Whenever I teach writers about blogging, my first challenge is to talk them off the ledge from panic. What do I TALK about? I have no IDEAAAAASSSS!
*breathes into paper bag*
And I truly understand this panic, because a lot of social media experts advise writers to blog in a way that is very left-brain.
Write about writing.
Write about the industry.
Write about your process.
Write about your research.
Write about your books.
Write about getting an agent.
Do book reviews.
Yet, here’s the thing, writers (especially fiction writers) are CREATIVE people. We are storytellers. When we blog merely on information, we engage the left-side of the brain, but our fiction engages the RIGHT side of the brain.
Why are we trying to build a following/fan base for a right-brain product with a left-brain TOOL?
Craft, the industry, our process, our research are our tools for our art, but they ARE NOT our art. Readers, or potential readers ARE NOT interested in the tools of our trade, rather they want to see how we USE those tools. Regular people (readers) are interested in the art, which is merely the unique “set of eyes” that permits writers to see what others can’t (but secretly wish they could).
EVERY product marketed uses the right side of the brain, from razor blades to duct tape. Madison Avenue wants us to see Michelin tires and think safety. They want cheap body wash to give us an “organic experience”, or why else pay an attractive actress to go all When Harry Met Sally with soap and a loofah on prime-time TV?
If virtually EVERY product sold uses emotion, then why do we think we are going to get traction pumping out a constant stream of information?
Writers are not, per se, experts at teaching craft or discussing changes in the industry. We are artists. A writer’s expertise is looking at the world in a unique way mere mortals can’t. THAT is what readers (fans) gravitate to. They rely on us to focus in on something they would have walked right past and make that unexceptional object or event magical.
Writers look at ordinary things in extraordinary ways. Want to be a great writer? Pay attention, REAL attention to the world around you and get good at seeing/and selling with artist eyes. Great blogging uses the world as your muse…JUST LIKE YOUR FICTION.
The best examples of this technique (that I’ve witnessed) are some of the people who leave reviews on Amazon. There are reviews that go viral simply because a reviewer had some fun (maybe a writer by trade or a regular person moonlighting as a writer for a brief moment). They took the time to elevate the ordinary to the extraordinary…and people LOVE reading what they have to say because they are FABULOUS storytellers.
I selected these entries from this banana-slicer review at Amazon, which is just page after page of gasping-for-air-clutching-one’s-sides-delight. I think I may have found my kindred spirits here. But watch how they take something so vanilla and unmemorable and turn it into something you can’t wait to share…by using the power of story.
And frankly, these reviews make me want to buy stuff. I actually just BOUGHT the Hutzler banana slicer even though I am allergic to bananas. Why? Because, I know when I’m having a bad day, I will be able to retrieve my slicer from my kitchen drawer and get a really good laugh. I am so grateful for these armchair artists, and honored to share their writing here. I hope you will go give them the 5 star reviews they deserve…and maybe buy a banana slicer to save your marriage, too.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
20,689 of 20,850 people found the following review helpful.
5.0 out of 5 stars No more winning for you, Mr. Banana! March 3, 2011
For decades I have been trying to come up with an ideal way to slice a banana. “Use a knife!” they say. Well…my parole officer won’t allow me to be around knives. “Shoot it with a gun!” Background check…HELLO! I had to resort to carefully attempt to slice those bananas with my bare hands.
99.9% of the time, I would get so frustrated that I just ended up squishing the fruit in my hands and throwing it against the wall in anger. Then, after a fit of banana-induced rage, my parole officer introduced me to this kitchen marvel and my life was changed.
No longer consumed by seething anger and animosity towards thick-skinned yellow fruit, I was able to concentrate on my love of theatre and am writing a musical play about two lovers from rival gangs that just try to make it in the world. I think I’ll call it South Side Story. Banana slicer…thanks to you, I see greatness on the horizon.
10,707 of 10,801 people found the following review helpful.
5.0 out of 5 stars Saved my marriage July 30, 2012
By Mrs Toledo
What can I say about the 571B Banana Slicer that hasn’t already been said about the wheel, penicillin, or the iPhone…. this is one of the greatest inventions of all time. My husband and I would argue constantly over who had to cut the day’s banana slices. It’s one of those chores NO ONE wants to do! You know, the old “I spent the entire day rearing OUR children, maybe YOU can pitch in a little and cut these bananas?” and of course, “You think I have the energy to slave over your damn bananas? I worked a 12 hour shift just to come home to THIS?!”
These are the things that can destroy an entire relationship. It got to the point where our children could sense the tension. The minute I heard our 6-year-old girl in her bedroom, re-enacting our daily banana fight with her Barbie dolls, I knew we had to make a change. That’s when I found the 571B Banana Slicer. Our marriage has never been healthier, AND we’ve even incorporated it into our lovemaking.
THANKS 571B BANANA SLICER!
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars my life is changed forever, January 9, 2013
TheMightyBahamut – See all my reviews
This review is from: Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer (Kitchen)
All my life I have been wondering how to make a banana into small bite sized pieces.I spent my childhood in a basement practicing on smaller fruits like grapes before graduating to plums and even small peaches.
My parents became concerned when household fruits would turn up missing, and the day they found me hiding in the bushes enthralled with my dissection of a large apple, they decided I had a problem.
As I reached adulthood my need to slice open fruits was becoming unbearable. I would gaze longingly at bananas in the store, wondering how best to slice open their delicate flesh so I may feel their moist sticky insides. I made my first clumsy attempt around age 25.
When no one was looking I snatched a small banana from its companions, and brought it to my basement. It was a disaster, my knife-work just left a smashed and uneven mess, so I buried it in the woods lest anyone stumble upon my grizzly handiwork.
Finally I found the Hutzler 571 Banana Slicer. I used it on the next unattended banana I saw, and discovered I could now cut up and dispose of an entire banana in one swift movement! I can do it in mere seconds, or slowly lower the slicer, prolonging the ecstasy I feel seeing the bananas flesh torn open.
Thank you Hutzler 751, because of you my basement walls are lined with the peels of hundreds of bananas, and I am currently working on a mask made from the peels of all my victims sewn together.
What are your thoughts? Opinions? What is the best item you’ve ever seen reviewed? Do you think this might be a good way to practice those blogging muscles? Go write these kinds of reviews. Hey, it helps the product AND gives us practice. Something to noodle over at least :D.
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of January, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. If you leave a comment, and link back to my blog, and mention my book We Are Not Alone in your blog…you get your name in the hat THREE times. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly.
I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
NOTE: December’s winner will be announced Monday.
And also, winners have a limited time to claim the prize, because what’s happening is there are actually quite a few people who never claim the critique, so I never know if the spam folder ate it or to look for it and then people miss out. I will also give my corporate e-mail to insure we connect and I will only have a week to return the 20 page edit.
At the end of January I will pick a winner for the monthly prize. Good luck!
I also hope you pick up copies of my best-selling books We Are Not Alone–The Writer’s Guide to Social Media and Are You There, Blog? It’s Me, Writer . And both are recommended by the hottest agents and biggest authors in the biz. My methods teach you how to make building your author platform FUN. Build a platform and still have time left to write great books.
You’re right — those are brilliant! And after all the negative things I’ve heard about fraudulent Amazon reviews, it was a nice change to have a review-centred post that was so amusing. I’ll be keeping an eye out for this side of the review section on blogs in future, though I strongly suspect the folk on the Amazon UK site don’t bother so much.
But see, I would think Amazon would like these reviews. It’s sort of like the ALLSTATE Mayhem commercials. I want to sign up with them just because they make me laugh (but Hubby is military so we are USAA). I naturally gravitate to buying products that take the time to engage me and make me smile.
I’m going to pretend I know what you’re talking about but being from the UK, haven’t a clue. Nevertheless I agree on the making one smile thing 🙂
Go you You Tube and look for the Allstate Mayhem commercials for insurance. Don’t drink while watching.
Ha, those are brilliant!
I can’t believe I just watched 8 minutes of commercials … voluntarily …
RIGHT???? Told you! I LOVE Mayhem.
absolutely freaking hilarious!
I love reading silly reviews for products like this – it definitely brought a smile to my day! And I agree with your advice – you can’t sell yourself on the left-brain side when your product’s on the right.
and the customer photos are great!
Great post, nearly had a “whoops” moment, I laughted so much.
The banana slicer reviews are the funniest thing I’ve read since…your last post, Kristen. But check out some of the 1 star reviews. Just make sure you’re not drinking a hot liquid at the time.
Actually I think you were the one who pointed me toward this miracle product. I’d staggered in at 2 a.m. from 17 hours of travel and logged on to Facebook. Thank GOD I did, or my life would not have been changed by this device :D.
I could spend all day reading those reviews. They were so good I decided to blog about them today. Some amazingly creative people out there.
It rubs the lotion on its skin…. I love it! Plus I have been searching for the ultimate sex toy. I shall approach my review process with less trepidation in future!
Hilarious! Great point about blogging topics, too. 😉 Who would remember the commercial if a normal guy just stood in one place and talked about insurance stats? Mayhem is much more memorable.
Wow until this moment i did not know i needed a banana slicer! lmc
Love this. I’ve been feeling like my blog posts have shifted from when I first started just over a year ago. This post really brings me back. Thanks!
Yea! Permission not to write about writing! Permission to create stories instead! Thank you, Kristen. And by the way, all those authors out there trying to drum up interest by writing well-researched and thoughtful posts about handling a critique, creating a query, finding an agent, the best way to self-publish are filling my head so full of good advice that I almost can’t remember where I parked my instincts. I kid, but while I love the internet and the access it gives us to all the advice, the sheer overload makes my head whirl at times. Anyway, writers can’t buy all the books that other writers write. We’d all be destitute. Unless we’re actually making our living by assisting other writers, maybe we should think about turning our attention outward to our readership? I don’t know. Just a thought.
p.s. In a similar vein, Ellen reviewed the new Bic pens made just for women. You will laugh!
Another classic! That one was hilarious.
Thank God. I wish they had had lady pens when I was writing my PhD thesis. It wouldn’t have made any more people read it but it would have been so much prettier! Now thousands more women might seek out a higher education. We may have to build more toilets..
More ladies’ toilets in the Hallowed Halls of Academia? Heresy!
I know right? Next thing you know they will be allowing women to become Pro Vice Chancellors! Oh, I jest!!
And it only costs $1.29! If you call right now (operators are standing by) we’ll send you TWO banana slicers and a recipe book.
LOVE it Kristen. I have a fairly serious post on Amazon reviews on my blog this week, so I just lightened it up to a link to you and the Banana slicer reviews. Thanks for the laughs!
And you’re so right about the blogging advice. I started a publishing industry blog because that’s what I’d been writing for print magazines, but blogging for writers only sells my writing book–not my fiction.
I love it when product reviews cross over into meme territory; Microwave For One book review, the Three Wolf Moon t-shirt–both classics! Also, that’s a pretty cool banana slicer. I’ve never seen one of those. I thought fruit slicers ended with the apple slicer!
More laughter, compliments of Kristen- thanks! I snorted, wondering how #2 uses it in the bedroom. And #3 was quite the story – creative writing exercises for sure. Going to have to go look for some on my own!
Kristen, to me, this is one of my favorite blogs yet. Not because the banana slicer reviews were so creative and funny, but because it’s finally sunk in, now I know how to tackle my blog posts.
Unfortunately, I haven’t been able to take any of your blogging classes (Dusty is still out of work and the medical bills are high) I know I would have learned all of this from your courses, but since I can’t participate yet, I’m thrilled you made this post today.
The part you mentioned about Why we’re trying to build a following/fan base for a right-brain product with a left-brain TOOL, was eye opening!!
Thank you so much for this 🙂
Have a great evening,
I totally agree. The post was fun as usual but the point was well made and that’s what I’m taking home. Well, after I check out the Allstate Mayhem ads. R R
What’s that old sales advice–something about selling the sizzle not the steak? But then there’s the really old commercial for hamburgers that made, “Where’s the beef” part of our vocabulary for awhile. (Well, for those of my generation). So, I think the challenge is to serve up the information with some sizzle. That is true of our craft too. A story, or a blog, must have some substance and depth told in an engaging way. In both cases we must connect on a personal level.
I do think you are right in saying that readers want to see how we use the tools. We are more interested in hearing “How-I” than “How-to.” That’s why I love reading author interviews. In finding out what makes them tick, I learn more about myself and how I can approach my craft in my unique way. There is a great web site that has photos of writers’ work spaces with their comments. It is so fascinating to see the diversity of style.
I just hope Mae West doesn’t show up with a Hutzler 571 the next time some guy is happy to see her!
Who in the world would’ve thunk reviews for a banana slicer could be so clever and funny? So cool!
Ah the humor! I will take all this to heart as i continue to hone my craft. Thanks for the words of knowledge Kristen!
I was told ‘Don’t give a creative writing course! – blog about what you enjoy!’ I guess you feel that way, too, which is a good thing, since that’s what I’m trying to do. Thanks so much for this post – first of all because it pointed out something we need to hear (even a second time) and secondly because I really NEEDED that roll-on-the-floor-giggle and snort banana slicer review!
I saw someone post on Facebook about how hysterical those are, so thanks for saving lazy ol’ me from actually clicking over there and having to sort through to find the good ones. Love them.
Also love this post. I am a writer, but my blog is not a typical writer’s blog (I don’t do all those things you list that writers tend to do/be advised to do on their blogs). I blog about funny things related to life with my dogs. And my books (pub’d and in progress) always include dog/human relationships, so for me it works. But still… I get some author friends pushing me to have a more “normal” writer’s blog (meaning they think I should blog about writing/post book reviews, etc.). I think I’ll steer those folks to this post. I want what you write about – *readers* to come to my blog and find a lot of dog silliness.
Thanks for the post that was just what I needed today. 🙂
Still giggling over that one. What could possibly be funnier than a banana story? They’ve been used in humor for years, but that was usually just the peel!
Seirously, I have taken your advice to heart (because it makes sense) and recently launched my blog. I am aiming to hit that sweet spot between my personal experiences and writing experiences, and I am having amazing fun in the process. Thanks again for keeping it real!
I am totally going to write a poem about that banana slicer – thanks! Too funny as usual.
These are hilarious and precious. Thanks for a great idea for a blog post alo.
Funny. I passed over a Facebook comment earlier in the day about a banana review and thought someone was being stupid (which is not uncommon among my Facebook friends). So glad I read your post today to know about this amazing invention. Love the creativity.
It’s so refreshing to hear blogging advice about doing what I want to do as a writer: tell a story. All the industry related stuff, process, jargon and so forth felt so boring to me. If I’m bored as a writer, then what about my readers?! And those reviews are star quality and hilarious. So much to learn from them!
I appreciate these blog posts, especcially this one. I also appreciated the recent one with a quote from Stephen King that basically said to me to stop being lazy and write. If you actually have the time to answer a question, I do have one for you. I am a decent writer and write case notes for my job 5 days a week as I’m a social worker. I have become a dry writer to say the least, with little juice for fiction writing, though I don’t want to write non-fiction. I like fiction. I like art. Do you have any advice on making my writing more interesting? Obviously I know to use adjectives, but it just doesn’t come to me naturally.
Fell off my office chair reading those. I admit that I happily click on those blogs that are interesting or fun. For instance, who knew that blogging about undies would gain a following? But Jenny Hansen has made it work. And it makes me that much more eager to pick up a book by her.
I love your blog, Kristen! Just wanted you to know that 🙂
Kristen, I’m going to have to step outside of the popular mainstream here and respectfully disagree on a few points. I’m a man who doesn’t want to be limited; I desire to be as ‘whole’ as possible. This rings true to me in my writing/blogging, as well as my daily conversations with anybody. Why can’t I write/blog about BOTH left-brained & right-brained subjects? Admittedly I’m working harder on my left-brained humorous clever writing, but I feel equally that academic informative writing/blogging is just as important. Perhaps an analogy here might be in relationships: I desire to know ALL my love’s nuances, as I hope she desires to know all of mine…not just my “average body” (laugh!).
Maybe my particular difference as a blogger is that I’m not trying to win a popularity contest? I write/blog to try & show humanity; in all its brilliance, comedy, and horror…from my own perspective. I’m comfortable in recognizing that my blogging will never be Hollywood or Comedy Central popular. In my humble opinion, social media is overly saturated with consumerism & acute ‘convenience’, Humanity (ultimately the users of social media) are a very complex type & I want to offer wholeness with quirkyness & substance. Grrrrr, makes sense?
Allow me to say though, I do enjoy many of your posts! 🙂
We actually don’t disagree. I think you can write about left-brained topics in a way that is ALSO emotional. And I don’t feel writers CAN’T indulge in left-brained writing. Quite the contrary! But what happens is some of my counterparts teach that logical, article style blogging IS ALL OF blogging….when blogging is so much more.
And for writers who have deadlines and books to finish, constantly writing logical analytical pieces and essays is exhausting. The point here is to open your mind about what constitutes a blog. And NF authors are selling a left-brained product, so blogging in left-brained ways is easier. Yet, for fiction, you aren’t connecting to an audience the same way your books do. Fiction connects at the gut and the heart strings.
For the fiction author it isn’t always so easy and always remember, we are blogging for readers and not ourselves. And yes, the world is saturated with consumerism, but aren’t we wanting to sell books? Last I checked that was consumerism :D.
Hmm, we agree on not following convention most definitely. Example, does fiction & non-fiction have to be strictly binary?Excellence often begins with the question What if? Is that question/vision pigeon-holed into Fiction or NF? Not intending to be obstinate.
Perhaps we differ as to the purpose of blogging: mine is for sharing interpretations of anything relating directly or indirectly to the brilliance, comedy or horror of humanity…and not for profit. This broad purpose sometimes evokes reader-followers & sometimes not, but I do blog/write primarily for myself and any who wish to engage me…and hopefully challenge me
intellectually and emotionally. Profitable rewards & popularity,
however, are not my primary focus.
Are my years of teaching social studies, language arts &
science rearing their heads? Probably. 😉
I think I finally get it…
I have never enjoyed reading reviews so much! Priceless! And great advice as always. I’ve tried blogging, but I wasn’t very successful, and I found it was sapping my creative energy for writing my novels. I think maybe I was limiting myself too much in my topics though (the whole “write about your craft” thing). But what do you do if you’re not very good at writing humor?
Just be a storyteller. It’s what we do naturally. We can also be inspiring, vulnerable, or even just REAL.
Thank you for this post Kristen! It took me most of my day, but I finally got a blog set up for me. http://sheaford.wordpress.com/ I’ll continue following you for inspiration and support! 😀 I’m sure I’ll pick up all the tricks and nuances eventually. 🙂
How many more mundane things in our lives could be fun by just taking a little extra time to add some humor? These are hilarious. The “other images” are hilarious. The 1 star reviews are also hilarious.
It’s almost like they used the banana slicer as a writing prompt. I give 5 stars all around.
Thank you, Kristen! You absolutely cannot say it enough.
Unless you’re Kristen Lamb or Stephen King, do not write about writing. Seriously. Even writers can’t stand to read about writing that often. I’ve heard people say, “If I see one more blogger writing about writing, I will stick my head in a wood chipper.”
Non-writers don’t care. Writers can only take so much. Please. Blog about your garden, your butterfly collection, your hike up Mt. Kilimanjaro, or ironing your pantyhose, but don’t write about writing.
Thanks you. *steps off soap box*
Aahh…now I understand all of the Facebook posts about this banana thing. I was hesitant to click on it and see what was amusing everyone so much because I might lose my status as “odd man out” or get sucked into some kind of banana slicing cult. I will never review an Ebay purchase in the same tired, dull way…I have been inspired…and a bit disturbed.
If you want a good laugh and you enjoyed the Banana Slicer reviews (I did!) take a look at How to Avoid Large Ships on Amazon. Hilarious, tongue-in-cheek and written in a serious tone, this is a wonderful review section. I always feel better whenever I browse it.http://www.amazon.com/Avoid-Huge-Ships-John-Trimmer/dp/0870334336/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1357914884&sr=1-1&keywords=how+to+avoid+large+ships
This blog was a light bulb moment for me as a new blogger and author. I’ve been struggling to write “How to” articles instead of writing about my platform. It’s what I know and will be so much more fun. Do you mind if I use this premise for my Gem State Writers Blog post if I link back to you? Thanks for all the great advice.
Great blog, Kristen. I connected with the right brain/left brain thing. When I first started my blog, I had no idea what I was going to write. Every once in awhile, I’d come up with a short story or some observation, but I wasn’t on my site very regularly. Then, not too long ago, a Facebook friend asked me to interview her on my blog. I’d never been on the asking side of a blog interview, but I took the chance, and it worked. She was happy, I was happy I’d made her day, and it’s taken off from there.
Now with book reviews, author interviews, and still the occasional personal observations, I am never out of things to write. And it’s all right-brained, but it still fulfills some of those “writing requirements” you mentioned.
Now I’m up against another challenge: those query letters and submission requirements for getting my next two books published. Again, left-brained questions for a right-brained product. When I think about what I am going to write to fulfill those requirements, I am just as blank as when I started my blog. But I overcame that with the help of a friend,so I will be asking my writing friends for help once again.
Those reviews were in every way HI-larious. I think the biggest lesson here is sometimes you need to read the reviews t know what your getting lol
I just wanted to say that I found your article, Beyond Bastards, started reading your blog. This particular banana post made me laugh really hard, and I read it out loud to my wife. It also got me wanting to write my own blog. I linked back to you out of gratitude, and just want to encourage you to keep doing your thing!
Funny as all hell, especially since hell is lined with banana slicers- little known fact. However, I disagree with your statement about artists. Artist also need to use the left brain. My saying is: load the left brain and let to right brain fly. One must also have the ability to shift into left brain and keep it there, on demand for business sake, when called for. Never restrict a brain ,let it do everything.
As an opera singer, when I saw this hilarious comment, I had to find this blog post just to share this link to a funny review: read “M. Shackleford” hilarious! RE: “On the Art of Opera” by Kim Jong-il
Awwww *hugs* Thank you so much, Jack. I really appreciate that :D.