. But in reality, not so much.

Secretly, some sort of picture pops up in my head for everyone I know- as soon as I hear their last name. I’m taking requests, actually. For those who send me a request on facebook I will reveal my mental image for their name.

I expect no one to actually do that, though. That would be like getting sucked into the TV screen.  It’s what we in the theatre world call “breaking the 4th wall”.