rage and ennui

how to write an award-winning one year journal

So, here we are.  One year later.  One year of Squishy.

I guess it’s been more of a journey for me than for anyone else.  I didn’t use to think of things like Doogie Howser.  Now every time something happens someone either pops out with a “This will be in Squishy,” or I think to myself, “How am I going to make this interesting enough for Squishy?”

I’m sure there are some of you out there who are thinking about starting an online journal.  Perhaps you’ve already started one.  And when you sit in front of your index.html page and think to yourself W.W.P.D.?  (What Would Pamie Do?) you have to remind yourself that to achieve greatness, you have to start with greatness.  Squishy wasn’t built in a day (just a year), but you can tell it was going to be successful from my very first entry one year ago.  A quick look at my first entry will illustrate beautifully how I was destined for greatness.

16 June 1998– Fear me.  Loathe me.

Check out that powerhouse of a title.  Catchy and very summer of ’98, doncha think?  Here I’m coming on strong and not taking any shit.  You can fear me, you can loathe me.  See?  I don’t care.  It’s that kind of rage combined with ennui that sets you up to be one of the top web writers of 1998.  The title I was using at the time, at the top of the page was “Are you talking?”  See?  It’s got a double meaning.  I’m rambling on and on, or ranting on and on, depending on who I feel like being.  “Are you talking?” has the following meanings:  I want to know if you are talking back to me, or if you agree with me; I can’t even hear you talk over the power of my words; I am David Spade and you are Chris Farley.

Either way, I’ve come out like a tiger.  Rowr.

So I’m a little upset.  I just finished watching Eve’s Bayou last night.  Man, it was incredible.  I can’t believe it didn’t get ANY nominations last year.

But not like a vicious, man-hating tiger or anything.  I’m just a “little upset.”  I’m not “pissed.”  I’m not “fucking pissed.”  I’m not trying to turn people away with my first words.  Note my use of the capitalized “ANY.”  This is so my real voice comes through.  New writers, new ranters to the online world, remember that your voice needs to be heard.  Use bold, use capital letters, use exclamation points– but use them all the time.  I want to you italicize your voice more than Holden Caulfield.  It is up to you to make your page sing with different sized text, different fonts, and perhaps a blinking line or two.

I mean, it was well-written, had direction that utilized theatrical conventions, it had strong performances from young actors (usually the pit-fall of every major motion picture) and it was filmed beautifully.  To quote my boyfriend, “it had atmosphere.”

See, I’ve set myself up to be this ice-cool power chick who’s got something to say and the right mouth to say it with and then I slyly bring up my boyfriend.  See, I didn’t say, “My boyfriend says,” which sounds like I’m flipping my hair and popping my gum as I say it.  No, I turn the phrase.  I give it a little Ferris:  “To quote my boyfriend.”

You can see myself pushing my sunglasses up and straightening my beret before I even finish the word “atmosphere.”  Now I’ve shown you that I’m cool, I’m hip, and I’m possibly heterosexual but definitely have a man somehow in my life.  I also give a quick jab to young film stars, which shows you that I’m old enough to separate myself from “the kids” but smart enough to show you why.

It’s really a wonder that you weren’t here all along, isn’t it?

Nothing.  No mention.  Just another film to the list of 1997- The Year the Academy Ignored.  Donnie Brasco, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, Austin Powers, and now Eve’s Bayou.

Here is where I show you that I watch a lot of film and I know what I’m talking about.  I mean, look at that cool list of 1997/1998 films.  Anyone who was anyone back then was rallying for Austin Powers’ Academy award.  By rolling this list of films off the top of my head as films that should have received more nods I am showing you that I have a good grasp of pop culture and I’m not afraid to use it.  I also want to be like Diane.

Fuck L.A. Confidential.  It sucked.  Kim Basinger couldn’t act wet in the shower.

Here I am demonstrating that I am “tough.” And I have an “attitude.”  It’s very important when you first start an online journal that you keep that “Fuck you if you don’t like me” position.  Otherwise you’re likely to get walked all over.  Start your entries with perhaps a meta rant, or a string of obscenities.  Hell, it fucking worked for my sorry bitch ass.

1997 was about money.

You could almost hear Dennis Miller saying, “Now I don’t want to go off on a rant here,” which I already find to be the most tedious line in his show.  Still, you want to try and find a catchphrase or a pattern that your journal will follow.  People don’t want variety in online journals.  They don’t want to see all sorts of different sides of you.  If they wanted random attitudes and emotions, they’d just talk to their significant others. People read online journals for a sense of stability.  You must find your niche and use it.  You must always be the smart one, or the weird one, or the druggie one.  Don’t tell us about your uncle locking you in the car for two days on Monday and then try and win us over with the story of you waddling through your hallway with your pants around your ankles to find toilet paper on Tuesday.  We want to know who you are and where you’re coming from and then stick to that.  If you hate Lisa in November, you’d better still be coming up with new ways to call her a smelly back-stabbing bitch in December.  Don’t let the holidays get to your head.  Don’t let your online personality grow or mature.  Don’t change his or her voice.  Remember, your audience never changes either.  Let’s keep this thing real, guys.

What made money and what made money while it looked like it didn’t or it couldn’t.  “Oh, here’s your obligatory pat on the back, The Full Monty.  Aren’t you foreign filmmakers cute?” “Oh, Mr. Damon, Mr. Affleck, have a screenwriting award.  We’ll ignore your acting talent until you’ve put in the time.  Minnie who?  Is she British?  Well, nominate her, I guess.  We’ll give the award to an American, anyway.”

Oooh, see?  Here’s where I’m really mad and I’m going around just dropping names and making snide remarks.  The cool thing was I’d only seen The Full Monty and Good Will Hunting that year.  Never saw the other nominees, but see how I already know that the other guys didn’t deserve to win?  It’s that kind of blind knowledge that makes you oh-so-cool and makes the audiences drool for more.  I’m too cool to care, you see?  You need to be, too.  I mean, if that’s what you want to do, I don’t care.  It’s your life.

See?  Wasn’t that cool?

Here I’m also giving a stab at the Academy Awards by saying that we are elitist.  Picking on the elite is a sure-fire way to get a popular online journal.  You’ve got to have a bold statement.  Don’t worry about backing it up with any facts or any sort of reason.  Just find something strong and say it.  Leave it out there.  It’s not your job to explain it, it’s your readers’ job to figure out why you are so cool.

Jesus Christ.

Quick little uses of “the Lord’s name” show that you aren’t opposed to cursing, and perhaps you aren’t affiliated with any particular religion.  This makes you cool, too.  You just give a whole paragraph that says, “Jesus Christ,” and you know that all of your readers are picturing you hunched over your keyboard with a glass of whiskey smoking cigarette after cigarette, pushing back your greasy, stressed-out hair mumbling to yourself, “What else pisses me off?”

It makes the crowd cheer for you.   It’s like a sigh in the middle of brilliance.  Rage and ennui, remember.

Jesus Christ, indeed.

Hey, I like the Bulls.

Work the sports angle, baby.  Win the boys over to your tent.  You’ve got to remember who everyone in your audience is, and the net is mostly male, after all.  You’ve got two choices:   naked pictures of yourself or talk about boy things.  Sports and cars are boy things.  Don’t even worry about whether or not you’re gonna sound dumb.  If you say something you can’t back up, just put a naked picture of yourself under it.  Everyone will forgive you.

So how’s your journal looking? Is it getting better?  Do you already have more hits?  I’m not done.

I know this is not the “cool” thing to do right now.  These people who have decided to like the Jazz for the past three weeks seem to be the most pissed off about the whole thing.  How can you decide not to root for a team anymore because they win too often?  Oh, they are too good?  They have style, and they are classic basketball players.  They keep the games interesting.

Talking like David Spade always makes you a hit online.  Condescending tones are the key to personal success.

They are interesting, intelligent personalities.

Now the ladies are interested again.  The intellects who want nothing to do with the barbaric ritual known as basketball are raising their eyebrows.  “Wait a minute, these gentlemen are intelligent?  Well, I had no idea.  I should give them a second chance.”

Again, don’t worry about backing up your claim.  Follow all statements that are merely your opinions that you are declaring as facts with sordid stories about your drug use or random sex that you had.  If all else fails, write an entry about how you masturbate.  Nothing gets a readership going than wanker stories.

They make you feel something.  Whether you love ’em or hate ’em, you feel something for them.  And you can’t hate them for making you feel more passionate about the game.  And that’s why I keep watching them.  Going out on top…that’s the way to do it this year.

Here’s where I get to sound like I’m on the set of Hoosiers.  The Bulls are just downright American, people.  You have to keep the people wondering:  “Well, it sounds like she hates everything… except America.  Well, golly, she’s just like me.  I hate things, too.  You go, girl.”

Have you noticed that the media is going crazy with the phrase “Fear and Loathing…?”

Observational humor.  The keystone to any comic’s repertoire.  When all else fails, ask someone if they’ve ever noticed something.  It could be the most obvious thing in the world that you’re noticing, but someone’s gonna go, “Yeah, I have noticed that.  She speaks the truth.”  Or, if you pick something that no one has ever noticed, the reader will think, “Wow.  I haven’t noticed that.  Maybe I’m not paying enough attention.”  This train of thought was also a great idea in 1998 because it showed that you were hip to Seinfeld without actually bringing up any of the characters.

“Fear and Loathing in Austin’s night clubs.”

Here I’m telling you where I live.  I want you to know that I’m a part of the Austin journal scene.  I’m not afraid to be a part of a group, and yet stand out.  I am a part of something cool, but perhaps I’m cooler.  I don’t know.  I don’t care.  It’s your life.  Whatever.

“Fear and Loathing in Kathie Lee’s sweatshop.”

Once again I have a knowledge of pop culture that’s as sharp as any Jay Leno monologue, and I’m not afraid to use it.

“Clearance sale causes fear and loathing.”

There’s my powerhouse closer on the three-and-out rule.  Nothing could top the clearance sale bit.  You can tell right here that I’m a powerhouse comedian who takes no shit.

And anything “Zilla.”   And mixing Godzilla with the lizards from Fear and Loathing… Terry Gilliam should sue.

Is your head spinning from all of the pop culture?  How could she mix Godzilla with Brazil?  She’s amazing!  You have to wow them. Don’t be afraid to draw parallels between films that have nothing to do with each other.  Be bold.  Be brave.  Show them you have no qualms about making absolutely no sense.  You get more respect that way.

Get together with Perry Farrell, who should sue for every use of the word “palooza” when a bunch of shit is happening.

Oh, yeah, and before I close my first entry, I’ve shown you that I’m down with Jane’s Addiction.  That shows you about how old I am and where I’m coming from.  I’m old enough that I’m pissed when other people use “palooza” even though Perry never came up with the word.

Pretty much at this point the awards are going to just start flooding in.  There’s really nothing much you can do but just sit back and act like you didn’t go and e-mail these people and ask for this award.  It’s your job to snort and say, “I got some sort of award today,” while giving us the finger and flicking your cigarette out the window.  That’s a cool girl.  You’re learning.

It’s important when you start out that you find a good name for your journal as well.  What seems to be very popular these days (and you might find it works for you) is to simply put the title of your page as “Journal.”  That way when it’s bookmarked with all of the other “journals” the reader is never sure which one they are going to get.  I like that potluck way of writing:  you get to read me if you find me.

As you can see I started by calling my journal “Who’s that Girl?”  Referencing a cheesy lesser-liked Madonna song is sure to win the hearts of people from around the world.  I made a bold statement, however.  I knew that after reading my heart-stopping, fire-starting entries that the world would want to put a face to my voice, a name to my words.  They’d sit back and stroke their chins and whisper like Orson Wells, “Who’s that Girl?”

I didn’t start this webpage as just a journal.  I had sections on there for highlighting important people in your life.  I had a spot where you could tell your most embarrassing story.  I had an “Ask me” section where I would answer any question you had.  No one ever bothered to answer any of the other sections.  My journal section was called “Pamie’s panties.”

If you ever want more hits to your website, make sure you include the word “panties.”

Above all, make sure you start out like I did.  Only do two entries for all of June.  July?  Give ’em five one week, three the next, and maybe skip a week or two.  Nothing builds an audience like sporadic updates that leave your readers begging for more.  You can be content to picture them clicking on their bookmarks and watching their eyes widen as they see the page start to load, and the tears well up when they see that it’s the fifteenth day in a row that you haven’t updated.  “It must be something I’ve done,” they’ll say.  “Perhaps I should send an e-mail telling the writer how much I adore this page and that I can’t wait to see the third entry.  I can’t stop wishing for another update.”

Hey, not every page can be Squishy.  I got lucky that I started on the right track.  I really had everything right from the beginning.  I had the attitude, I had the bold statements that went nowhere.  I had rants that fizzled into popular opinion and then eventually just muttered rambles.  I had a page with no purpose, no why and no how.  I didn’t even give a name.  I updated whenever the hell I wanted to and I didn’t care if you ever learned anything about the person I really truly was.  I had a journal with no title and no reason to write.  I can only hope that you too will be so lucky.

Happy birthday, Squishy.  Thanks for keeping me the same exact rambling angry Bulls-loving, Award protesting,  riot grrl that I’ve been since day one.

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