Attention Spam

My attention span is perfectly capable, but you’re spamming it. The Internet is not responsible for the lack of attention span. The Internet is responsible for rewarding navel-gazing and self-absorbed prose which no one can read or pay attention to. The writers are not doing a good job charming the audience.

My attention span is perfectly capable, but you’re spamming it.

A lot of people (Nicholas Carr and Bill Wasik, among others) blame the Internet for my shortened attention span. I can’t seem to focus on longer-form articles and novels. My mind wanders, hungry for small bites of information.

But not always.

In fact, recently I was very much charmed by a few longer-form articles, which I read on a computer screen; “Hive of Nerves” is one that was able to hold attention. What gives?

A few days ago, I was reading a book about puppies. A dog owner shouldn’t yell at a puppy that chews shoes or makes a mess because a puppy’s mischief is the owner’s fault. Puppy doesn’t know any better.

Readers are puppies. The writer can’t blame them.

Columbia Journalism Review is a bi-monthly publication of the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. In the May/June issue, the cover story claims is one writer’s search for journalism in the “age of branding”.

As I was reading this lengthy story, I kept wondering why I was having so much trouble paying attention and following along. I wanted to be interested in what promised to be a compelling story, but I couldn’t focus. I skipped whole paragraphs and jumped around, trying to get to the meaty stuff.

When I got to the end, I asked myself many of the same questions I do during a break-up: Was it me? Was it you? Could I have done something differently to make it work? Did we simply not understand each other? Why won’t you just stop talking already?

Why does a piece about personal branding in journalism need to begin with an essay about the writer’s life story? I seriously wanted to rip my hair out by the time I got to the end of this article, and I know for a fact that the writer has a good story to tell, but she was so caught up in navel-gazing that she couldn’t flesh out her story for the reader. Maureen Tkacik just seemed to want an opportunity to spit on everyone that helped her build her career.

Says fiction writer George Saunders, “The reader is a person you need to charm. You better bring your good shit.”

Last week, I wrote a post called “Stop Trying to Pick Lint from Your Bellybutton” because I’m really sick of navel-gazing content. Using big words, inserting complicated examples, and waxing nostalgic about your not-so-remarkable life does not mean you’re bringing your good shit. The Internet has become a public diary, and not just in the obvious I-have-a-blog-and-I-like-to-overshare way.

When you were a pre-teen, did you have a diary where you chronicled your daily thoughts and actions? Did you lock it? I bet the worst thing you could have imagined was someone reading your diary. We have forgotten the meaning of a lock.

Though Tkacik seems like she COULD be a good writer, most of her essay includes a lot of tidbits she should have kept in her diary. She has not created enough distance between herself and the experiences she has chronicled to be able to write about them in a way that makes sense to the reader. They don’t even make sense to her, and it shows.

(Photo by ntoper)

Like a Baby in a Topless Bar

Could I do away with reading big news sites and stick to opinion sites and blogs? Would I become a biased reader? Paying more attention to the things that people choose to respond to could be a huge time saver. Do I really need to know everything else? Is following the Twitter streams of big news sites enough to keep me well informed?

In order to stay informed for work, I subscribe to RSS feeds of tech news sites like Mashable, GigaOm, ReadWriteWeb, and TechCrunch. During the week, when these sites are churning out mass amounts of content to please advertisers and attract readers, I can barely keep up with my required reading.

Posts are short and to-the-point, but the editors post so frequently! Many of these sites report the same news, but I keep my subscriptions because I fear I’ll miss something otherwise. I am like a baby in a topless bar, completely overwhelmed by too much of what’s necessary.

I also subscribe to blogs like Feld Thoughts, Tweetage Wasteland, and Rough Type, which are updated by a single writer. They aren’t updated as regularly, but the posts are usually longer, more detailed, and very involved. In addition, they contain strong opinions by educated people who are passionate about the subject matter.

I get excited about new blog posts because these personal blogs are not updated as frequently. Also, the writing usually has more personality, and the content is very insightful. Reading the big news sites is more a burden than a pleasure. I have to schedule time to keep up with the information overload.

I sometimes ask myself: could I do away with reading big news sites and stick to opinion sites and blogs? Would I become a biased reader?

In essence, the difference between news sites and blogs is like the difference between reading the majority of The New York Times and just reading the Times opinion section. If I only read the opinion section, I would still learn a lot about current events and the world. In the opinion section, the opinion writers still touch on and respond to current events.

Paying more attention to the things that people choose to respond to could be a huge time saver. Do I really need to know everything else? Is following the Twitter streams of big news sites enough to keep me well informed?

(Photo by TedsBlog)

Stop Trying to Pick Lint from Your Bellybutton

Write to learn about yourself and other things, not because you want to thought-vomit all over your blog. Listen: we all do it! Of course, we’re all navel-gazers to a certain degree because we’re all our own best reference points. The world DOES indeed revolve around us. But the center of gravity shouldn’t show in your published blog post.

I can’t even tell you how many times a day I roll my eyes at the Internet. Wouldn’t a livestream of my eye-rolling be oh-so-adorable? No.

Because no one cares how many times I roll my eyes at bloggers who write rambling, unedited posts about completely unremarkable things. “Navel-gazers”, or self-absorbed twits, is the term we commonly use to describe them.

Don’t be an attention-begging Internet fame-whore. The Internet has enough of those.

Write to learn about yourself and other things, not because you want to thought-vomit all over your blog.

Listen: we all do it! Of course, we’re all navel-gazers to a certain degree because we’re all our own best reference points.

How can we judge the world without judging ourselves first? The world DOES indeed revolve around us. But the center of gravity shouldn’t show in your published blog post.

You have to learn how to be your own best editor. Be tough with yourself! When you write blog posts, tell yourself, “Nobody is going to care about this. That sentence is going to make someone roll her eyes.”

Have a total inferiority complex, border on the insecure, and only share what you think people will really want to read. Don’t act like your parents gave you a little too much encouragement as a child. No one likes those kids.

Here’s an example: in the blog post I wrote yesterday, “Commitment Is Calling the Landline“, I deleted rambling paragraphs about how some dude broke up with me, how I judge people based on Facebook pictures, and how one person’s Facebook status scared the crap out of me.

If I had left those things in my post, you probably wouldn’t take me seriously.

I needed to write those things to understand what I wanted to Write. But I needed to delete them before giving you something to read.

Offering a personal experience as a solid example is one thing. Telling a personal anecdote that drives your blog post off course is a pointless bonanza.

You CAN be self-referential without being self-flagellating.

Any time you catch yourself writing a sentence that starts with “This one time…” or “I used to…”, just reread that part a few times and truly ask yourself if it’s necessary.

Maybe it is! Maybe you do have something important to share, but make sure you stay exactly on course. Perhaps that one personal anecdote IS the focus, meaning everything ELSE needs to go.

Deleting chunks of something you’ve written may seem scary, but it’s actually liberating – no longer will you remain stuck inside of yourself like that piece of lint in your…NO, DON’T LOOK!

(Photo by meddygarnet)

When You Can’t Please Everyone, Please Yourself

The Internet can make you believe that you have a potentially limitless readership, but that concept is simply a false lure that can mess with your ability to produce quality work. Some people succumb to greed, others to lust; don’t be the one who breaks under the weight of wanting to be an Internet celebrity.

Two months ago, marketing expert Seth Godin blogged about a “culture of clickers”, people who are constantly seeking the next best thing online. He argues that content creators should try to appeal to a small, appreciative audience rather than a mass audience. Godin writes:

Culture has been getting faster and shallower for hundreds of years, and I’m not the first crusty pundit to decry the demise of thoughtful inquiry and deep experiences. The interesting question here, though, is not how fast is too fast, but what works? What works to change mindsets, to spread important ideas and to create an audience for work that matters? What’s worth your effort and investment as a marketer or creator?

When you blog, do you care about building a loyal, interested readership, or are you simply seeking attention?

The Internet can make you believe that you have a potentially limitless readership, but that concept is simply a false lure that can mess with your ability to produce quality work. Some people succumb to greed, others to lust; don’t be the one who breaks under the weight of wanting to be an Internet celebrity.

How can you write thoughtful blog posts? Here are some tips for writing insightful, interesting posts that will help you earn the loyal following you deserve.

1. Don’t think twice about writing something. If you really want to write something, don’t doubt yourself for more than one second. The people who appreciate what you write are the people you want as readers. Even if your readers disagree with you, at least you got them to think! Consider that in itself a success.

2. Respond directly or share something that truly moved you/made you think. One of the best ways to connect with the readers you want to attract is to share what delights and repulses you. By sharing articles, music, videos, quotes, etc., you are revealing aspects of your personality and allowing your readers to bond with you on a more intimate level. Your interests paint your personality.

3. Consider writing in a way that mimics your everyday, casual speech. Forget writing for school or work; your blog is your place to write however you want to write! I highly encourage experimenting with different voices until you find one that works for you. Most readers perusing blogs expect a casual, friendly tone so leave the formal writing in the classroom. Don’t be afraid to curse, use slang, make up your own words, or express yourself in other languages.

4. Imagine your audience. Who would you like your ideal audience to be? If you could read your blog posts out loud to a room full of people, who would be in attendance? Do you want to read to a group of female bodybuilders? Do you want to read to eight-year-old boys? You have the power to attract the people you want to attract.

5. Use a recurring phrase, image, or idea. Do you have a friend who wears a certain accessory all the time? Is your friend known for a special necklace or a specific pair of shoes? Your blog is a place for you to wear your custom-made Nikes or nameplate necklace. Find an image or phrase that works for you and work it.

(Photo by Anosmia)

Always Leverage the Other Medium

If you love a craft, you should practice it, no matter what. Don’t think too much about trends. If you recognize a need for a blog, then you should be the one to start that blog! Just think about how many other people online have the same questions that you do; use social media to find those people and empower the community.

Pictured above: handmade books and zines at the annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs.

Dear Laryssa,

For a while, I was into the zinescene and put out a few myself (recently reviving it after traveling for a month). I realized that, despite reading a heckuva lot of blogs by people who enjoyed writing and crafts, I wasn’t hearing a whole lot about zines.

As someone who knows a thing or two about social media trends, would you say the ease of creating an online presence has usurped the need for personal zines? Have zines evolved into blogs? It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on this.

Regards,

Amelia
http://throwawayliterature.com

– – –

Dear Amelia,

The Internet, at least for now, is not particularly tactile and cannot satisfy all our senses. Online content can appeal to our senses of sight and sound, but it lacks a scent and texture. Go ahead; try to touch the cute kitten in that YouTube video; your fingers are going to hit the screen.

Blogs are fairly two-dimensional publishing platforms. Zines, however, are tactile objects that a reader can hold, touch, smell, and see. Currently, no blog can duplicate the feeling of holding a zine or a handmade book.

I recently attended the annual conference of the Association of Writers and Writing Programs in Denver, CO. At the book fair, dozens of small publishers showcased their handmade books and zines, or literary magazines. Many of these handmade books were printed in limited editions, bound by hand, and adorned with original art. In some cases, I the creators were binding their books at their exhibition tables.

No matter what anyone tells you, know that zines and handmade books are alive! If you’re unsure about whether or not you’re wasting time by creating zines, you should ask yourself one question: what is the purpose of your zine?

Are you using the zine to promote your writing? If so, then yes, blogs have replaced zines. Blogs are generally free, they can attract a potentially unlimited audience, and they offer the ease of push-button publishing. Self-editing and archiving on a blog is easier and more efficient.

Are you using the zine to promote your artistic capabilities? Stick with the zine! You can probably express a lot more of your creativity and talent with a zine than you can with a blog, especially if you’re not a web programming genius. If you’re creating zines for the love of creating zines, then you shouldn’t worry about publishing trends. Zines are an art form for those who put love into making them.

Online publishing and print publishing do not have to be mutually exclusive. Many people use social media to promote the things they do and publish offline.

Have you ever heard of Etsy? Etsy is an online craft hub and marketplace. They have a thriving community of crafters who create and sell handmade books and zines. Etsy’s users leverage social media (sharing pictures, videos, and stories about the process online) to help them promote their handmade books and zines.

You can also use Twitter to find other people who love to make zines offline. Visit search.twitter.com and search for “zines”. Some people use flickr to upload pictures of their zines and show off their work.

If you love a craft, you should practice it, no matter what. Don’t think too much about trends. If you recognize a need for a blog, then you should be the one to start that blog! Just think about how many other people online have the same questions that you do; use social media to find those people and empower the community as a whole.

Love,

Laryssa

Laryssa Wirstiuk is a social media marketing and online image consultant. Learn more about how she can help you and your business gain friends and customers by visiting Comma ‘n Sentence Consulting.

How to Brainstorm a Concept for a Blog

Choosing a blog concept is difficult because your decision sets the stage for the future of your blog. You don’t want to limit yourself by being too specific, but you should try to create and maintain a niche that will help you build an audience of interested readers. The first post will be the most difficult post.

Dear Laryssa,

I was thinking about starting a blog. I’ve been wanting to do this for a while because I miss writing on a regular basis. However, I have no idea what the theme of my blog would be. I’m obsessed with music, funny things on the Internet, and food, but I’m not sure how to “blogify” any of those topics in an original way. Do you have any suggestions?

Sincerely,

Christine

– – –

Dear Christine,

I’m so excited to hear that you are thinking about starting a blog! Choosing a blog concept is difficult because your decision sets the stage for the future of your blog. You don’t want to limit yourself by being too specific, but you should try to create and maintain a niche that will help you build an audience.

For blogging beginners, I highly recommend tumblr. Because tumblr allows you to “reblog” things that other people have blogged, you will have no trouble generating content. Reblogging can help you establish a concept if you’re not really sure where you want to start. Don’t be afraid to let your blog evolve!

The first post will be the most difficult post. Choose a mildly interesting subject and start writing. Don’t censor yourself or worry too much. Just be yourself and use your natural voice! If you write consistently and trust yourself, an awesome concept is bound to emerge. You don’t need all the answers just yet.

You will have to blog regularly for a few weeks before you start to understand and embrace your concept. For example, Comma ‘n Sentence was originally a place where I blogged about my progress with and ideas for Too Shy to Stop. However, blogging about these things made me interested in a broader spectrum of subjects: social media marketing, editing, creativity, online publications, and the ways people connect and read online.

Pay attention to what interests you. If you find yourself reblogging pictures of pastries, you might have an epiphany: “Wow, my blog is becoming a pastry blog!” Once you realize this, you can readjust your focus and further customize your blog: take unique pictures of pastries, write reviews of bakeries, interview pastry chefs, etc.

Whatever you choose, make sure you are obsessed with it. Your blog topic should be something you talk or think about every day. When you have a new idea, make a note of it. Create a list of blog topics for the future. A list will help you when you have writer’s block or need inspiration.

Save pictures and videos that inspire you or make you think about your blog topic. Visit other blogs about similar topics and comment on posts. Follow people on Twitter who are interested in the things you write about. Find ways to have conversations with your friends about your blog topic.

Decide how often you want to blog because the frequency will definitely affect the types of content that you post. Will you post text? Photos? Video? Audio? Do you work better on a schedule or spontaneously? Will you be writing and posting at the same time every day? How will you share your posts with your readers? What will motivate you to continue blogging?

Ultimately, your blog should be a reflection of your personality. If you think you’re an interesting person, then you will surely have an interesting blog.

Love,

Laryssa

(Photo by jurvetson)

Constructive Criticism > Combative Commenters

The web has so much potential to be a place where educated, well-intentioned people share constructive criticism with one another. When someone shares an idea or a piece of writing, that person could ask for and access feedback from hundreds of thousands of readers! We could establish mutually-beneficial relationships!

Websites with unmoderated comments eventually become live catalogs of all the hate and anger in the world. Hiding behind avatars, commenters feel they are free to say what they probably wouldn’t say to another person’s face. Rage-filled comments are anything but constructive.

The web has so much potential to be a place where educated, well-intentioned people share constructive criticism with one another. Think about the potential! When someone shares an idea or a piece of writing, that person could ask for and access feedback from hundreds of thousands of readers! We could grow as a society! We could establish mutually-beneficial relationships!

“Bashing” people is easy. Providing insightful feedback is obviously more challenging and takes more time/effort.

However, for those up to the challenge, website founder Sterling Mace has created Better Me, an online communication platform that enables “coworkers, classmates, and friends to have the important conversations that even the most open communicators are tempted to avoid”.

After hearing about Better Me from someone I follow on Twitter, I signed up for my free account. I haven’t yet used all the features, but I’m eager to experiment with anyone willing to participate.

With Better Me, I can ask my e-mail contacts to provide anonymous feedback about my performance in work, social, personal, and school settings. In addition, I can request feedback about a particular event or situation. I can also include a survey. If my contacts decide to sign up for Better Me, I can offer them feedback as well.

Once I start giving and receiving feedback, my home page will show me statistics (pie charts, bar graphs, etc.) about how “useful” I am and how well I’m performing in various areas of my life. I can save and return to feedback and then track my progress as I try to improve my shortcomings and grow as a person.

Wouldn’t it be nice if everyone took the time to offer constructive, valuable feedback with tools like Better Me? However, a person needs to feel comfortable looking into him/herself before he/she can help someone else become better. If we’re all willing to do the dirty, uncomfortable work of introspection, we might be able to make the Internet community a more positive, welcoming place.

(Photo by Peter Sheik)

Zen and the Art of Blogging

Creative writing demands a different frame of mind than article writing, research paper drafting, and blogging do. But that doesn’t mean someone who does one can’t do the other! The place where you start is just a place to start, and then you work out from that point. The process is not necessarily linear.

Earlier this week, my friend Christine tweeted:

Creative writing is initially hard when all you know is journalism and research papers. Thoughts, @ryssiebee?

I absolutely agree! Creative writing demands a different frame of mind than article writing, research paper drafting, and blogging do. But that doesn’t mean someone who does one can’t do the other!

The first difference between creative writing and more journalistic/research-based writing is that, while doing the latter, you usually know where they want to end. You almost always have a goal in mind.

Of course, the point of writing a newspaper article or research paper is to uncover something new or to synthesize information in a unique way, but you usually has an agenda before he/she starts writing.

While you may discover something new along the way, you are, for the most part, driving a car to a specific destination. You are either vaguely familiar with the route, or you have a GPS with you.

When I’m writing a story or poem, I almost never know where I want to end. In fact, if I know the end before I start to write, I can guarantee that whatever I write will be total crap because it lacks imagination and possibility.

To extend the car metaphor with creative writing, you decide to get in your car (the car of your dreams), you turn the ignition, and you sit there until you’re ready to go. You have no destination, and you drive until you run out of gas. Creative writing is a joy ride.

Breaking a bout of creative writer’s block is not about knowing WHAT you want to write. It’s about knowing where you want to start. You have to start somewhere, and the place you start probably won’t be the beginning, at least not when you get to the end (is that too confusing?).

The place where you start is just a place to start, and then you work out from that point. The process is not necessarily linear; you can go in circles, you can overwrite. Creative writing is a discovery process in more ways than one.

The mental preparation required for creative writing is much different from that when writing a journalistic piece or research paper. With an article or research paper, the collecting of sources is a meditative process. The writers forms the paper in his/her head while gathering sources and then strings them together to create a story.

For creative writing, I have to be in a very specific frame of mind. Nothing else can be bothering me. It’s very much like trying to go to sleep. If I have a lot of things on my mind, I will not be able to start writing, the same way I will not be able to sleep. I usually find myself writing new fiction on the weekends or when I’m on vacation because my mind is clear.

After a long day at work, it’s almost impossible for me to switch from work brain to creative brain.

Which is why I blog. Blogging is as close to my work mindset as I can get, and doing it means I’m still writing everyday, which is so important to me.

My creative writing blog is kind of an illusion. Yes, I’m offering new short story excerpts every day, but what most readers don’t know is that I started writing my collection in the summer of 2007. The stories that I casually post every day are the result of many hours of staring at blank screens, writing, rewriting, deleting, changing narrators, living and breathing my characters, rearranging, copying, pasting, hating, and loving.

I’m at the best part, the part where all I have to do is perfect the prose. This part of the creative writing process is more akin to blogging because I’m not actually creating anything earth-shatteringly new.

To be honest, I haven’t written a new story or poem in months. My mind is not in the right place.

That meditative state that’s perfect for creative writing comes and goes. It’s not even worthwhile trying to pursue it until you feel you are so full of thoughts and emotions that, if you don’t write them, you are going to explode.

(Photo by mattimattila)

More Mileage from a Blog You Sometimes Fuel

One of my favorite professors asked, “What’s the point of doing this if you’re not having fun?”. Remember: she was speaking to a room full of people so determined to cpublish a book that they would drag themselves through miles of mud to do just that. But I will never forget the question she posed.

Admit it: you only update your blog when you feel guilty. Twitter reeks of blog neglect and half-hearted attempts at updating:

@OhThatStevie: @JennyBec1969 I honestly am going to try to update my blog a little more often than once every blue moon.

@littleponderer: Watching Underbelly. I should update my blog but I’ve been soooo busy – hopefully will update it tomorrow.

@jacksonstf09: It is amazing how awesome a person can feel after a 2 hour workout…I feel AMAZING…I really should update my blog. I think I will 2day.

@defiantprincess: I wanna update my blog.. but too lazy to type. Should I ?

@farchadhilahmoh: so bored. i think i should update my blog to chase the boringness away.

@noeminoems: i should update my blog..but that can wait, like how it has waited for months now x:

@Huizhenpawnyou: Should I update my blog?

You get the point. If I had a penny for every time someone used the words “should” and “blog” in the same sentence, I would be a very rich woman.

When I was in grad school for creative writing, one of my favorite professors asked, “What’s the point of doing this if you’re not having fun?”.

Remember: she was speaking to a room full of writers, people so determined to complete a manuscript and publish a book that they would drag themselves through miles of mud littered with glass shards and syringes to do those things. But I will never forget the question she posed.

Have you ever wondered why my blog is so entertaining (ha ha ha)? If I had to write about social media in a formal way, if these posts were homework assignments, I would not last more than a week. I have to constantly reinvent this website to keep the work fun for myself.

You need to imagine that your blog is a game you play with yourself. Consider the ways you amuse yourself when you’re stuck in traffic, when you’re waiting forever in a doctor’s waiting room, when a flight is delayed, when you can’t sleep at night.

Your blog should be the most fun you’ve had since marathon Monopoly sessions with your next-door neighbor.

I know you’re laughing right now. You’re thinking: “Going out with my friends is way more fun than blogging” or “Playing with my new puppy is way more fun than blogging”. Well, if you think those things are more fun than blogging, then you should be doing those things and not blogging.

Okay, I admit that was kind of harsh. You should be doing those things, blogging when you can, and not complaining or feeling guilty about it.

Before you play with your new puppy, though, consider these points:

1. Blogging is a great way to experiment with an idea before you fully commit to it. A blog post is hardly ever a fully realized and realized piece of writing. Anyone who believes that his/her blog posts are written at full potential really needs to give true writers more credit. Good writing takes many drafts to develop and perfect.

However, if you really like an idea and want to pursue it further, you should consider taking it off your blog and to another venue. My Comma ‘n Sentence blog posts have become longer-form articles (see “Too Shy to Schmooze: Creative Networking” and “Business Owners Building Networking Bridges“). Currently, I’m working on expanding the ideas I first shared in “The World Wide Web Is the New Water Cooler“.

2. Blogging is a great way to discover and reinvent yourself. After blogging for a few months, you might actually enjoy reading your old posts. You will start to notice how you’ve grown as a writer and a person, and you can use this knowledge to gain greater insight into yourself. In addition, you can also use your old posts to help you brainstorm ideas for new posts. 

3. Blogging can give you motivation (as long as you have enough motivation to blog). Whether or not you actually have an audience for your blog, blogging makes you think that you’re writing for an audience. Someone, somewhere on the Interwebz, expects you to write clearly and creatively. This knowledge will challenge and motivate you.

I recently started a creative writing blog for this very reason. I was having trouble motivating myself to tackle revisions, and I hoped that blogging would hold me accountable. In grad school, I was forced to write and revise for my professors and workshop-mates; blogging for an “audience” mimics that feeling. I don’t want to disappoint my loyal readers!

4. Blogging can give you hope. Half the fun of blogging is sharing what you write! I don’t know about you, but one thing that gets me out of bed every morning is the excitement I feel when I think about promoting and sharing my work with my current and potential friends.

Don’t get me wrong: life is great for so many reasons. But I’d rather not imagine my life without writing and sharing. 

(Photo by kevinspencer)

Sending Messages in Digital Bottles

Have you ever had so much to say to someone but couldn’t tell that person? Have you ever written a letter to someone and then ripped it into tiny pieces? If you answered “yes”, then you’re in luck! The Internet makes it easy for you to write anonymous notes to people who will probably never guess you are writing about them.

Full disclosure: I’m kind of obsessed with the second person voice, and I love the art of letter writing.

I’m especially enamored with the idea of writing letters to people who should never read them, and I enjoy reading letters never sent – it’s a juicy form of voyeurism.

Have you ever had so much to say to someone but couldn’t tell that person? Have you ever written a letter to someone and then ripped it into tiny pieces? Have you ever addressed another person in a diary or journal entry?

If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, then you’re in luck! The Internet makes it easy for you to write anonymous notes to people who will probably never guess you are writing about them.

Blogger Anna from Shmitten Kitten writes:

I just want to complain about you to the anonymous masses in a place you’ll never see it. Is that too much to ask? Maybe I gotta take this complaining business underground. I need a Fight Club situation where me and a bunch of people can all go and complain about people without them ever finding out who did it.

Here are a few websites where you can post your own anonymous notes and read other letters-never-sent:

Dear Old Love: By e-mailing dearoldlove(at)gmail.com, readers can submit one -sentence notes intended for former lovers. Notes range from nostalgic to angry to heartbreaking and even demanding.

Every day, the editors post (and cleverly title) approximately 10 new notes. What I love about reading these short posts is the chance to “read between the lines” – what takes just seconds to read gives me fuel for my mind to wander for a few minutes. I like to imagine the people writing the notes and also the intended recipients. Sometimes, the notes even read like poems.

If you want to carry your voyeurism with you, you should know that some of the best posts from Dear Old Love have been compiled in a book of the same name.

Ex Boyfriend Dead Letter Office (mentioned in Shmitten Kitten post from above): Similar to Dear Old Love, Ex Boyfriend Dead Letter Office accepts short letters to ex-boyfriends. My favorite thing about this website is the editors post a picture of a stud-muffin celebrity namesake with each note.

Secret Tweet: Secret Tweet is unique because it functions as a blog and also as a Twitter account. You can submit a confession in 140 characters or less, and Secret Tweet will post the confession to the website and Twitter. Characterized by a number, each tweet is completely anonymous.

One has to wonder if bored Internet users are simply submitting ridiculous stories to be considered as Secret Tweets. However, that possibility is what makes the site interesting to me; you will never know if the tweet is true or false, and you can’t help but wonder about the people submitting them (crazy enough to perform some of these acts and possibly even crazier to imagine them).

Following the Secret Tweet account is fun because, every once in a while, a confession will appear in your Twitter stream and catch your attention – these tweets are usually very different from other things people are tweeting.

Letters to Dead People: Celine Song creates designs graphical, black and white letters to dead people, and she posts these letters on her tumblr. In a letter to the living people who read her blog, Celine writes, “It is also really fascinating to me how wildly misunderstood some of these letters are or how some people passionately disagree with me.”

By composing original letters to famous dead people like Shel Silverstein, Adolf Hitler, and James Joyce, Celine reveals more about herself than she does about the dead person. Obviously, everyone would have their own questions that they would want to ask a dead person, if they had the opportunity.

Do you know of any similar websites? Please share links in the comments.

(Photo by internets_dairy)