Tag Archives: blogging

Things Not to Say to an Atheist


The title of this post is probably a topic for a weekly feature all its own. Perhaps even a daily one. Fear not, This blog is not about to go full militant atheist.

Still, when somebody wanders into my house and starts flinging poo at the walls, I think it’s only fair to feel some kind of way about it.

I present to you the following comment, which landed on this post just yesterday (emphasis mine):

I wonder why some humans take no personal responsibility for what happens in the world? Just because you have never had a personal relationship or experience with God, doesn’t mean He doesn’t exist. It just means you may not be one of the humans He has chosen to show Himself to. Even if He did, the way you think would cause you to attribute His interaction with you to something you did to make it so. I feel such pity for humans like you. If you had lived my life, you would KNOW Him as I do. But He has given you freewill, and thus, the option to say He does not exist. All will become clear when you encounter Him after death. Humans are wrong about many, many, many, MANY things. Believing there is no God is the most tragic of all.

I could pick this thing to pieces, but again, that’s not my schtick — I’m a more-or-less friendly atheist. There’s at least four or five questionable assumptions and dubious claims in here, but the one sticking in my teeth like a popcorn kernel is the bolded line.

Pity.

Pity assumes that the pitied party is in really dire straits. (Sidenote: are you familiar with Puddles’ Pity Party? You should be, and I say that even though my comfort level with clowns is barely inches above the pavement.) Pity assumes that the pitier is in a superior position, somehow, to the pitied. And pity is, therefore, pretty much innately condescending. Someone up high feeling badly for someone down low.

Get the hell out of here with that.

If I’m to be pitied, it’s only for thinking that I could somehow start turning a dime off my words after almost 40 years walking this earth, not because I don’t believe in the specific god that you happen to believe. I’m doing just fine in my heathenism. Good house, good job, good family.

And, somewhat off the point: what’s up with calling me a “human”? Are you not a human? Am I somehow less than a person? I can’t prove it, but it definitely feels derogatory, so minus points for that, too.

This is not the humble, shrinking atheist you were looking for.

You can go about your business.

Atheist Symbol

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Accidentally Inspired Year in Review


When Orpheus went to retrieve his beloved Eurydice from the depths of Hades, the resident god allowed it with one caveat: he could lead her back to the world above, but he couldn’t look back, or she would be lost forever.

Which is a little bit the way I feel here on the last day of 2017. Like things are just on the brink of being okay again, but — when I inevitably turn to look back — it’s all gonna turn to sharknado.

I know I’m not alone in this. 2017 has been a bumpy ride for us creative types: it’s hard to focus on the art when you fear for the world as you know it. Production is down, frustration is up. If I had to put an estimate on it, I’d say the average word has gotten 77% harder to write this year, and good sentences are 183% harder to come by. The brain just isn’t connecting right — there’s too much fog, too much distraction.

Add to the strife and struggle that most artists were feeling in general this year the added stress of our summer-long move (seriously, we started the process in March and didn’t finish until July — just in time to go back to work), and the end result has been a donkey kick to the balls of my creativity. Progress on the edits of my novels stagnated, to the point that one of them stalled out completely and I’ve had to abandon it like an iceberg-struck cruise ship. My daily word counts have bottomed out like a Formula One racer pulling into a Wendy’s. Even my posts around here have tapered off like the back end of a dolphin. And if you notice that there’s little rhyme or reason to those similes, well, see the previous paragraph.

And like the finely-tuned but ramshackle Rube Goldberg machine that, when one element misfires the entire contraption goes sailing off the rails, as goes the writing, so goes the rest of the ship. My exercise routine and the motivation to keep it up has cratered. Work — my actual money-making job — has felt harder despite, by outward appearances, becoming easier. Feels like my parenting skills are in the ditch because they kids are always fighting and screaming and stretching us to the limit. Needless to say, I’ve packed on a few pounds, so add that into the equation for some good, old-fashioned self-loathing.

I am more than ready, in other words, to see the back end of 2017. But doing that properly entails taking a look backwards, like Orpheus, so that I can fully appreciate the sharknadostorm.

So.

Current novel project status:

  1. Accidentally Inspired: still querying. I’m behind on sending out letters (go figure), but I’m still happy with the book.
  2. Untitled time-travel project: trunked. I spent many months making not a lot of progress in the edits and it just wasn’t working. Maybe I’ll come back to it one day, but there’s only so much good time I’m willing to throw down a hole.
  3. Untitled superhero project: rebuilding. I’m in the midst of rewriting a chunk of the middle of the book, after which I’ll move into proper edits. Many good feelings here, even if the progress has been slower than I’d like.

If I had to put a total word count on what I’ve written novel-wise this year, I’d put that number around 40,000. Not great by any stretch. But I’ll temper that by noting that I wasn’t drafting much if at all this year; all my work has been in edits. Which is a bummer, because there’s nothing like the thrill of raw creation that comes with drafting, but there it is.

State of the blarg:

having fun GIF

Posts are down, which means readership is down. Interestingly, I have more unique visitors than in years past, but less views per visitor, which is both good and bad. Good: more people seeing my stuff. Bad: not as many clickarounds to read what else is on offer. I could make some excuses for this, but I think it comes down to tone. I’ve done a lot of grousing about how hard things have been this year, and people can only take so much of that. Hell, I can only take so much of that. I also suspect that the more time I spend splashing around in my mudhole of despair, the more despair I get on me, which demotivates my writing, and *begin 2017 death-spiral all over again*.

I look into my stats and I see that some of my most popular posts were my Terrible Reviews, which is a category I’ve neglected this year, and also a thing I quite enjoy writing, so getting back to more of those wouldn’t go amiss.

I also think, in a psychological mind-gaming myself into less effery kind of way, that my standards are hurting me. For a while, I prided myself on getting my average post length up over 1000 words. Which is great when it happens, but also — who has the patience to sit there and read 1000 words of drivel on a blog? I’m guessing not a ton of people, to say nothing of the time it takes to churn out 1000 words — especially when I could better use those words on my novels. The blarg still serves, I think, as a release valve for creative energy and is a solid way to Just Keep Writing, but it’s felt like a job somewhat. That doesn’t strike me as a formula for fun.

And this sharknado is supposed to be fun, for fargo’s sake.

John Goodman’s exterminator in the aptly-named Arachnophobia was a teetotaling sort. He brought a flamethrower to deal with a subterranean basement infestation, which, y’know, plus ten for total domination, but minus a thousand for good thinking. Still, when asked what to do about the problem of wood rot in a basement early in the film, he offered this gem: “Cut out bad wood. Put in good wood.”

Animated GIF

Easier said than done, probably. And the spiders totally got him in the end. But marvelous in its simplicity, and some advice I’m gonna try to live by.

In fact, I’m gonna take that quote, change one letter (okay, FINE, one letter TWICE) and make that my mantra for 2018. (Not a resolution, because resolutions are bullsharknado, but a mantra.)

“Cut out bad word. Put in good word.”

Maybe not poetic, but a good thing to aim for.

face off GIF

See you in 2018.


Top 20 Posts of 2017


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Ladies and gentlemen, children of all ages…

My name is Glen Donaldson and I am a most regular reader of this blog. If that statement sounds even vaguely like some kind of soul-bearing admission usually reserved for the opening minutes of an AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meeting, allow me to correct that impression and say it’s not at all meant to.

Before I launch into the detail of how and why ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED came to stitch a multi-coloured, metaphor-dipped square of appreciation and loyalty into my personal soul quilt, I should make a few things clear off the bat –

  • Matt Pavlak (aka Pavowski) and I have never met.
  • Living more than 14 000 kilometres apart on two different continents (I’m in Brisbane, Australia)  it’s quite possible and more than likely we may never meet.
  • It took  some serious arm twisting on my part to convince Matt to publish this post, which, if stripped down to its bare basics, essentially represents a fan’s glowing tribute to both the blog and its owner’s considerable writing talents.

Via ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED, Matt Pavlak’s been hitting literary jukeboxes to make them play beautiful word music just like Fonzie used to since as far back as March 2014. I joined the party as a follower sometime during 2015 and quickly realized I’d struck pay dirt as far as quality blog writing goes. Since that time I’ve grown even more convinced the blend of worldly wisdom and hilariously observed, downright Seinfeldian recall of life’s micro trial’s and tribulations that make up the content on ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED represents the very tip of the blogosphere spear.

This year Matt attracted his 500th follower. As he’s one blogger who would never think to stoop so low as inflicting anything approaching mediocrity on his readers, not even a single time and not even for a sentence fragment’s duration, I feel confident in saying the quality of his writing warrants easily twenty times that number of followers.

At the risk of labouring the point, if ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED ever decided to install a paywall and charge people to read his musings, I’d no doubt be one of the first to sign up. With thought pieces that hit like the shock wave of a concussion grenade plus channeled wordery that, frankly speaking, rises on very regular occasions to be things of sheer beauty, I can say, quite unequivocally and without word of a lie, he’s that good.

By his own standards, Pavowski claims to have had a somewhat less than stellar year as far as writing goes. Regular readers of this blog will know he’s put this down to a state of mild disorientation brought on by the situational insanity of house selling and moving as well as a slew of time and energy sapping work commitments. Matt’s so-called less than stellar year would be most other people’s Pulitzer Prize winning year, and trust me, he’s not paying me to say that.

Before I launch into counting down my pick of his 20 most memorable posts of 2017, selected from more than a hundred published on ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED throughout the year, I will address the question of what has moved me to cover myself so unashamedly from head to toe in brightly coloured nerd froth. Simply stated, in a world experienced by most of us as a never-ending series of mixed blessings (or put another way, quoting the insight of modern man’s answer to Socrates, Forest Gump – “Life is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re gonna git”), it’s a revelation to come upon something you consider genuine quality. And it’s kinda fun to celebrate it on the rare occasions you do stumble across something like that.

Here then are my nominations, counting down in order, for the best 20 posts of 2017 as appearing on Matt’s blog ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED

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# 1.  Never Go Back to your Alma Mater (June)

A trip back to The University of Georgia evokes mixed feelings.

“Going back to your Alma Mater is a little bit like looking up an ex. You do it out of pure curiosity, with the purest of intentions. Just want to see what they’re up to, what they’ve got going on. But it can only end in depression”.

Remember it here

#2. PBV Syndrome (August)

Unpacking the highway phenomena of vehicles (particularly trucks and SUV’s) competitively speeding up when you attempt to pass them.

Remember it here

#3. Stupid House-Selling Stories : Stairs (May)

The sticking point for a prospective house buyer was “too many stairs!”

Remember it here

#4. Faking It (May)

With disarming honesty, Pav hints that easy interactions and an air of confidence may not always be his native tongue.

Remember it here

#5. Toddler Life Chapter 148: Because it’s Hard (September)

The joys of completing late night ‘Sprout’ homework (“The bloody firefighter presentation is tomorrow”).

Includes a reference to ROCKY and a quote from JFK.

Remember it here

#6. Toddler Life Chapter 68: Lack of Sleep Chronicles (June)

A guide to coping with alternative family sleeping arrangements while on vacation amidst “strange barometric pressure”.

Includes a profound use of the word “discombobulates” as well as a nostalgic reference to “planking videos from five years ago”.

#7. Fixer of Things (March)

Home handyman par excellence saves $300 and in the process baths in a warm inner glow of a job well done. Includes a contender for Picture of the Year.

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#8. Scrub Up and Slice In (May)

Narrative surgery.

“The problem is, like an insane spider’s web, every part of the thing is interconnected”.

#9. Watch out – There’s Girls Driving! (June)

An incident at the supermarket that perfectly illustrates why Pav and his family prefer to shop on a Sunday morning at 8am.

#10.  Splinters (September)

Giving praise to the Gods of Carpentry and what it takes to build a kitchen bench.

Includes maverick use of the word “perambulate” and Picture of the Year.

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#11. Cleansing the Stream (February)

A writer’s brain is compared to a mountain stream.

This majestic post boasted an inspired use of the word ‘panoply’.

#12. Can’t Complain (March)

Where Pav pops the lock on his formula for living a happy life.

Includes a quote from Ferris Bueller.

#13. Project Projections: 80% Chance of Bloodbath (March)

A gripping confessional where he admits the plot of his current novel in progress needs work.

“The plot needs work to be sure, but it’s more multi-knotted rescue rope with the odd loose end than formless hairball of half-digested tail fur.”

This is also the post where Matt comes clean on the worst kept secret on the blogosphere – that he loves a good simile or metaphor like he loves a third slice of cake.

#14. Spiderwebs (July)

Pavowski’s spidey sense tingles overtime in this classic post.

“Spiders spin webs because their spidery nature compels them to. They spin webs because if they don’t they will literally die. That’s writer-y”.

Includes sublime use of the word ‘topiary’ and another strong contender for Photo of the Year.

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#15.  A Burp of Inspiration (January)

Matt let’s on one of his favourite quotes comes from Pablo Picasso (1881-1973), the one about “Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.”

#16. Who Ever Wanted More Deadlines? (May)

The motivating force of impending deadlines.

Plus a bonus: Matt reveals he’s accepted an offer on his (then) current house.

#17. WriterSpawn (June)

The day Pavowski’s asked his five-year old son if he wanted to go down to the beach and he replied, “No, I want to finish making my book. I’m so excited to read it to you.”

#18. Toddler Life Chapter 419 – Cite Your Source (May)

Where Pav observes his five year old son can craft an argument, make a literary allusion and cite his source. Admits also he grows to hate all books his son loves.

#19. The Fly (November)

The fly is that little idea that gets into your head.

Kenny Rogers is a quoted source of wisdom in this post that contained quite the buzz as well as the classic ‘a fly flew’ “obviosity”.

#20. Magic Signs are BS (June)

There’s no such thing as a sign that it’s time to write that novel.

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On behalf of everyone who regards ACCIDENTALLY INSPIRED as blogging royalty, thank you Matt for a spectacularly entertaining 2017. Good luck with getting the agent representation we know you are seeking for your two novels and we look forward to reading another swag of true-life literary gems in 2018.

 

 

 

 

 


Accidentally Inspired Best of 2016


The blog had a few hits over 10,000 this year, and even factoring in (or, rather, out) the unprecedented and unexplained 2500 or so hits from Taiwan late last month, that’s over 2000 more hits than last year. And considering that this blog gets promoted … not at all, but only through repeat visitation and people stumbling across it, I’ll take that as a pretty good sign. (Also — thanks for reading!)

Since it’s growing, and since I have at least a few regular readers and commentors, I thought I’d try something different. I’ve not done this before, but all the cool kids are doing it, and it got me thinking: as much as I spin my wheels around here, I have written a few things that aren’t a total waste of time here at Accidentally Inspired. I mean, granted, 2016 has turned into a total sharknado-show here in the closing months, but it hasn’t all been bad. So what better time than the end of an arbitrarily-defined irregular orbital period to take a look back at some of those posts?

Here, then, are the best of 2016.

Most Popular Overall: These are, in descending order, the most-viewed posts on the site.

  1. Do You Wanna Go To Target? I guess it should be no surprise that the goofiest thing I wrote this year would be the most-read post I’ve ever had here. Lesson learned: start a youtube channel.
  2. Why Mickey Mouse is the Worst Kids’ Show. Kids go through phases, and my kids were in a doozy of a Mickey Mouse Clubhouse phase. It was lodged in my mind like popcorn between the teeth for months, and this was the result. I stand by every word of it, months later.
  3. Orkestra Obsolete. I did something here that I rarely do, which was to re-post a video that I saw and thought was awesome with very little commentary. Somehow, searches for that band ended up directing some visitors here, and still do occasionally. Still a great video.
  4. Why I Am an Atheist. I decided this year I wasn’t going to pretend I wasn’t an atheist any more. I’m too old for that sharknado. This was my coming-out post. Not a bad read if you’re interested in the guy behind the curtain.
  5. More Riffing on Light and Dark. Just a little post about symbolism that I may revisit some time, because it’s everywhere, but we don’t pay all that much attention to it. I think I was high on the scene where (SPOILER!) Han Solo dies in TFA at the time.

Most Popular Flash Fiction: I haven’t written as much flash as I used to (and I need to work on that — it really is great exercise), but I still do from time to time. These stories had the most views out of the lot.

  1. Pegasus Intelligence. A funny bit of fluff about a stymied writer. Funny how that’s a motif across my work.
  2. A Laughing Matter, Ashore, and The Dark Fairy. Three stories in a collaborative flash fiction challenge. Links to the other authors’ contributions are contained within each of those pages. The germ for the first story (A Laughing Matter) came from my Storymatic, which has proven to be a pretty awesome little tool.
  3. The Apocalypse Ticket. A lesser-known superhero races to save the world but is bested by bureaucracy. I think it’s no coincidence that I’m at my best when I’m adventuring in the absurd.
  4. Overtaken. A weird little piece I wrote in the wake of the Olympic games, but not a bad one.
  5. The Cloud Conspiracy. A genre mash-up that I actually quite enjoyed: climate science fiction and noir.

Honorable Mentions / My Favorites (in no particular order): A handful of pieces I particularly enjoyed for one reason or another.

  • The Prisoner’s Dilemma, Egomaniacs, and the 2016 Election. This one very nearly cracked the top 5. I imagine all pre-election pontification looks pretty silly in retrospect, but I was proud of this piece. I particularly liked the precept of using logical problems and thought experiments to structure some entries, which is a thing I may return to.
  • An Open Letter to the Creators of FreeWrite. The FreeWrite is a product I have decided to love to hate. I absolutely adore the idea, but it’s so self-important and overhyped, it’s almost ludicrous. It still pops up in my facebook all the time, and while I would love to own one, there is no way in hell I’m swallowing the $499 (!) price tag.
  • Chick Magnet. I absolutely loved this bizarre little story about a guy who, despite his wishes, is loved and pursued by a flock (haw) of avian suitors.
  • I Hate Everything, Even My Own Birthday. Because it’s true.
  • On Losing, or Why Art Competitions Suck. A little treatise (read: rant) on why it’s bottom-line absurd to compare your art to anybody else’s.
  • No Such Thing as Coincidence. Not a revelatory post or anything, but a little spotlight on what I would consider some tremendous personal growth: earlier in my life, a setback like the one I suffered would almost certainly have had me throwing in the towel for good. But not this one, not me, not now.
  • Star Wars Owes You Nothing. Despite overwhelming positive reception, the haters were out in force over Star Wars VII, and I think that’s idiotic because, well, Star Wars (or any other beloved bit of media) owes you nothing.

Bonus: My Favorite Search Terms for 2016: Unfortunately, Google apparently hides the searches that bring people to the site, and Google is obviously the overwhelming king-daddy of search engines, so that’s a pretty big missing puzzle piece. Still, I get to see some of the terms, and some of them brighten my day.

  • “giving my son an enema” led a few visitors to what is still one of the most-viewed pages of all time on the site, and I have mixed feelings about that. Pity that I don’t actually tell the story. It’s too unpleasant.
  • “sw7 sucks”. Blasphemy! My review is most definitively in support of TFA. Also, as noted above, Star Wars owes you nothing.
  • “are dreams useless?” and “dreams are useless”. Yes, they are.
  • “the meaning of the word babyloading”. I don’t know what this word means, but it does, in fairness, seem like exactly the sort of thing I’d talk about.
  • “‘hadn’t pooped in five days’ diaper”. Again, you’ve come to the right place.
  • “what do you mean by locker room talk”. Oh, you know. Just a desperate attempt to legitimize a serial abuser of women.
  • “bouts of gratuitous whining”. I think I have a new subtitle for the blarg.

I guess that pretty much does it for 2016. So as Han Solo said to a guy who was really just trying to help him out: I’LL SEE YOU IN HELL.

And as we go into 2017, remember our daily affirmation:

Image result for donnie yen i am one with the force

(Thanks imgur.)


2016 in Review


*peeks out of his apocalypse-proof bunker*

*looks both ways for passing trains, heart attacks, or plagues*

So, uh, 2016, huh? Been a bit of a treacherous road, hannit? I mean, we say that at the end of every year, and certainly every year has its share of ups and downs, celebrity deaths, breakthroughs and disappointments. But it’s hard to deny that 2016 feels different, especially owing to the recent spate of deaths.

Image may contain: 9 people, people smiling, text

Not least among them of course is Carrie Fisher, whose passing hit me harder than any this year. Probably because I’ve been a Star Wars kid for the entirety of my functional memory (all I can really remember before I was 14 or so is locking myself in a locker at the high school while my dad — a teacher at the time — was playing basketball, shooting the light bulb in my bedroom with a squirt gun until the bulb exploded [it didn’t take long at all], and watching Star Wars and Back to the Future about a hundred times).

Then there’s Trump getting elected, which fills me with more despair than I care to even think about, so I’m just going to bury my head in the sand and forget I even mentioned it today, lest I fall down another diatribe rabbit hole around here, and NONE OF US WANTS THAT.

Point is, the last few months especially have been rough, so it only makes sense for the rest of us to keep our heads down until 2016 has run its course.

Of course, the end of the year isn’t just for turtling up inside our shells, it’s a time to reflect on what we’ve accomplished, and I’m happy to say that 2016 was a decent year for me personally. I overcame my nerves and self-doubt and finally got my first novel submitted and out in the world. (No leads yet, but that’s okay.) I lost my mind and ran my first obstacle course race, which was awesome and I’m already registered to repeat in April (thanks to my wife, who is ever-indulgent of such dalliances). I started my new job, which, while a little more taxing than my old job — and more demanding of my time outside standard working hours — is also a lot more creatively fulfilling.

Running-wise, I haven’t looked at my metrics in a while, but the nice part about running with gadgetry is that I don’t have to think all that much about how much I’m running — the technology tracks it all for me. Apparently, I’ve run 596 miles this year, up from 460 last year. I’m pleased with that — the number could be higher, but I was lucky enough to spend most of this year not dealing with injuries. Most of those miles have been comfortable and pain-free, so to get almost 600 there is encouraging.

Writing-wise, I finished up the first draft of novel #2, completed a third edit on novel #1 (and finally started submitting it) and have completed about 60,000 words of novel #3. That’s somewhere in the range of 8,000-10,000 words a month, minus a month’s worth for those edits; call it 90,000 words. For a guy like me with a full-time job and two full-time kids … well, I was going to say that’s respectable, but seeing as that’s a sliding scale, I’ll content myself with saying it makes me happy, at least.

Then there’s the blarg, here. I’ve not been quite as prolific as in years past, but I still get about three posts a week, for anywhere from 500-1100 words on average, with the odd outlier (*COUGH* Force Awakens Review) pushing 2000. Wordpress tells me I have 172 posts this year, and if the average is, let’s be conservative and say, 600? That gives … damn. 103,200 words. On the one hand I feel bad about that; it seems to recommend that I’m more productive here than in my capital “W” Writing, and I can’t say I’m pleased about that. Then again, a thing I read over and over is that all writing is good writing — it all sharpens the iron, as it were — so in that case, any productivity is good productivity.

All that is to say that I’ve produced something like 200,000 written words this year, run about six hundred miles, and taken some real, concrete steps to actually getting my writing out there in the world. None of which is a small thing; altogether, it’s pretty damn encouraging. Furthermore, if a guy like me can do it, then literally anybody can do it, and given that resolution season is upon us, what more motivation do you need?

Next up: a review of some of the year’s top posts.


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