suis-je vraiment perdu, perdue?

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Yesterday’s e-mail edition of Lewis Perdue’s invaluable News Fetch e-mail included this rant, headlined “C’MON FOLKS! You want people to read your words or NOT?”

He went on to say “Write a short headline that means something to somebody or just hit DELETE. Long, obscure headlines invite people to leave.”

The post then included a short list of offending headlines, headlined by my own recent effort entitled “get yer jaja’s out...”

Perdue again: “So, a few thoughts on headlines: If you're going to take the time to write it, take enough time to write a head that attracts readers. Otherwise, recognize yourself as an existential masochist screaming into the void.”

WHOA! I sent off a quick retort, headlined “note from an existential masochist screaming into the void...”

But in fairness to both points of view, here is the meat of Perdue’s post:

“Put yourself in a reader's shoes and answer the big question: ‘who cares?’ You better answer that fast and well. And that means getting rid of meaningless first words and phrases like "Monday Moanings" or "What I liked today," or "Humongous Megacorp, a major supplier of something another, announced blah today that ..."

Clue: nobody cares.

You MUST tell people why something matters, what it does and why they NEED to read your short, meaningful headlines. Active verbs folks. Hint: "announce" and "introduce" ain't active enough to matter.”

OK, my turn now. First off, “get yer jaja’s out” is about as active as can be. Second, it was designed to attract readers. Along with the image of a wine label, it specifically referenced a particular wine from a particular winery – the topic du jour.

Beyond that, it included a tasty (in my view) little pun (for those younger than the sandwich in my refrigerator, get yer ya ya’s out was an album title from the Rolling Stones a few years back). Most importantly, my purpose in writing this blog, first and foremost, is to amuse myself. I do it for me, selfishly. My mentor, the Hosemaster, has inspired this approach. Though I utterly lack his comedic skills, I revel in obscure puns and sly images and derive a great deal of enjoyment from posting up entries on this blog that are untouched by any editor other than me.

As a working freelancer, I love my editors. They give me support and sustenance. They also pee on my fire hydrant, as is their right. The blog is the one hydrant that only I can pee on. So if my headlines are vague, obscure, irrelevant, misleading; if no one cares but me, if they fail to attract readers... THEY HAVE NOT FAILED! Because the one reader they were meant to attract – me – has read and enjoyed them.


Ron Washam, HMW said...


Man, if I'm your mentor you have worse problems than headline writing. But that's a nice compliment.

I do write for myself and my own amusement. I, famously, dislike nearly everything I write, but I very much enjoy the process of writing, as, obviously, you do as well. That I attract even the tiniest audience is amazing and flattering. I do what I do because it's therapeutic, and, God knows, I need therapy.

I also think that it shows when a writer isn't enjoying himself. Trying too hard to impress, sounding like he can't wait to finish his post, writing like how he thinks a journalist writes...bloggers like that are boring as well as a dime a gross. Give me the blogger having fun, clearly enjoying his work, who has something to say and says it with panache. The rest of the Poodles, well, they can pee on their hydrants all they want--there aren't any other dogs walking by to sniff it.

Dave Larsen said...

Paul and Ron, Most of us winemakers make wine the way you guys write, to please ourselves, i.e. to please our own palate. And that approach is probably true for most artists and creative types. Otherwise we're just working for the man and making widgets.

Lewis Perdue said...

Hey! I like your writing and want more people to read it, which is why I took the time to rant. If you're just writing for yourself and don't care whether people read or not, that's cool. I always think you can please yourself and, with a little extra thought, grab the attention of others who may also enjoy your musings... à chacun son goût.

PaulG said...

Lewis, I truly value and appreciate your support. I was mostly just having a little fun. Of course any writer wants readers, and I am no exception. Let's both keep on doing what we do so well, and I will take a closer look at future headlines (no promises tho'....)

Art said...

This appears to be a bit of a family affair, but how very appropriate that The HoseMaster was the first one to weigh in! Perhaps your other readers will want to contribute the headlines that they would most like to see. How about, "$10 Wine Tastes like $100, and There's Plenty for Everyone"? By the way, I thought your jaja pun/reference was great.

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