February 27, 2011

Navigating Treacherous Waters


Things are definitely ratcheting up in the business of Tillerman writing projects.

Just look at the state of affairs in the current project - the one about 'Navigation', inspired by the recent release in the US of Tristan Gooley's book, The Natural Navigator.

In the old days of Tillerman writing projects, you would drag your feet for a week and a half, wondering how the devil you could write yet another opus about yet another preposterous topic, and then, at the very last, you'd cobble something together somehow and post it.

And that was it.

Done. End of story. Miller time.

But that was then and this is now. Those simple, carefree, innocent times have receded in the rear-view mirror of life like a smoking, misfiring VW camper van with bad valves.

In this post-modern world of watery blogal competition, things are far more complex. The stakes are higher now. The competitors are more seasoned and wise. The bar has been raised.

Just as in other arenas of high-stakes competition, where careers and reputations teeter in the balance - the Pulitzer Prizes, the Oscars, the figure-eight demolition races at Islip Speedway - knowing how to finesse the writing project game can be just as important as blogging skill. If you don't know how to interpret the rules and politick the judges, if you fail to keep up with the latest writing project trends, you are lost.

The unknowing neophyte, for instance, probably hasn't a clue that it is no longer enough to post a single entry in a Tillerman writing project. Somehow - and I don't know exactly when this happened - we have passed into the era of the multiple entry. Once merely an option, this is now a virtual requirement to ensure a win.

Just look at the work of avant-garde, trendsetting London blogger, Captain JP. In one short week, he has posted no fewer than 15 to 18 entries (I haven't checked his blog in the past 20 minutes so can't be sure of the exact number). And still they come. He has even enlisted the help of his co-blogger - a Mr. Buff Staysail - to keep the posting machine cranking out copy 24 hours a day.

Not to be caught short, in ultra-competitive New York City, crafty kayaker Bonnie Frogma has also managed to quickly put up multiple posts, after waking up and smelling the endless cups of coffee being brewed in Blighty.

The word has also made its way to the high deserts of New Mexico, where intrepid wordsmith, Carol Anne, had a perfectly serviceable and well-crafted entry posted, wherein she navigated from from one begonia to another. But reading the handwriting on Frogma's New York subway walls, she got the message post-haste and hastily re-posted.

Things were once more at impasse until Miss Frogma hatched an ingenious two-part counter plan to crush all opposition:

Part 1) Her second post references an earlier post about - what else - natural navigation (an obvious ploy that plays to the judges' tastes for anything about natural navigation)

part 2 - and this is just brilliant) There's a comment on the referenced post by none other than Tristan Gooley hisself!

Hokey smokes! How do you compete against stuff like that? Game, set, and match to the clever kayaker from Canarsie. She has this one in the bag!

Me, I completely missed the mark (sorry, meager attempt at navigation humor).  I was soldiering stupidly on, thinking a single, sober, soundly-researched and scholarly post might fare well in this competition. What was I thinking? I have been outclassed by these world-class bloggers.

I guess I could have thought to link to some old, mouldy posts of my own about the dangers of over-confidence in navigation, about navigating at night in total darkness, or about navigating in fog. But, I'm from laid-back California. It's bad form to appear to be trying too hard. Zealous over-achievers are regarded with suspicion here.

But wait a minute, I could change the name of this post from The State of Things in Tillerman Writing Projects to something that would hoodwink the judges into thinking this is about navigation, too. Could I turn this into a multiple entry of my own?

I just might be back in the running!



  1. Islip! Nice. Don't forget New Egypt or East Windsor.

    So I'm a cobbler, huh?

  2. Cobbler?

    Baydog, thou art a mender of bad souls.

  3. Heel, O Docker. It may not be as straight-laced as it seems.

  4. Very clever post - have you ever considered a future in the news and media industries?

    Buff, I should point out, is incapable of working three hours straight, let alone 24!

  5. JP, I think the photo at the top of this post is a good metaphor for the future of the news and media industries.

    But if Buff likes working fewer than three hours per day, there may well be a place for him there.

  6. I think I may have been the first to start writing multiple entries to my own group writing projects. For some strange reason I always seemed to be more enthusiastic about the topics than my readers.

    But now, as you so astutely report, several others seem to have adopted this practice. I have no idea why.

    Is it the chance of winning a book? Unlikely because one of the most prolific writers this month has been JP who already owns the book.

    Is it to gather as many separate links from Proper Course back to their blogs as they can? Could be true but I think too highly of my readers to believe they would stoop so low.

    Or is it simply that the multiple posters are very enthusiastic about the topic and are eager to share their knowledge and creativity with the world?

  7. I don't do it for the free book, the free tee shirt, or the free hat.

    I think most of us do it because it makes us feel like we've done an honest day's work.

    We do it so that free men everywhere can breathe a little easier, stand a little taller, and walk without fear.

    We do it so that the small child may sleep soundly at night and dream of a thousand tomorrows.

    We do it for mom, apple pie, and baseball.

    We do it for the school teacher, the barber, and the soda jerk.

    We do it for the cop on the beat.

    We do it wherever the sweet song of liberty is sung proudly under the noonday sun.

    We do it....oh geez, I'm terribly sorry. This is the wrong rant.

    I guess I do it for the free tee shirt, after all.

  8. Well said ODocker. I don't follow your blog much these days. I've moved planets. But I agree with your position: blogging is not about competition, it's about the love of applepies.

  9. Thanks Frankie, I think.

    I wasn't really being too serious here (very unusual for me). I think the bloggers I mentioned in this post blog mainly for the love of apple pies. I hope they do, because otherwise, the pay isn't really very good at all.

    If you've changed planets, that probably would have made a great navigation post.

    And for more blogging about apple pies, you might like Baydog's blog.

  10. I totally like pie!

  11. I think we may have lost some contributors too by turning the group writing projects into a competition. Frankie complained when I first did this, and I do understand why some people may not like this aspect.

    So maybe the next one I will run it just for fun and not to decided a "winner".

  12. I agree.

    There's enough competition in the rest of life.

    I think what I like most about blogging is that a group of friends scattered around the globe can all contribute to a conversation, as if we are all sitting in a virtual pub. For me, the writing projects are just another sort of conversation.

    And, like conversations at the local watering hole, a certain spirit of oneupmanship often surfaces naturally. But knowing that prizes are to be awarded at the end of the night would probably put a damper on any conversation.

    The part I like least is having to declare a vote for one of my friends, because that also means having to vote 'against' other friends. And if I want to annoy people, I can always just leave comments on their blogs.

  13. Well, my reaction depends on WHICH bar is being raised.

    If it's a beach bar, and raising it keeps it from being flooded and closed, then that's a good thing.

    But if it's a bar in the passage to a harbor, that could be bad for those crossing the bar.