Monday, December 31, 2007

Argleblogle Glop-Glif?

File this one under "huh?" Gizmodo runs a "Microsoft LOL" story about Microsoft's YouTube channel and their decision to leave comments open and uncensored is a "marketing mishap." What? How is allowing people to express opposing opinions without being censored a "marketing mishap?" Unlike other companies - say, Apple - who delete comments they don't like and actively kill blogs they don't like, which is fine as long as they make slick phones with crippled functionality and overly-DRM'd music that looks hip with white earphones - right guys?


Full Disclosure: I used to work on Microsoft accounts, but no longer do so. I was in no way connected to setting up this YouTube channel, but I would have strongly encouraged anyone who was to allow comments on the channel without censorship - and to actively engage in meaningful dialogue with the YouTube members who posted comments there, positive or negative. Crazy, I know.

Update: Forgot to give credit - story came via Seth's Shared Items.

Update 2: Apple doesn't kill bloggers, they kill blogs. Big difference! Changed above for accuracy.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Kicking Ass For The Lord

I read this afternoon (via SA) that Pope Benedict is now recruiting "exorcist squads" to "wage war on Satan." Satanism has become such a problem that this calls for squads of priests who can perform exorcisms (in the Catholic faith, as the article correctly states, very few actually know how to do it - remember The Exorcist?) In fact:

    Each bishop is to be told to have in his diocese a number of priests trained to fight demonic possession.
"Extreme Godlessness" is on the rise, and who's to blame but one old scapegoat and a new one:
    The Vatican is particularly concerned that young people are being exposed to the influence of Satanic sects through rock music and the Internet.
Well it's true that the Internet enables people to more closely connect with fringe groups, but rock and roll? What is this, 1967? And aren't there far worse things on the Internet than Satanists - like, I dunno, racist or political hate groups? Al Qaeda? Ron Paul supporters? Yeah, I went there.

Apparently there's good cause for this though. According to the Vatican rep quoted in the article, "We are being bombarded by requests for exorcisms." Apparently demand is outstripping supply and it's time to form some task forces.

Don't get me wrong - I like this. A lot. I don't discuss religion much, but I tend to approach faith - and Christianity in particular - with a very Liberation Theology approach - God helps those who help themselves. This is pure religious action, and I like it.

But I like the idea of some sort of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen coming forth from some secret Vatican base to fight Satanic possession even more. Can you imagine how badass that would be, to have a squad of specially trained exorcists and investigative experts traveling around the globe to fight the paranormal? I realize it's been done before but allow me to present my "dream team" exorcism squad:

Jacob Fuller (Harvey Keitel in From Dusk Till Dawn)

Why: He's a self-described "mean motherfucking man of God." He's a man of the cloth who lost his faith and rediscovered it, and there's no stronger faith than the one that has been tempered by the fires of doubt. Plus, he's smart enough to bless holy water and put it in Super Soakers to fight vampires, make crosses out of baseball bats and shotguns, and carve crosses onto blessed bullets. The guy really knows his shit.

Why not: Well, he's not technically a priest. But that brings us to:

Father McGruder (Stuart Devenie in Dead/Alive)

Father McGruder plays a very small role in Dead/Alive but it is probably the most memorable role. He's a priest. He kicks ass for the lord. He takes out an entire group of zombies with martial arts. So not only can he perform the exorcism, he can help the party - err, exorcism squad - if things get out of hand.

Why:Here's a video of him in action:

Agent Dana Scully, FBI

Scully should need no introduction, but I offer one anyway. She's the ultimate skeptic although a woman of faith herself, not one to easily fall for trickery. Most investigated exorcisms turn out to be false anyway and someone with a firm grasp of the scientific method and criminal investigative techniques is imperative to the success of the team. Plus she's dead-on-balls accurate with that hand cannon of hers, so any corporeal threats will think twice before fucking with her.

Why: Scientific skills, criminology background, knowledge of medicine, crack shot.

Why not: Has been known to hesitate under pressure. Her whereabouts are currently unknown.

Frederich Nietzsche

Every party - err, squad - needs a lighthearted prankster to lighten their spirits and nothing says lighthearted like old Freddy N. A fun-loving recluse who once joshed that "Christianity is the religion of pity," Nietzsche adds just the right mix of existential honesty, questioning of faith and syphilitic insanity to the group. He may not be able to help with the investigations, but he'll certainly be around to force people to consider what the events mean.

Why: A fun-loving wacky fellow. Who wouldn't want Nietzsche on their side?

Why not: Before he passed away he signed his letters "Dionysus" and exhibited other signs of syphilis. While a hoot to have around, he may be a detriment to actual investigative work.

Jake Green (Skeet Ulrich from Jericho)

Young and inexperienced although more worldly than many others his age, Jake Green offers a pragmatic if youthful angle for the squad. He is the current de facto leader of Jericho (Season 2 starts February 12 on CBS!) and has served in military organizations both government and civilian in war zones. He's good with a gun, full of practical advice and can get things done when necessary without compromising his morals. He's also more attractive than the other squad members (except for Scully) increasing the Exorcism's Squad ratings among the crucial 12-49 year old female audience bracket.

Why: Guns, looks, practical knowledge.

Why not: Not especially spiritual, but has a strong moral compass.

There you go - my dream Exorcism Squad. Agree? Disagree? Think I'm full of shit? Think the Pope looks like Emperor Palpatine? Comment below.

Blast From the Past

Well here's a surprise: googling for pictures of Nietzsche, I come across my old Philosofighter mock-game. The email still links to my old email address and the link goes to my (now-defunct) old website. Kept alive (without credit, but I don't really care) by this chap. Crazyness!

Update: even stranger, the picture appears on this Arabic-language forum, and the text below translates to, according to Google reader:

    Wisdom of the world:

    Not standing on the ground and Teh
    Not climb very high!
    The world is Sightliest
    Go to the mid-high

    Quote says

    Strict and inflexible, and the harsh spectrum
    Familiar and strange, dirty and net
    Later psychiatric and wise
    I, I want to be all that
    At the same time Tabana, pigs and pardon!

    Wisdom violent man

    Not asking for something never! What feasibility Altaoh!
    But please, take the time.


    I do not like to be the other near me
    For the old and Alacasi highlands!
    Otherwise, I have to be stellar?!


    Researcher Anna! Beware of the word
    I only heavy - and the weight over rate
    There was nothing to do except I always reality
    Finally revoked the order until depths.


    Every happiness on earth
    Dear Chums in the conflict lies!
    Yes astronomical become friends
    To be gunpowder smoke!
    Three had met Mates:
    Brothers want to
    Equal before the enemy
    Free before death.

    Excessive in principle Wiz

    Walking on the capital fingers first
    Embark on four lists
    The passage through the pin hole of the first pass through the doors hole!

    People Alracon

    That play - should be praising!
    But accept higher
    He even lived above the praise
    It is the top!

    On the door of my house

    Held at the Betty
    Start with one of the Aguetdit
    We have mocked Above all teachers
    What scoffed at the same First!


    That would be a wise lady
    Responsive to the advice
    Ahmed God created the world as places Bahmk

    And I took the road
    Including possible mad
    Because of the largest Wise started here
    Because the madness stop here

    All eyes eternal
    Forever resorted
    The same God - you started and where!
    God is not the same without interruption begins

    Arthur Cobinhor
    What he learned demolished
    What could not lived cancelled
    Take for example!
    The teacher never underwent

    That ye love that accompanied
    Love paedophile warmly

    Without home

    Prompted fast horses
    Without confusion without fear
    A spacious dimensions
    Rani and me
    It introduced quail
    Mr. without home!
    Use bold and were veterans
    The kwenye
    Dear Star Buraq, you enjoyed!
    Not dare to one
    After this Fessalni
    Where there are blighted
    I never connected
    Balamknh hours or fugitive
    Eagle as a free I
    Use bold, Be Old
    For the month of May Atakzlni you smart, you enjoyed!
    Nokia to extinction really?
    I accept that the highest violent death?
    That is hardly accept.
    Enter the highest grave
    And refrain from drinking at all?
    Use bold and were veterans
    The kwenye
    Iahelma many colors, you enjoyed!


    As long as my body is beautiful, it
    I allowed that I protects!
    Known that God loves women,
    The hostesses were first
    Forgive that, I am sure
    Khoury of the small loves, as some young Akhuriin
    And be for the two sides

    What is Brahb Church!
    Not often that a young red
    Despite the dark and filled with Alskrat
    Balamabat and jealousy
    Hated any disability,
    Loveth not very old,
    How wise was necessary
    Even function on the machine, the father ordered!

    Church mastered life
    Absorbed hearts and faces
    Always want to forgive me
    It is therefore not forgive me?
    Ehmson and slowly, and then all the way
    Carrying with him new sin
    And as soon as the strike old!

    May God bless the Earth
    Who loves beautiful
    And forgive the same willingly
    This type of heart pain.
    As long as my body beautiful
    I allowed it to be Tekaya:
    Chechen be old
    Satan will accept me Research!

    The believer!

    Hate as hate amenable to lead
    The Atia!? No! And never will judge!
    Not for the same terrifying, one does not inspire terror
    Only horror suggests he can lead others.
    I hated the leadership of self time
    I also loved the animal forest and the sea
    Until waste
    In Sohar nice sit squat
    I ask self recent term,
    Aggrey alone and self -

    Pious talk

    God created us love it!
    ((God created man!)) As your answer brilliant.
    It does not create loves what?
    It will require created by the undeniable?
    Winding it to the wisdom, it holds attach devil.


    -- How can I rise this mountain best?
    -- No wonder continued to emanate!


    I already let many things slip and fall Mona
    For this you Tsfinu Palmzdri
    But drink from cups
    Very full, it will fall a lot and go
    But such can be said about that flouted wine

    Magician against their will

    Delivered, so to spend time, the words
    In the air - were sufficient to inflict woman

    Souls Province

    You hate souls Province
    Where good and slag as well.


    Ignored tired of the search
    I learned that I
    Since the wind Glaptni
    Become a club with all the wind

    To a friend pieces

    If you want to for your eyes and your bones
    Stay in the shade to prosecute the sun

    Vade mecum, vade tecum - Lieutenant friend, a friend Lieutenant

    Orchids methods and languages
    Ataatbni, with me anymore?
    Not only yourself and faithfully follow you
    Then Sttbni - Slowly!

    Badminton Takrbc

    Badminton Takrbc: is unbearable
    Amovernm permission Bakherbch?
    Therefore, whenever captured boldly Dwati
    Write Waves of ink
    How Mitra flowing so generously!?
    How successful in everything, no matter how I wrote
    Without doubt, write complaining of the lack of clarity
    Humenny what? Then think of reading what I write?!!!

    Zhou poet

    Give me only Samga
    Sajid wood myself!
    Giving meaning to the four Qguav to Amacolh
    Not a little astonishing!

    Who chooses to taste

    That left me to chose
    A small pleasure
    Central pick paradise
    Or perhaps Bbabh best!
Well that about takes care of my strangeness requirement for the day.

It's The End of the Year As We Know It

I planned to do a spoof "top 10" list but it kind of fell by the wayside as I've been out and enjoying London, so instead I'll do a serious predictions for 2008 post mixed with some reflections on 2007. It's been a hell of a year; I had no idea I'd end up living in London when 2007 dawned. We took a vacation to Spain, I've sorted out some problems in my life and started tackling new ones. I haven't really lost much weight but I haven't gained any either, which I'll accept for the time being. Last year, I was in the midst of launching Windows Vista - two words that still cause my team to tremble in fear - and was looking with hopeful eyes towards the new year, writing poetry of questionable quality and not a hell of a lot else.

Now I'm certainly less stressed out, although I feel my career has taken an interesting turn. The odometer turned to 29 this year and it's time to figure out what the hell I want to do with my life. Do I really want to continue in marketing? Or try my hand at something else? I admit that my enthusiasm from marketing comes partially from the subject matter - clients, accounts or products I find interesting or I care about. When you take that part of the equation away it becomes very rote and dull. I realize that's kind of whiny, but I also realize that I'm getting to the point in my career where I can start to choose the kinds of things I want to work on and the kinds of jobs where I really fit. That doesn't mean anything for the short term, but it certainly gives me a perspective on my destination when we move back to the States.

So with that out of the way, here's my predictions for the new year, covering the areas of my expertise in no particular order:

  • New Marketing has reached an apex. This is already evident: bloggers are either repeating common-sense statements or simply regurgitating nearly verbatim what they hear elsewhere. Which isn't to say there isn't a lot to do in this field yet, but the concept of "new, awesome ideas" is and will rapidly be replaced by merchandising and productizing these concepts instead. This is fueled in no small part by what I was bitching about here - PR people know they need to be on Facebook or want to make a viral video, so new marketing is going to become more of a factory than a workshop to accommodate those demands.
  • In traditional gaming, the industry is going to either stagnate for a while or continue its slow but steady decline. The wildcard: D&D 4th Edition. From what I've heard (very little, admittedly) the changes sound interesting - and I personally can vouch from the last overhaul that having $500 worth of the "old version" doesn't mean you won't eventually upgrade to the "new version." This will undoubedly keep mass market RPGs afloat for a little while, while Indie RPGs will continue to do as well as can be expected. Companies like Green Ronin will step up and take a piece of the pie (full disclosure: I used to play board games with one of the owners of Green Ronin on occasion). There will be no one "must-have" collectible game.
  • Video games: rather than speculate on what console is going to win (full disclosure: it's been more than a year since I worked on the Xbox 360 account, but I should still mention that I worked on it), I'm more interested in what interesting games are coming out. Grand Theft Auto 4 looks pretty solid, but all the "big" games for each platform have already been released. Well, except for whatever the next Metal Gear and Final Fantasy happen to be on the PS3 but somehow I doubt they're really going to have that big of an impact. I played some good games this year, but none of them inspired me to say "holy shit that was awesome" when I put down the controller. BioShock did while I was playing it, but not at the end. I admit I haven't played Drake's Fortune, Mass Effect, Mario Galaxy or Assassin's Creed yet - but somehow I doubt I'm going to have that experience with any of those games either. And I expect next year will be the same. Kind of sad, really.

    Except that Empire: Total War will be out and as formulaic as the series is it will consume a large amount of my time.
  • The US Presidential Election. Who the fuck knows? I know who I hope will win, but otherwise it's anyone's game at this point. 2008 will certainly be interesting in this regard.
So there's my predictions. Now I have a writing prompt for December 30, 2008. That's forward thinking!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Subversive Puppet Show PR Policies

Being in online PR, I'm sympathetic (moreso than some other 'professionals' in this field who will remain unnamed) to the efforts of those who are trying to dip their toes into the wild and woolly world of blogger outreach. Therefore, if you're a PR professional please find the rules for contacting me below. The rules are kind of like a flow chart: if you meet the criteria for the first rule, continue to the second and so forth. If you make it through, please feel free to drop me a line. If not, please don't waste your time contacting me.

  1. I blog as a hobby and am therefore interested in writing about relatively few things. Rather than telling you what I don't want to be contacted about, I'll tell you what I do want to be contacted about. If your product doesn't fit into this list (the exception being Rule 8, below), chances are I'm going to ignore you. The list:
    • Comics, specifically Groo, Hellboy and The Fantastic Four
    • Movies of any type, but horror and science fiction specifically
    • Video games of all kinds, specifically classic and Xbox 360
    • Traditional games of all kinds. Note that I write for some RPG companies on a freelance basis and may not be able (or willing) to talk about a direct competitor to a project upon which I'm working, although it never hurts to ask
    • Books, although I'm not terribly keen on nonfiction unless it's about history or religion
    • Television, but only The Simpsons, Futurama, Jericho and Battlestar Galactica
    • Traveling
    • Good wine and good cheese
  2. Please take the time to find my name. It's not hard. It's on the blog's heading. Use the correct salutation - if your email begins "Dear Subversive" (as an email I received this morning did) that's as far as I'm reading before I hit "delete." Although some would argue it is unwise, I use my real name on this blog for a reason.
  3. Don't pretend to have read my blog if you haven't. When I'm doing PR outreach, I either go out of my way to familiarize myself with a blog - typically because I've been reading it already - or I simply recognize that someone might be interested in what I'm selling and go from there. None of this "I really liked your post about X" that I see in so many outreach templates that pass through my hands. Don't lie to me. People online have higher bullshit detectors than normal, and PR people like me create bullshit. I can smell it a mile off, so don't bother.
  4. If I'm not interested, I'm not interested. If you don't hear from me, one follow-up will suffice. Normally I will at least do you the courtesy of responding but sometimes I simply don't have the time for it. And there's no need to track me down on MSN and Twitter and leave messages for me on Xbox Live and Flickr.
  5. Understand that my company's blogging policies restrict me from talking about competitor's products and often prevent me from talking about PR competitors in all but the broadest terms. I happen to like my job and want to keep it, so please don't get bent out of shape if I can't discuss your competing product here.
  6. If your product is blatant advertisement - IE, an advergame - you're really going to have to impress me before I'll write about it. I've supported enough crappy advergames to know what a shitty situation it is trying to get people to write about one, but this isn't the place. Sorry.
  7. I am not interested in anything racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-religion or hateful. Not only will such things be deleted, you probably won't want the kind of PR I can give you for sending me such a thing.
  8. The Zombie Rule. Zombies override all other rules here. If you're selling zombies, I don't care if it's an Apple-branded Zombie iPhone that uses NeoOffice, you hit me up 20 times on Xbox Live about it and you misspell my last name - I want to hear about it.
These rules are subject to change without notice, so please review them before contacting me. They will also be permalinked from the front page of this blog.

If You Can Read This

Then my home internet is finally working.

Your regularly scheduled puppet show will resume shortly.

Friday, December 21, 2007

To My PR Colleagues

Dear PR Colleagues,

We've got to talk. Our relationship is starting to change, and we need to figure out where it's going. I will say right up front that I don't want to break up with you and I think that we've laid the groundwork for a really good friendship here - so hear me out before coming to conclusions.

Lately you've been making a lot of requests and you haven't been listening to me very well. I think it's great that you realize what I can do and the importance it has to the field currently known as public relations. It's awesome that your clients have heard of the Internet and want to be engaged on Facebook. It shows that you're listening to me and that's good, but I don't think you're necessarily listening beyond the first few bits.

Engaging online means a lot more than making a website or a 'viral' video (note: please stop using that term, OK? I don't call you 'stooges,' so I don't think it's too much to ask that you don't call strategies 'viral' when you're referring to outcomes.) You have to do a little research first. When I ask you what people are saying about you online right now and you look at me with that blank, doe-eyed expression and wonder what that has to do with creating the next Subservient Chicken for your clients, it's very endearing and cute the first time but it's frustrating as hell the 100th time.

Let's face it: creating a 'vibrant, online community around our client's light sour cream' (full disclosure: that is a made-up example) may look great on your Powerpoint presentation to your clients in the pitch, but let's be realistic - just because you promised your client the moon doesn't mean us hard-working chumps down here can deliver, especially if we didn't have any input from the git-go. Because 'vibrant online communities' are great and all, but is your cutesy micro-site, a few emails to bloggers and creating a Facebook page going to create hundreds of threads of conversation where light sour cream enthusiasts come out of the woodwork to sing the praises of your product? Probably not.

What you have to realize is that the kind of 'vibrant, online communities' you're talking about on the Internet are created not around specific products but around people's hobbies and interests. People don't go online looking for communities about things they buy (unless that thing happens to be their hobby - I'll give you that). They go online looking for communities about things they enjoy - movies, cooking, television, games, books, politics. This is the lesson so many people have to learn, and an increasingly desolate landscape of $30,000 Second Life islands devoid of life except for furries doing inappropriate things, forgotten Facebook groups and forums with less than 10 registered users means that people continue to learn the hard way.

You don't have to learn the hard way - just hear me out! Remember that doe-eyed look? You have to know what people are saying about you and where! Maybe instead of creating a 'vibrant, online community' about your particular brand of light sour cream you seek out an existing 'vibrant, online community' about cooking where several users have mentioned your sour cream (I did some Google-Fu just now and found at least two that fit that description) - and talk to them instead? Don't whack them over the head with your PR-ness either. You'll scare them and probably piss them off. Why don't you simply offer your information, offer yourself as a resource and see what happens?

We can't keep going on like this, PR people. Something's got to give in this relationship. I know I don't say this very often, but in this instance I'm right, OK? All I need you to do is listen.

And seriously stooges, stop calling them viral videos!

"Oh Crap"

The problem with wearing your pants twice in a row to save on laundry is that sometimes you see something that makes you mess yourself in more ways than one.

Take, for example, the trailer for Hellboy 2. Does it contain:

  • Awesome mythological monsters? Check.
  • Lots of over-the-top action? Check.
  • Investigating a mystery? Check.
  • The unique touch of Mignola? Check.
I'm not sure sixty seconds of footage have ever made me more excited about anything ever before. Holy god.

Official movie site here:

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Those Who Get It (And Those Who Don't)

Last night was my first real introduction to my London office, where we all gathered for the 40th birthday of Edelman in the UK. Richard Edelman, whom I'd never met, gave a great presentation about the future of PR, which he referred to not necessarily as 'public relations' but as 'public relationships' - as good as way as any to codify where our industry is headed as online and new media begins to achieve greater and greater footholds, like it or not. It's refreshing to see the upper management at my company 'get it.' I also got to meet some people I've only known by name thusfar like David Brain, our European CEO (who also blogs.)

It was timely that on the heels of that presentation the Beautiful Competition sent me this article that made the rounds a few days ago while I was in transit, about a Quorum of Twelve (nerd alert) 'Corporate Bloggers' who got together to, in their words:

    "Deliver a responsible and effective corporate message, but we need to do it in the complicated environment of the blogosphere. We have to speak for a corporation, but never sound 'corporate.' And we have to learn to do it live, and in real-time."
I don't take quite as dim (or to poach a term from the Beautiful Competition, obvious) view as Mashable did of the whole thing, but suffice to say my proverbial monocle fell out of my eye when I saw one of my former clients listed on the Quorum roll-call (ain't sayin' who.)

The optimist in me wants to think that the 'Blog Council' is what it appears on the surface - an effort to become responsible in the new marketing age. But the pessimist realist in me thinks it's more along the lines of what Mashable thinks it is: an attempt to try to control the so-called signal.

Not that there isn't a place for a unified corporate blogging code of ethics; far from it. In fact, an open declaration of transparency would give corporate bloggers a degree of accountability that they currently lack, except through the efforts of attentive online watchdogs.

But I suspect greatly that some of the other aspects of the council relate to some of the things I heard about last night - namely a token effort to participate in online 'conversation' that turns into something more one way. I'm willing to shelve my early opinions, as always, but I'm very curious to see where this is all headed.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Seth's Writing Manifesto

I found this when I was cleaning to move. It's Seth's writing manifesto, dated October 17, 1995, reproduced here with no changes:

    1. To be a writer, one must actually write.
    2. You have to make your own opportunities or, when they come to you, take advantage of them - free lunch isn't served every day.
    3. Be professional. If you don't think you're a writer, no one else will either.
    4. Be creative. If you aren't interesting no one will care because they won't read past the first page.
    5. Distance yourself from distractions but get involved in experiences and closer to material - and learn to determine what is what.
    6. Write for yourself, but write with an eventual audience in mind.
    7. Learn when it's time to let go of an old project; there's revision, and then there's beating an old, beloved friend to death with a ball-peen hammer.
    8. Spend the time to do the research. Other than "what next?" (or in some cases, "whodunit?), questions in the reader's mind are usually a bad thing.
    9. If you have to steal, steal raw material, not finished pieces of work; use events and characteristics, not plots and characters.
    10. Always, always spellchk and check your grammar,
    11. Read, read, and read some more. Try to balance what you're reading: fiction (and various types and genres), nonfiction, newspapers, magazines; it's all food for the Elephant Child.
    12. Be involved in your writing; if an idea or a work-in-progress bores you, it will bore the reader too. Set it aside until you are excited to write it.
    13. Always be thinking in terms of your writing; observe people, objects, and events with an eye for future use in your work.
    14. Write every idea down. Some of your best ideas are lost to the mists of time, and even if it wasn't the best idea you'll be frustrated at losing it.
    15. The most important trait a writer can have is a determination to be a writer; overnight successes and natural born talents are few and far between, while stories of success through hard work are common. Most writers don't make a living at it until they're 35 or older.
    16. Know the market, both its history and its current state. It helps you to know what editors and the public want, it helps you to avoid cliches through repeated exposure, and it lets you stand on the shoulders of the giants of the past.
    17. Find what quirks work for you and embrace them; if you write best in a crowded restaurant, become a regular there; if you write best on a computer in your living room wearing only socks, do that (although be sure you close the blinds.) And, if your quirks stop working, try that quirkiest quirk of all - variety.
    18. Always be writing, and recognize the writing that you do: a grocery list or classroom notes may not be marketable material, but it's writing nonetheless.
    19. Gather around you people whose criticism you respect, not simply those who encourage or praise you; a valid piece of criticism is worth innumerable pieces of praise.
    20. Be critical of your own work; always strive to improve, to be better, through simply continued practice and/or concentrated efforts - a balance of the two seems to work best.
    21. Have opinions; they are the things that give your work emotional depth and that differ your work form every other schmoe who picks up a pen.
    22. Your fear of failure should be offset by the knowledge that if you aren't up to the task there are plenty of more aspiring writers just like you who are perfectly willing to step forward and take their turn at bat.