Monday, July 19, 2010

I Blog Like...

I started blogging because I wanted to make myself write something, if not every day then at least several times a week. When I write creatively--i.e. not something like the 1500 word piece de resistance on lobster that I'm procrastinating on as we speak--I tend to get an idea (usually in the shower, for some reason) and then spend the rest of the day or night getting it out onto paper. I find that working full time and holding down even a few reasonably normal human relationships tends to put a damper on said late night crazy writer binges, so I wanted to stay sharp with some shorter stuff. Somebody (I think it was Billy Collins but I could be making that up) once said that the muse visits you while you're writing, not before. Because inspiration is almost never a muse whispering in your ear--it's more like a vague, uncatchable mosquito buzzing around your head. Sometimes you have to sit at the desk, start putting words on the page and give that sucker somewhere to land. Hence, a blog. (Admittedly, it's pretty much the most narcissistic thing in the world to be blabbing all over the place about your blog and your "process" or whatever. But guess what--it's my blog!)

Which brings me to I Write Like , the peculiar web app that's puzzling professional writers and, I suspect, delighting quite a few fanboy types by telling them that they write like Chuck Palahniuk or David Foster Wallace. (You know the ones...they're the English majors who call themselves writers but really major in smoking outside Ham Smith and almost never actually write anything) It's pretty much an algorithmical ego-stroking machine for English majors, and it's one of those epic time wasters that keeps writers from actually sitting down and doing the dirty work of writing. It's also pretty much full of shit.

First of all, it tells pretty much everyone-- including Margaret Atwood, Herman Melville and me--that they write like Stephen King. I was pretty curious, and feeling about as desperate for affirmation as a fourteen-year-old writing a Facebook status about how fat she is, I pasted in a few different passages and waited nervously. What if I got Danielle Steele? Or Elizabeth Gilbert? Or Lauren Weisberger?

Turns out, I shouldn't have worried for my oh-so-delicate self-esteem. I've gotten King, Gertrude Stein, David Foster Wallace, and Margaret Atwood--the literary equivalent of exclaiming over how thin I am. Compliments, sure. True, no. Obviously, I'm not as good as them, but...well, I just don't write like them. Of course, when DFW came back for my Sarah Palin post I felt pretty good about myself--which is exactly the point. Interestingly enough, Wallace is also the answer you get when you paste in the lyrics to Kesha's (I am not typing that dollar sign) "Blah Blah Blah," which includes the immortal lyric "don't be a little bitch with your chit chat/just show me where your dick's at", so take that into consideration.

Sure, it feels nice to have some software program tell you you're the next Hemingway. You can even get a "badge" to put on your blog saying so:

Ke$ha writes like
David Foster Wallace

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

But guess what? We already had a Hemingway, and he was better. Skip this doohickey--although I know if you're a writer you're already trying it out because the idea is irresistible--and instead sit down, stop putzing around on the Internet, and write.

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