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Writing While Female

While having a few posts go viral, I’ve noticed some distressing trends.

Despite having my name on basically every post I make, readers still seem to be confused about my gender. It would be one thing if they were not presuming pronouns, but it seems like, really, everyone just assumes that writers (especially for pop culture and gaming) on the internet are men.

It’s unclear to me why this is. I’ve always thought of writing as something relatively gender neutral, but I guess that the topics of pop culture and gaming critique is considered to be somewhat masculine. The fact that I am into gaming and criticizing (or even just commenting on) pop culture when I am not specifically talking about women will often lead to readers calling me “he” in the comments. My name nor picture is hidden on any of these articles. I think most people’s first assumption would be that I’m a woman. However, most comments come from a place of hate and (often) not reading the article at all. If a commenter hasn’t read the article, does their comment really matter?

My answer is that it does and it doesn’t. It’s adding to the discourse around the article, and, despite what everyone is told, people do read the comments. When the comments are all unfounded criticisms and people telling others to read the article before commenting, has it actually made an impact? This hasn’t completely taken over any of my articles yet, but it is certainly a present factor.

The other disturbing accusation is that I’m somehow hiding my gender or my commentary is less important because of it. On more than one article, I’ve seen comments more or less along the lines of “a woman wrote this.” This isn’t hidden information. Moreover, it comes with the implication that my writing is less valid. If a woman writes about gender, the assumption is that she is inherently biased. Meanwhile, many still see men as unbiased beings. If a man writes about gender, he is listened to, for better or worse.

When it all comes down to it, however, this doesn’t affect my day-to-day life. Sure, I am a firm believer that women should be more easily visible in pop culture and gaming, but being misgendered doesn’t hold the same weight as it does to someone who isn’t cis gender. The trend of assuming gender doesn’t stop at women being recognized for their writing contributions. It extends far into the LGBTQIA+ community. Unless the writing is ghost writing, the author’s name identity is there for the reader.

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Crafting An April Fool’s Post

Derailed has always tried to create fun April Fools content. Last year, we created a post about all things Trinket, a predictive text Critical Role PREcap, and a Talks Machina recap. This year, we created a fake GM tips post and a Critical Role conspiracy post.

With all of these posts, we try to accomplish several things. For starters, their mostly collaborative. Nick usually creates the ideas for the posts (apparently he’s the funniest), then we all flesh out the ideas. Normally this involves pushing the limits of how ridiculous we can be in the post. Some of our ideas are edited in the process as well. For instance, in the conspiracy theory post, we originally planned to have Marisha secretly be the real DM. I also wanted to make a theory about Laura’s amazing facial expressions as well. After some thought, I decided that it was better to have Laura be the real DM, and Tom came up with the idea that Marisha would be wearing sleeves all the time.

Something that is always important in an April Fools post is to have something with little to no stakes. To avoid being straight up fake news, the post should be a little ridiculous, but, ultimately, not harmful. Stuff like fake death notices or other types of fake news isn’t terribly clever, and it can lead to actual distress. The worst case we had with one of our posts is that people really believed that we thought Critical Role is scripted. This was especially due to the website crashing, but there was, ultimately, no lasting damage or hurt feelings other than people believing we thought Taliesin was really sucked into a vacuum.

Generally, people enjoy silliness more than they enjoy pranks. The YouTube style “pranks” where people are getting hurt or made to look stupid just aren’t very fun. It’s much more fun to explore websites with humorous changes than it is to be tricked. April Fools changes should be more or less accessible to anyone browsing the site, but they shouldn’t impede the ability to use the site (unless your website crashes, like ours did).

Put simply, April Fools on the internet should be ridiculous and not convincing and silly but not inhibiting. It’s also an important time to develop around your website’s personal brand. Even “HornHub” was pretty saxy on April first.

Alternatively, not doing anything is always an option.

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One Small Step

I love working and learning.

I’ve come to learn that I’m far happier having a lot to do than having nothing to do. I think that’s why I enjoyed grad school so much. So, recently, I’ve been busier than I have been in a long time, but I also feel so much more fulfilled.

I recently was offered writing positions with two websites: Blasting News and The Gamer. I’m extremely excited to be working with both sites. Neither one are my usual writing style, but that’s part of what makes me look forward to it. In the big, scary world of trying to support yourself through writing, it’s a start, and, most importantly, it’s my start.

I already have experience working from home, so that hasn’t been too much of an adjustment, but the biggest obstacle has been learning about the industry and how to break into it. In becoming a maker of content, I’ve had to find out how to consume content. I’ve always loved games, movies, and other media, which is what inspired Project Derailed in the first place. But, in watching/reading/playing, I’m always looking for angles and trying to think of media in a way no one else has before.

Grad school comes in handy here. I was able to learn a fair amount about the basis on which academics analyze texts, and I try to bring that to newer media. The main difference between undergrad and grad school was that I had to show that I knew more about the subject than anyone else whereas a lot of undergrad was focused on competency in various subjects.

I try to apply that to my works now, but I use do it knowing that, as much as I would love to write it, not everyone wants to read a 25 page paper on an obscure movie from 1964. Our brand at Derailed allows me to play with full academic research and media (our most popular post was a paper I wrote on linguistics and Critical Role), but it usually needs to be cut down a bit before publication.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Blogging requires a certain style that isn’t always similar to an academic paper. And I enjoy writing in both styles very much. Every experience and opportunity I have gotten to write has helped me learn more about writing and improve. I get to learn and have work I enjoy every day, which is very exciting. I am eager to learn more about what will help me in my career and the rest of my life.

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Defining Your Own Success

Before Derailed was read by more than a very small handful of people, Tom wrote Rick & Morty posts rewatching the show and analyzing the weird jokes and plots. Most memorably, this led to an analysis of what exactly someone means when they compare their erection to the size of an East Coast lighthouse. However, the next episode rewatch, “Meeseeks and Destroy” had what I thought to be a particularly important observation:

Humans often wish for a more clear idea of what the meaning of life is, a better idea of their purpose. Mr. Meeseeks is warning us of the danger of that. What if we knew exactly what our purpose was, but had no way of achieving it? Would that not be far worse than setting squishy goals and then declaring victory when we feel like it? What if we all ended up like Jerry, knowing exactly what it is we’re supposed to do, but frustrated by our inability to achieve it? Is that what we really want?

I’ve thought a lot about this since we published it on the website. For a lot of my life, I had tried to set very clear goals with specific measures of success: go to college, go to grad school, move out, etc. And, for the record, I think those goals are important. Still, it’s difficult to not get worn out when success means you have to build something for years. This is especially the case in creative fields where so many variables are decided by others. The same piece several people love, several will hate, and several won’t even bother to click on it before they tell you it’s bad. I don’t know why it happens, but it’s a strange inevitability of content creation.

It’s difficult to measure success by how many people like your work because the ones who hate it feel like they count for so much more. Even relying on viewership as a bar for success doesn’t always work. The problem with working at a small website is that even if the piece is brilliant, it may be overlooked for the popular features. There’s ways to increase your probability of traffic, but it can be difficult for new writers to guarantee that traffic when it’s first published.

Over the past few years with Derailed and my writing career, I’ve tried to focus on smaller successes to get me through to the larger successes. For each of my actions (and lack of action), I ask myself how it is improving the website. Writing posts will create more content. Spreading out content guarantees more content for later in case life or a lack of ideas strike. I focus on the malleable goal of making the website better while other, more concrete goals are still varying lengths of time away.

Keeping positive and motivated is an essential part to working with people and publishing content on the internet. I personally find it helpful to keep redefining my idea of success. Once, 1,000 views in a month was a very successful month for Derailed. Now, it isn’t terribly uncommon to get that amount in a single day. On top of that, I’m still very proud of our website, but, in the greater scheme of things, it isn’t that much traffic when compared to larger websites.

Still, I’m very proud of the success Derailed has achieved. There’s no real reason for people to be interested in us or what we have to say, but, for some reason, people are. We manage to provide a service in writing Critical Role recaps and posting random bullshit. Some of it has even leaked over to this corner of the internet. It doesn’t get nearly the same amount of traffic as Derailed, but each user and view still gets me hype to create more content. And, in a sea of shitty comments and anxiety, what more could you ask for?

Announcement

Welcome!

Hello, friends!

Welcome to my website. Some of you may know me from Project Derailed, where I write Critical Role recaps, blog posts, and goof around on Trainwreck LIVE.

I’ll be posting writing updates and announcing future projects on this website as well as my social media, so, if you want to find out the latest thing I’m doing, be sure to check here. In the immediate future, I’ll be continuing my work with Project Derailed (including a new project with Nick that I’m very excited about) and I will be attempting NaNoWriMo. That’ll all be fun.

So, feel free to look around the website and check back later for more updates! 🙂

 

-Fiona