Writing for Readers (and Reading the Writings) of the Opposite Sex

Are most of my readers men or women?  Let’s take a look at the demographics of Scenic Route Snapshots…

I like to keep up with the demographics of my readers, as best I can, by checking to see which posts are consistently the most popular and also by seeing which keywords are the most commonly searched phrases.  Because while I do write creatively and freely, I also want to be able to cater to “revisitors” to give them something worth coming back for- hopefully ending up in that coveted “Favorites” tab on their computer screen.

Another good indicator of who I am attracting as readers is by looking at my “tag cluster cloud” on the right side of the screen, entitled “What I Write About the Most”.  These are the topics I label myself to help readers in the WordPress community (the website franchise this site is published through) find posts about a particular subject they want to read about.  The more times I publish a post with that “tag word”, the larger it appears in the cluster cloud.  Here’s a breakdown of the tag words currently in my cluster cloud with an according “gender predictor” with each one:

Masculine: manspeak, men, wife

Feminine: Ali Fedotowsky, baby, Chris Harrison, dad from day one, Jake Pavelka, The Bachelor, The Bachelorette

Neutral: 1983, ABC (the network featuring LOST and The Bachelor, which I’ve written countless recaps for), America, American, Bible, blog, blogging, blogs, cancer, Christian, Christianity, coffee, comedy, déjà vu, English, facebook, family, Fort Payne, friends, funny, God, Google, Italian, Jacob (from LOST), Jesus, Jewish, Jews, life, LOST, Nashville, Nick Shell (while I am masculine, I appeal to both genders, as this particular post will explain), people, Starbucks, Thailand

While it appears to me that most of the topics I mention in my writings are gender neutral, the ones that are specifically feminine do outweigh those which are specifically masculine.  And even then, through the Manspeak series (categorized as “masculine”) is written to explain the way men think and speak, I’m inclined to assume that more women read the series than men, to understand their boyfriends, husbands, sons, and fathers.  (Click the title to get to the main Manspeak page: Manspeak, Volume 0: Introduction).

My estimate is that is that at least 85% of my readers are women and no more than 15% are men.  Not only do my Bachelor/Bachelorette recaps increase my female readership, but also so does my dad from day one series, which chronicles my thoughts as an expecting father. And that’s a peculiar thing to me- that I can write so frequently to the appeal of the feminine mindset, which works so differently from my own.

It’s happened throughout the course of history; from the Bible being written by all men (though there are countless female protagonists like Ruth and Esther) to the Harry Potter series written by J. K. Rowling (whose real name is Joanne Murray, but who was strongly encouraged by her publisher to use a more masculine pen name that would better accommodate her targeted audience of young boys), men and women have been successfully writing for not only their own gender, but for the opposite as well.

But even though men and women think so differently, more important is the fact that People Who Write share a common trait with People Who Read: an artistic drive that supersedes gender differences.  I am completely bankrupt when it comes to sports trivia or fixing a garbage disposal, but I can come up with something new and creative to write about everyday that connects to the appropriate readers.

Thank you ladies and gentlemen for supporting my masculine-and-feminine-friendly writings.


Some People Like Being Offended and/or Taking Advantage of Pointing Out a Person’s Perceived Faux Pas So They Can Correct Them and Feel Empowered by It

There’s more than one way to say, “You’re wrong and I’m right.”

I admit that part of the joy I get in reading the online articles of other writers who are much more popular and commercialized than I am is from skimming through the hundreds of opinionated comments that people leave at the bottom of the post: People on both sides of the issue trying to prove both the author and/or each other wrong.  Here’s an example I effortlessly found this morning: http://articles.moneycentral.msn.com/Insurance/AssessYourNeeds/weston-7-insurance-myths-that-could-cost-you.aspx

And it often starts with one person who slightly takes the author’s words to an extreme context to where they can become offended.  Therefore, they’re happy because now they get to leave a comment to tell off the writer, which indeed draws a flood of other commenters disagreeing with the first person.  And so the snowball grows. 

For many people, their desperation for a sense of power is so strong that they make themselves a sort of victim, offended by the slightest opinion of someone who does have some amount of control or influence over others- in this case, an online author.  A website where this tends to happen regularly is The Grio.  Here’s an example:

http://www.thegrio.com/specials/be-well-be-healthy/how-obesity-has-become-a-part-of-black-culture.php

Of course the easily offended don’t just get their kicks from the Online World, they practice their form of self-psychosis in the real world too.  Not too long ago I offended someone when I bought a snack for them (they gave me the money for it up front) and I didn’t bring it back to them in a separate container from the one I got for myself.  It all worked out because they ended up giving me theirs without me paying them back- but still, the person made a scene over something very petty, in front of several other people.  So I felt compelled to apologize- if for no other reason, because I felt awkward.  (But if anyone should have been offended, I’d like to think it should have been me- for the sense of slight public humiliation I went through in the process.)

Events like that have taught me to apologize less.  It’s not always my fault when a person is offended (though it often is).  I’m learning to be better about sorting out the people who I indeed hurt through my lack of sensitivity and those who are simply chronic Glass Joe’s.  So hear this, people who are offended way too easily:

Sorry, but I’m just not that sorry anymore.

Good Men Still Exist; They Just Don’t Make the Headlines as Easily

“The handy thing about being a father is that the historic standard has been set so pitifully low.” -Michael Chabon, Manhood for Amateurs

Yes, everyone is well aware that despite all the good men in history who have left a good name for themselves (along with plenty of quotable quotes, with many of them being strong military leaders or respected writers), there are enough deadbeats, scoundrels, and cads to cast a negative connotation on the word “man”.  Women are expected to be saints and givers; sadly, men are expected to be… well, not a lot is expected of men anymore.  But not all good men are long gone.

In the aftermath of Father’s Day last week, the Internet was full of freshly published articles about the modern man, father, and husband.  Two in particular really got my attention.  The first one reviewed the history of TV dads from Leave It to Beaver, to Married with Children, to Parenthood.  It brought out the fact that in the 1950’s, dads were too perfect, in the 1990’s they were often portrayed as bumbling idiots, and now in the 2010’s, TV dads have finally began to look more like real dads.  See http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/37758834/ns/today-entertainment/.  (Though I would argue that the 1980’s were good to TV dads…)

The other article that really got me thinking was one I found on Stuff Christians Like, http://stuffchristianslike.net/2010/06/the-wild-difference-between-a-mothers-day-sermon-and-a-fathers-day-sermon/, which explained how many fathers in Christian churches feel miserable on Father’s Day Sunday because the sermon is about how men need to step up to the plate and be better fathers, while the Mother’s Day sermon provides nothing but praise for women. 

I definitely see how good men often don’t get the praise they deserve.  Like Zack Morris once said on Saved by the Bell when Jessie declared that all men are jerks, “Hey, don’t judge us by our worst specimens.”  What can we do to enhance the minority of men who are truly good fathers, husbands, and hard-working citizens?

My guess is to call them out on their goodness when you see it.  It seems that if we as a culture began to celebrate the men who are doing right, it would be more of an incentive for those who are just half-way doing it, seeing there is praise and appreciation for being a “good man”.  But when the goal is simply to be better than Charlie Sheen (both the actual person and his fictionalized character on the totally lame yet successful sitcom Three and Half Men), there’s a certain lack of motivation to become a better man. 

In an age where stereotypes of men who are drug to church by their wives end up jumping in a 15 passenger van for a weekend trip to their nearest major sports arena to learn from a former NFL player at a Promise Keepers conference that they should spend more time with their kids instead of watching sports games and that they should share the household responsibilities with their wives and stop looking at pornography on their home computers, then they go back home a changed man for a month, then repeat the process each following year, there are still plenty of men in America who actually already are indulging themselves in being the husbands and fathers they need to be.  There are actually good men in America who don’t have to be reminded to be good.  Because they are already aware of the reward in being a respected man who lives for his family, not himself.

Celebrate the good men in your life.  They may instantly brush aside your compliments or seem embarrassed when you do, but inside it means the world to them.  Of course with good men being the coveted gem in a parking lot full of gravels, my guess is, you already do.

Being Engaging, Yet Never Really Standing on Dangerous Ground: My First 30,000 Hits on WordPress

Thanks for 30,000 hits.

I think it should be a sin to bore people.  But it’s an insult to art when an artist has to resort to shock value to get a person’s attention.  Somewhere in between Stale Familiarity and Offensive Toxicity is a place called Spunky Creativity.  Off-beat and optimistic.  That’s the place I try to write from.

Writers, by nature, put themselves in a vulnerable position.  Anytime I publish a post that I know has potential to be popular, I usually am suppressing at least a little bit of anxiousness for it.  Because I am implementing (yet testing the limits of) #6 of The Code:  “Be edgy but not controversial.”

Will it be controversial instead of just edgy?  Will I somehow offend a reader unknowingly?  Will I expose too much of myself in the writing, seeming like a know-it-all, a jerk, or douche?

My favorite author, Michael Chabon, referenced this thought process in his newest nonfiction book, Manhood for Amateurs: “Anything good that I have written has, at some point during its composition, left me feeling uneasy and afraid.  It has seemed, for a moment, to put me at risk.”

As it tends to be the case, the edgiest posts I write end up becoming my personal favorites and the ones I am proudest of.  Because they have the most substance.  The most creativity.  And are hopefully the most engaging.

Here are several examples: The Cannabis Conspiracy, Introduction; Modern Day Scarlet Letters: R&B; Free Marriage Advice; Singleness; The Gift No One Really Wants; The Funny Thing about Jews; Emotionally Charged Words; Why Do Bad Things Happen to Good People ; Water into Wine; BS Detector; What is a Christian Nation, Anyway?; Religious Views on Facebook Profiles

Grabbing a reader’s attention is one thing.  But having what I wrote stay in their head for a day or two, having them ponder about it, having them share that same idea to others either through conversation or by my forwarding my link, having them save my website in their favorites, well, that’s another thing.

It’s important to me that my website is not a gimmick, a trend, or anything that can be described as “cute”.  But I also have to make sure I’m not sparking a political or religious debate.  Because if what I write is in deed controversial (as opposed to just being edgy), I could wind up in a situation where my post gets attention just because of the long trail of comments of people arguing with each other, themselves, and me over the open-ended content I wrote about.

That’s not for me.  Let other people argue. (Often, controversial topics aren’t new and fresh anyway.)

That’s one of the reasons that my current #2 post of all time, Capital Punishment, In Theory, remains popular.  In it, I don’t question whether or not capital punishment is wrong or right.  I question those who support capital punishment with “could you be the one to pull the trigger if it was up to you?”  That’s not controversial, that’s deep.  And edgy.

If nothing else, when I write, I am simply trying to entertain myself.  So if I’m not intrigued by the material I write about, I figure no one else will be either.

Other posts of this “10,000 Hits” series:

Being Down to Earth, Yet Never Really Touching the Ground (posted April 11, 2010)

Being Original, Yet Never Really Breaking New Ground (posted May 18, 2010)

LOST Recap: Finale- “The End”

I loved it.  Absolutely.  And I believe it was the best, and really, only way, to end the show.  But it just took me 24 hours after watching to understand why.

The entire show was just about Jack Shephard.  Everything else, including the island and its ability to heal people and time travel, the Smoke Monster, the Dharma Initiative, the Others, Jack’s friends, Jack’s enemies, the light in the cave… All of it were the parts of Jack’s life that ultimately mattered to his existence.

In the likeness of the movie Vanilla Sky, when you’re dead, it’s all over- so why focus on the character’s earthly life after they die?  But the writers of LOST took that concept to a new level by acknowledging that all the mysteries, actions, heartaches, and triumphs all boil down to one thing- the people that were involved in your life.

Even Vincent the dog’s best purpose on the island was to comfort Jack as he died.

I definitely plan to write much more in the near future answering the remaining questions about LOST: Why was The Man in Black never given a name?  Who was the first protector of the island?  Did it really matter that Desmond and/or Locke typed the code every 108 minutes?  What was really accomplished by Juliet sacrificing her life by detonating the bomb in 1977?

But as for today, I think it’s more important to focus exactly what happened in the finale.  The most begging question is what’s up with the flash-sideways?

The first time we saw the characters of LOST in the finale season, they were on the plane.  Note there were never flash-forwards or flash-backs during the flash-sideways, indicating no past or future in that timeline.  They weren’t reincarnated, having to live their lives all over again, in this version with the island being sunk.  The alt-reality was simply an “acknowledge your dead and that your life mattered” precursor to the afterlife, often referred to as “purgatory” or “the waiting room”; it started with the plane ride.

Keeping in mind that life on the island (and “the real world”) continued after Jack died, that Hurley and Ben served as the island’s protectors for the rest of their lives, that Claire, Kate, Sawyer, Richard, Miles, and Frank all left the island and lived normal lives back in the United States or wherever they chose to re-establish their lives… they all still died at some point.  Most of them of old age, living to be in their 70’s.

And once they died, before going to Heaven, they were reunited, having the blessing remembering how they mattered to each other.  And since time, in essence, doesn’t exist in the afterlife, they all met at the same time, since it didn’t matter that Jack died 40 years before most of them did.

But because Jack was the main character of the show, the show stopped with his earthly death.  The rest of the living characters lived their rest of their lives and eventually died, the show just didn’t continue to follow their earthly lives.

So when Jack died in 2007 (three years after originally crashing on the island), and (say, for example) that Kate died in 2051, they met at the same time in “the waiting room”.  (Because time doesn’t exist after earthly life ends.)  Then they went on to Heaven with the rest in the church.  (And Ben went once he was ready.)

The writers were clever to utilize a nearly universal belief that there is some sort of life after death.  The episode was quite saturated in Christianity (which was a smart idea since most of America identifies with some version of it), yet didn’t write off other popular international religious beliefs, thanks to the “major six religions of the world” stained glass window in the church.  The point wasn’t to depict any religion’s specific teaching on the afterlife as specifically accurate, but to instead play and expound on our perceived general ideas on life after death and the importance of the people in our lifetime after we die.

I don’t see how LOST could have ended any other way.  Yes, technically “all our questions” were not answered.  But it involves using our imaginations and clues from the show to fill in the blanks, as we as Losties have been doing the whole time.  It will bring me much joy to take matters into my own hands by filling in these blanks with many more LOST posts to come.

Comments welcome.

(They will most likely be spun off into a new post if they are interesting, insightful, or raise a good question; or instantly deleted if they are full of nerd spite: “NO!  You’re wrong!  What really happened was…  Looks like you never thought of that while trying to make your weak point, did you?…”).

http://today.msnbc.msn.com/id/37320802/ns/today-entertainment/