Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Break from Regular Programming...

I'm taking a summer class called "Advanced Composition for Teachers," and I just wrote my first Literacy Essay. I picked a topic near and dear to my heart, blogging, and more specifically how I got started.

I know this won't mean much to y'all, and I'm completely okay with that. But there might be someone out there who is scared to death to take the first step and create a blog. Or maybe you've started a blog, but it hasn't gone anywhere. Either way, maybe, just maybe, this post will help push you over the edge and get you started (again).

And it might seem weird, but to Rob and Johnny, you guys completely changed my life. You inspired me. I don't think I could ever thank you enough for that.


I guess you could say it all started with boredom. I can remember sitting at work on a slow day, hot, the middle of June, customers trickling in like molasses, and only for the temporary respite of our air conditioning. I went to the back computer, the one you couldn’t see in the cameras, and I decided to Google a new term I’d overheard from a coworker: “blog.”
            I didn’t know blog was short for weblog, and I didn’t know what one looked like. I’d happened to hear a conversation, the details of which are fuzzy, but I remember thinking, “I like to laugh, I’m going to put the word ‘funny’ in front of it and see what comes up.” The top two results were a site called “Mattress Police” by Rob Kroese, and “15 Minute Lunch,” run by a guy named Johnny Virgil.
            The crazy thing is, four years and hundreds of blog posts later, I can honestly tell you I feel like I’m friends with both of those guys. Rob lives in California, Johnny in New York, and I’ve never met either. Some may laugh at that fact, but I’ve shared several poignant moments with both over the Internet, and I feel like I would be absolutely comfortable stopping by their houses and having coffee and discussing the finer points of the blog world. In addition, both of those guys have wound up writing books, and both have enjoyed success as authors.
            Let’s go back to that computer screen at a cell phone store in mid-June. I laughed. Oh how I laughed. I read Rob’s stories about growing up in Florida and his parents running a cheap hotel. I read Johnny’s stories about growing up in the 70s and his posts about The Snitch, Houdini, and The Slug, and how they almost killed a guy, not once, but several times. I laughed so hard I had tears streaming down my face and my stomach muscles were sore from the workout they received.
            And at the same time, it wasn’t just the laughter. In reading the archives of these two guys, I felt something else, a deeper emotional connection. It was as if they let me into their lives for a brief moment, gave me a glimpse of what it was like for them growing up and how their lives were now. They weren’t just being hilarious; they were providing something more for the reader than just a temporary feel good experience and a hyperlink click away to the next post full of jokes.
            Then, somewhere in the midst of it all, either down there in my sore gut or up in my dopamine-filled brain, I got an idea. “I have stories,” I said. “I love to tell people those stories, and I could write them well. I think I should start a blog.” I had no training in writing, and to be honest I was just an average English student in high school who had dropped out of college twice since then. I had written a few long-winded diatribes on Myspace, back when I was a youth minister at my local church, full of vim and vigor about changing the world, but nothing of any real substance.
            I had not yet grasped the importance of “your and you’re,” and “there, their and they’re” to the Internet, and I didn’t even really have an idea of what stories I’d want to tell or in what order. I had no clue about posting frequency and how important it was. I didn’t know about search engine optimization (SEO) or “spiders” or how comments should not be your driving motivation for posting. I thought long and hard about my nicknames for my friends and family, dubbing my wife “The Missus,” my best friend “Kid Funk,” and my brothers “The Groom,” “The Liar,” and “The Youngest.”
            Then I hit the biggest roadblock of all. I had gone to Google’s Blogger website, and I had created my account, but it asked a very important question. “What is the title of your blog?” I thought long and hard. The title had to be something that reflected my personality, but also told people what to expect. It had to convey the message of the entire site, yet at the same time be a draw to get traffic. I wanted people to see the title and think, “Yeah, that sounds like Travis, aka “tstyles77.” But I could not for the life of me figure out what it should be called. I cannot recall now the names I tossed around, but I do remember asking myself the question that lead to the name I settled on. “What do I like to do?” The list was simple. I like to play basketball, I like to eat, I like to fish, and I like to spend time with my wife.
            One thing on the list caught my eye. I like to fish. The words reverberated through my skull, clanging around like a klaxon. Was this it? It conveyed what I like to do in my spare time. It was completely random, much like I expected the content of the blog to be. It summed up me as a person, because I am a fisherman at heart. I entered the title in the text box, and I remember staring at it for a long time. Finally, I clicked the “OK” button, and there it was. “I Like To Fish.” Those of you who have any experience in the English field will undoubtedly notice the typo immediately in the title. I didn’t.
            “Alright. Lets get this awkward blog outta the way. The first one probably won't make anyone laugh, and it's more of a history of myself and why I am blogging. Here goes. My name is Travis, and I'm a 26 year old (at this time) guy who's married to the most wonderful woman in the world. I'm a fat guy, and I want to lose weight, but I refuse diet and excersice. Consequently, if anyone knows a good cocaine dealer, holla. I love to fish and play and watch basketball. I'm a TV fanatic, kind of, and some of my favorite programs are; The Office, King of the Hill, M*A*S*H, and Family Guy. I have a bunch of very funny friends, and they say lots of very funny things, most of the time on a daily basis. I work for a cell phone company (presently) and I won't say which one, b/c I don't want people bitching about our service. An unfortunate consequence of my job is that people are always asking me questions about their cell phones. My mothers ex husband for example, would always ask me questions about his IPhone. I mean, EVERY time I saw the man, he would ask me about it. Here's the deal though. I DON'T work for AT&T. At all. Or an agent for them. I don't personally like the IPhone, I'm a BlackBerry man. So our conversations would go somethin like this...”
            That was part of my first post. Riddled with spelling and grammar errors, and nothing of any substance to read. I essentially built a biography about me, but I didn’t bother explaining that my father died when I was 17, causing a 5-year jag of bitterness in my life. I said I had a lot of friends, which was honestly a bit of a lie. I mentioned I hated the iPhone, and here I am 4 years later with an iPhone. I had no clue about form or function, and how to use paragraphs. It was, in a word, terrible.
            Fast-forward to today. As of June 10, 2013, I Like to Fish is 4-years old. My current page views are at roughly 118,000. I’ve had exactly two blog posts that enjoyed enormous success, and for some reason my blog is incredibly popular in Russia. I wrote a eulogy for a 17-year old girl in my community who died in a car accident that was seen over 7000 times in over 100 countries and was shared just over 500 times on Facebook.
            One day last summer, I decided to write a fake news article about a mother who was arrested in Florida for using the phrase “You’re so cute I could eat your face,” in reference to her baby. The “article” was based on a real-life experience with the phrase while I was on vacation in Florida just a week before the crazed gentleman actually ate the face off of another man. The post gathered steam, and was briefly featured on Reddit before being yanked because it wasn’t “news.” It caught the attention of a local woman who decided to start a charity for bail money for the mom in question, before she realized the “article” was fake.
            And then, in an incredible twist of fate, the post caught the eye of the editor for the Fort Gibson newspaper. She left a comment on it saying how funny and well written it was. So I replied, and said if she liked it so much, she should hire me. To make a long story short, she hired me, and to sum up five pages and 1500 words, the course of my life has been completely changed, all because I Googled two words: “funny blog.”