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 scenicroutesnapshots.com 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.

After These Messages… We’ll Be Riiiiight Back!

I am a marketing department’s worst nightmare.  Because while I completely appreciate good commercials, they never influence me to buy the product.  Kudos to McDonald’s for their retro “Give Me Back My Filet-O-Fish” commercial, equipped with a Ford Ranchero and a catchy 8-bit sounding song via text message.  And those guys in the Sonic commercials, what’s not to love about “get those taste buds going, danga-langa-langa-langa-langa… Mornin’ Gents!” or “YOU’RE A CHEAP DATE!”

Yet I never buy from or eat at McDonald’s or Sonic.  I respect their commercials, but they’re just entertainment.  That’s all.  Completely ineffective as far as getting me to actually spend money.

Which causes me to think about this question:  When is the last time I bought a product or service based on an advertisement, of any kind?  Through a TV commercial, radio commercial, or magazine ad.  Any sort of marketing ad.

And I’m not counting the times I was already searching for a general product and came across a website.  That doesn’t count. 

I’m talking about this situation:  I never heard of the product.  I see an advertisement.  I buy it.

The last purchase I made was a food purchase.  I bought some cupcakes from Gigi’s Cupcakes.  Because my wife heard about how awesome they are from some people at work.  So I bought the cupcakes through word-of-mouth.

Other than other mundane purchases like groceries and gas, the only other item I purchased in the last few weeks was a Rubik’s Cube, which I knew of through years of word-of-mouth.   

Three years ago I bought an i-pod, but not because of the commercials.  Because my friends had them.  Then I bought mine from amazon.com.

Same thing with my GPS. 

Same thing with choosing Verizon Wireless as my cell phone company.

And my subscription to Details magazine. 

And going through wordpress.com to get my own website.

And my town house.  My wife’s friend already lived in that neighborhood.

And my Wii.  I was sold on it well over a year before it even came out.

Even when I see a commercial for a movie, I won’t go see it or rent it or even watch it at all until I’ve talked to someone who’s seen it or until I’ve read a promising online review.  Word-of-mouth.

As for buying music, I may buy a new CD if I hear it playing on the radio or at Borders, but that’s not advertising, that’s exposure. 

So there’s the pattern.  I only buy things based on the recommendation of a person I trust.  And of course they’re never the ones actually selling me the product.

Okay, I can finally remember a time when I bought a product based on a commercial or ad.  It was high school.  My freshman year: 1995.  I bought a Trix t-shirt because I looked through a t-shirt magazine my friend gave me.

Oh wait, nevermind.  I only got the magazine because a friend gave it to me and said that I would like it.

So the last time I bought a product directly because of an advertisement was probably back in the early ‘90’s when I would buy Ninja Turtle action figures.  Toys.  When I was a kid. 

As an adult, I guess I kinda like the idea of outsmarting the advertising departments of companies.

Bottom line:  If a product or service is worth purchasing, word will get around and eventually get to me.  That’s the only advertising that honestly matters to me.