Tadpole Treble

Tadpole Treble is the epic tale of a tadpole lost, alone, and far from home. This tiny amphibian must find her way back, dodging such dangers as piranhas, snapping turtles, and… musical notes.


This quirky game is the work of Matthew Taranto, a man whose wise words I literally have framed and displayed on my desk. He created the Nintendo-themed webcomic Brawl in the Family, which ran for about six years. (I mourned its end on this very blog.) Upon concluding the webcomic, Taranto began working full-time on Tadpole Treble.

Each stage of the game is basically a long musical staff, along which players must dodge the notes of the stage’s musical score. It’s a neat intersection of music and gameplay: two elements of game design that are too often disconnected.

Tadpole Treble

The game will be released for Steam (a digital marketplace for video games) in just a couple of days. I’m holding out for the Wii U release later this spring. It was apparently a childhood dream of Taranto’s to make a game for a Nintendo system, and I’m glad he’s finally done it.

In other news, one of the game’s songs, “Thunder Creek,” has been stuck in my head for two weeks.

I don’t usually support indie projects, but when Tadpole Treble showed up on Kickstarter a year or two ago, I tossed a few dollars its way as a small thank-you to Matthew Taranto. Brawl in the Family helped me through one or two really dark days, and he seems like an incredibly nice dude.

If I were a rich man (yubby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dibby dum), I would consider donating toward more projects on Kickstarter, and also supporting creative people on Patreon. However, I’m definitely not a rich man, so I’ll have to settle for cheering them on.

Go, little tadpole!

438. What Do You Want to See from TMTF?

An old proverb declares, “Necessity is the mother of invention,” but I think it’s more like an aunt or cousin. The mother of invention is desperation.

As I’ve worked on this blog over the past few months, I’ve sometimes felt on the verge of running out of ideas. I improvised some posts mere days, or in a few cases mere hours, before they were due. What can I say? Panic is a powerful motivator.

Desperation is the mother of invention

As I struggled once again, at the eleventh hour, to come up with an idea, any idea, for a quick and easy blog post, I had an epiphany.

“Eureka!” I cried, flinging up my hands in unrestrained ecstasy. The “Solved a puzzle!” sound from the Legend of Zelda series rang triumphantly in my ears. My cat, startled awake, tried to flee, but I swept her up and hugged her to my bosom, weeping tears of relief and joy. (I may be exaggerating the scene slightly.)

I’ve been a bit hard-pressed lately to come up with ideas for new posts, so I’m thinking of taking some requests from readers. What do you want me to write for this blog? Are there any specific subjects you would like TMTF to cover before it ends later this year? After all, the blog is taking its final laps, so if there are any topics you want to see discussed here, time is running out!

TMTF wants your ideas for blog posts!

If you have any requests or suggestions for new posts, feel free to share them in the comments below, through this blog’s Contact page, or via social media! I won’t necessarily accept all of them, but I’ll consider every one.

What do you want to see from TMTF before it bites the dust later this year? Let us know!

434. Reviving Lance Eliot

I recently declared my intention of resurrecting the Lance Eliot saga. With that announcement out of the way, I was free to sit back, swallow a feeling of rising panic, and ask myself, “Now what?”

I won’t begin working on a new manuscript for The Trials of Lance Eliot until after this blog bites the dust later this year, but I have plenty of groundwork to lay in the meantime. Not much research or planning went into my previous attempts to tell Lance Eliot’s story. This time, as I prepare for one last do-or-die effort, I want to give it a solid foundation.

In case anyone is interested in getting a glimpse into my creative process, here are some of my early preparations for reviving Lance Eliot.

Flipping heck, when did I get to be so old?

Figure 1: A writer hard at work in the conceptual stage of stage of writing.

Background reading

Reading is often a deceptively vast part of the writing process. Before returning to Lance Eliot’s story, I want to revisit some of the works that influenced it. One of these is Dante’s Divine Comedy, upon which the Lance Eliot saga is (very) loosely based. Another is Reading for Redemption, a book by one of my college professors. It posits a theory of literary criticism that informed the Lance Eliot character.

I also need to do some research. In previous drafts of the story, the setting is simplistic: a kingdom tucked between two empires, quietly minding its own business. I want to create a more precarious political situation by making the kingdom a reluctant player in a rivalry between its neighbors. When I explained this idea to my dad, he suggested I look into the history of Uruguay, which was apparently caught in a conflict between Brazil and Argentina. I clearly have some reading to do.


Figure 2: Real-world inspirations can be helpful.

I’ll also have to reread the latest version of The Trials of Lance Eliot because, honestly, I’ve forgotten most of it. There was a character called Tsurugi, wasn’t there? I’m pretty sure there was. And Lancelot came into it somehow? I could use a review.

Story planning

I need to begin fitting together the pieces of the story long before I start writing. Some writers are able to get away with making things up as they go along, but when I do that, I generally end up with a lot of fluff.

I want to streamline the story this time, making sure every scene and character contributes something meaningful. That will take a lot of careful planning. I’m not yet sure how I’ll keep track of everything—a notebook? Index cards? Desk graffiti?—but I’ll try to craft a more focused story.


In previous attempts to write Lance Eliot’s story, I felt too impatient to do any more world-building than absolutely necessary. If Lance Eliot doesn’t see it, I thought, the reader won’t see it, and I won’t have to make it up.

Sadly, my apathy toward the world I had created made it a bland, generic place. I need to start asking myself more questions. What’s the history of my fictional kingdom? What sort of holidays does it celebrate? What are its cultural influences? How high are its tables? I need to answer these kinds of questions even though some of my answers won’t make it into the story.

High vs. low tables

Figure 3: Table height. It matters, guys.

The reader’s image of the world I create will be much vaguer than my own. If I have only a faint concept of Lance Eliot’s world, how much fainter will the reader’s be!

Reader feedback

The Trials of Lance Eliot has been rattling around in my head for so many years that my view of it is deeply subjective. I could use some objective views from other people. What works in the story? What doesn’t? What needs to change?

If you’ve read the book, and if you can offer any feedback, please feel free to send it my way!

These early preparations for writing a story are, for me, the fun part. It’s when the writing starts, and I have to put my ideas onto paper, that things get tough.

I suppose I’ll worry about that when I get there.

A Painting a Day Keeps the Art Block at Bay

Frilled lizard

Yep, that sure is a frilled lizard. (Art by Piper Thibodeau.)

Art is hard. Art is really, really hard, yet here is an artist who paints a new picture every flipping day. There is a word for such people: dedicated.

Wait, that’s not the word I meant. Masochistic. That’s it. This artist is masochistic.

Nah, I’m only joking. I have nothing but respect for Piper Thibodeau, the artist who creates a brand-new digital painting every day to keep her artistic skills sharp. That’s just bonkers. I mean, heck, I thought writing two and a half blog posts a week was hard! It must take quite an imagination to come up with a new idea for a painting every single day.

A lot of Ms. Thibodeau’s paintings are visual puns. Some of my favorites include crab apples, a Capuchin’o monkey, a pheasant peasant, and a guaca’ mole. Cute art, impressive creativity, silly puns—what more can you ask for?

431. My Creative Heroes

Creative people are fun, quirky, smart, and responsible for most of the entertainment in my life. (The rest of it comes from acting silly in public to make my younger brother uncomfortable.) I have many creative heroes: people I know personally, people on the Internet, and professionals in the media.

Today’s post honors three of my creative heroes, one each from the media of film, video games, and literature. I admire and respect the heck out of these people. If I were the sort of person who cries and gives hugs, I would embrace these heroes of mine and weep tears of joy and gratitude. I’m not, however, so instead I’ll ramble about them, because rambling is what I do.

John Lasseter

[Update: I wrote this post long before the #MeToo movement exposed Mr. Lasseter’s history of sexually harassing coworkers and others. While I admire his creative genius, I hasten to add that success and talent are never acceptable excuses for being a sleazebag.]

I considered naming Hayao Miyazaki one of my creative heroes, but this brilliant Japanese filmmaker is also demanding and grouchy: not qualities I admire in anyone, creative or not. John Lasseter, like Miyazaki, is a legend; unlike Miyazaki, he seems like a nice human being.

John Lasseter

Lasseter’s career is one of the most incredible rags-to-riches stories I know. As a boy, he dreamed of working for Disney as an animator. He achieved his dream—only to be fired after just a few years. His mistake was annoying his superiors by experimenting with a brand-new form of art: computer animation.

Heartbroken, Lasseter drifted to a division of Lucasfilm, which later became an independent company called Pixar Animation Studios. (You may have heard of it.) For a decade, Pixar pioneered computer animation with masterpieces like Toy Story and its sequel, both of which Lasseter directed.

It seems strange to us nowadays, as we enjoy terrific films like Wreck-It Ralph and Zootopia, but just ten years ago Disney’s animation studios were stuck in a losing streak. Their films found neither commercial nor critical success, and their fans yearned for the good old days of Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. Disney, the most successful animation company in history, had sunk to the unimaginable low of mediocrity.

Faced with this crisis, Disney’s newly-appointed CEO, Bob Iger, did the only sensible thing: oversee Disney’s purchase of Pixar, and then put Lasseter and his colleague Ed Catmull in charge of basically everything. After more than twenty years, John Lasseter returned to the studio that had fired him—as its chief creative officer. His employees welcomed him with cheers and applause.

In the following years, Lasseter renamed and restructured Disney’s main animation studio, canceled cash-grab projects and lazy sequels, and oversaw the release of superb films from both Disney and Pixar: all while wearing colorful Hawaiian shirts.

I admire John Lasseter for his creative vision, which blends an appreciation for tradition with a dedication to cutting-edge innovation. Mr. Lasseter emphasizes teamwork, strives for quality in art and storytelling, and seems like a genuinely nice guy. He’s one of my heroes, and a colorful one at that.

Shigeru Miyamoto

Several decades ago, the president of a company on the verge of financial collapse made a desperate plan to salvage unpopular hardware. He tasked a young employee named Shigeru Miyamoto with creating a new game for old arcade units. That game was Donkey Kong, that company was Nintendo, and that employee went on to create Mario, The Legend of Zelda, and many of the greatest video games ever made.

Shigeru Miyamoto

Nintendo is awesome, and Shigeru Miyamoto is the genius behind many of its successes. Many of the turning points in the history of video gaming hinge on Miyamoto’s games. Donkey Kong established the platforming genre. Super Mario Bros. helped save the video game industry after it crashed in the eighties. Super Mario 64 and The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time pioneered movement in a virtual 3D space, and the Wii experimented with motion control.

Miyamoto has helped shape the video game industry for nearly four decades, but you wouldn’t guess it to look at him. He’s a mild gentleman who enjoys music and gardening, and walked or biked to work until his company pressured him for his own safety to drive. For a creative visionary, he seems entirely down to earth.

Nowadays, Miyamoto is more of a creative consultant for Nintendo than a game designer. He is notorious for “upending the tea table” during game development, flipping design concepts on their heads. (His suggestions are game-changing, so to speak.) Miyamoto seems like Nintendo’s idea guy, stepping in when a development team needs a boost.

I admire Miyamoto’s design philosophy: he values fun over fancy graphics or technical intricacy. Most of his games are based on his own life experiences, from exploring woods and caves as a child to gardening as an adult. (He even made a game inspired by his attempts to lose weight!) His work is colorful, charming, fun, and friendly. Nintendo is basically the Pixar of the video game industry, and Miyamoto-san, like Pixar’s Mr. Lasseter, is one of my heroes.

J.R.R. Tolkien

Of course this man is one of my creative heroes. Really, they don’t get any more creative than J.R.R. Tolkien. The man created an entire world—an earth with its own geography, mythology, languages, cultures, genealogies, and thousands of years of history—and he did it in his spare time.

J.R.R. TolkienLong before he published The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien was a noted academic renowned for his groundbreaking work in literary criticism. He lectured, graded papers, translated old texts, published books, raised a family, and still found time somehow to create his own vast, private, intricate mythology.

Tolkien was irrepressibly creative. For example, every year his children wrote to Father Christmas, aka Santa Claus—and, incredibly, Father Christmas wrote back. For twenty-two years, Tolkien played the role of Father Christmas to amuse his kids: writing and illustrating stories about his misadventures at the North Pole. These letters were published as a children’s book after Tolkien’s death; I’ve read them, and and they’re delightful. Even in his little pet projects, Tolkien’s creativity and cleverness were astounding.

Of course, Tolkien’s greatest project of all was Middle-earth and its stories, the most famous of which is The Lord of the Rings. The sheer size and intricacy of Tolkien’s world is astounding; by some estimates, it’s the largest and most complex ever created by a single person in all of human history. Tolkien’s influence on literature and pop culture is literally incalculable.

In his vast mythologies and in his little stories for children, at work and at home, J.R.R. Tolkien was incredibly creative, and he’s one of my heroes.

Whew! That was a long post. What can I say? Creative people inspire me!

Who are your creative heroes? Let us know in the comments!

426. I Want to Make You Feel

I recently announced my decision to revive the Lance Eliot saga, my greatest and most personal writing project. Today I will tell you why I made that big decision, but there is something else, something important, I must discuss first.

Excuse me, Sir or Madam, but have you heard the good word about Disney’s Zootopia?

Zootopia movie poster

Not far from my home in the little town of Berne there stands a cozy cinema called the Ritz Theatre. (I discovered it when I ventured forth to see The Lego Movie a couple of years ago.) The Ritz has two theater rooms, one of which is fairly small, and an old-timey lobby with a big plaster model of an Oscar trophy. I love the Ritz Theatre. It wraps the sound and fury of Hollywood movies in the charm of a friendly small business.

My younger brother and I recently made a pilgrimage to the Ritz Theatre to see Zootopia, Disney’s latest animated movie. It was fantastic. However, as much as I would love to spend this blog post explaining why the movie is fantastic, that’s not really the point. (Seriously, though, go watch Zootopia.)

The point is that Zootopia made me feel things. It evoked far deeper feelings of catharsis and happiness than any kids’ movie has any right to do. I am not an emotional person. I am, despite my sense of humor and typically sunny disposition, pragmatic and logical.

Thus, when the feels hit me, they hit me hard.


I just can’t take the feels, man.

Zootopia is far from the first story to make me make me feel things. Heck, nearly every new animated Disney film since Bolt back in 2008 has left an emotional impression. For some reason, while movies for adults appeal to my intellect, movies for kids are the ones that appeal to my feelings. (Disney, Pixar, and Studio Ghibli, I’m looking right at you.)

I like positive feelings. Most people do. I’m not often emotionally overwhelmed by a story, but when I am, it’s an amazing experience. It’s a fleeting encounter with the power of storytelling: as J.R.R. Tolkien suggested, “a far-off gleam or echo” of a happy ending to our own story, which is being told by the greatest Storyteller of all.

Speaking of Tolkien, I admit few stories have made me feel as much as The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien’s masterpiece, especially the last chapters of its final book, The Return of the King, warms even my impassive old heart.

I haven’t read The Lord of the Rings since 2009 or so, and much of it had faded from my memory, but something happened last year to change that.

A few days after Christmas, my brother and I visited a family friend. I’ll call him Socrates here. (In real life, I call him Barabbas. It’s a fun story.) After welcoming us into his home, Socrates made snacks and put on the film adaptation of The Return of the King. It had been almost as long since I had seen the film as it had since I had read the book!

Return of the King movie poster

Something happened that night. The movie was as good as I remembered, but beyond that, something woke up inside me. I felt an overwhelming peace and happiness: the nostalgia of fond memories in harmony with the catharsis of seeing beloved characters reach a happy ending. It was then I realized something: I knew I once wanted to write a story of my own, but I had forgotten why.

This was why.

That night reminded me of why I decided to write stories in the first place: I wanted to feel, and I wanted to make other people feel, too. Stories like Zootopia and The Return of the King gave me moments of cathartic happiness, peace, and comfort. I wanted to give someone else those moments.

I still do.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. That’s my excuse for picking up the Lance Eliot saga once this blog bites the dust. I want to make you feel.

Blame Tolkien and Zootopia.

425. Stealing Ideas Is Wrong (so Borrow Them Instead)

Today’s post wound up on someone else’s blog. Hey, don’t give me that look. Bloggers sometimes misplace their posts. It happens. Don’t judge me.

My friend JK Riki wrote the book on creativity. (This isn’t just a figure of speech; he wrote a literal book on the subject.) He also writes a monthly newsletter with creative tips, and a personal blog on creativity.

JK's blog header

When I got an opportunity to write a post for JK’s blog, I wrote about J.R.R. Tolkien, because of course I did.

My latest post, “Stealing Ideas Is Wrong (so Borrow Them Instead),” can be read here!

419. Fans, Geeks, and Fan Fiction: A Momentary Study

The pursuit of knowledge does not always take us to pleasant places. It may lift us to dizzying heights, but may also drop us into dark valleys where no sane person should go.

Today we’re talking about fan fiction. Brace yourselves.

Fanfiction everywhere

The Internet has a lot of fan fiction, and also a lot of visual memes.

Let’s begin with the basics. Fan fiction is an amateur literary genre in which writers use worlds, concepts, or characters from other stories to tell their own.

At first glance, this doesn’t seem so bad—indeed, some fan fiction is actually quite tolerable. For example, many fan fictions (abbreviated fanfics) have been written and even published using characters now in the public domain, such as Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Sherlock Holmes. At its best, fan fiction is… all right, I guess?

However, most fanfics are terrible. Many writers of fan fiction lack the skill or experience to make good use of the ideas they steal from other stories. On top of that, too many writers use fanfics not to tell good stories, but as a cheap form of wish-fulfillment. Heck, there are entire categories of fan fiction devoted to fulfilling fans’ private desires.

For example, self-insert fics put the writers themselves (or fictional versions thereof) into the stories. (These representations of the authors are known as OCs, or Original Characters. OCs sometimes exist outside of fanfics, as many fans enjoy creating characters based on ideas or styles from existing stories.) Hurt/comfort fics inflict harm upon familiar characters, giving fans the emotional catharsis of seeing them comforted. Slash fics put characters in romantic or sexual relationships, thus upholding Rule 34 of the Internet: If it exists, there is porn of it.

(Here I must credit TV Tropes for its helpful information on fan fiction subgenres.)

Fan fiction can tell meaningful stories, but in practice, it hardly ever does.

Trying to cope

My reaction to most fan fiction is… not favorable.

Besides the problems with individual fanfics, fan fiction as a genre has two colossal faults. The first concerns law and ethics; the second, creativity and intellect.

Fan fiction is technically illegal. Companies hardly ever sue writers of fan fiction unless they try to publish their fanfics, and sometimes not even then. Regardless, fan fiction infringes copyright. It’s theft of intellectual property. For that reason, it has ethical as well as legal implications.

The second problem is more personal. Fan fiction represents relatively little initiative and creativity. Instead of creating new characters, situations, and settings—or at least pretending by renaming existing ones, changing them slightly, and using them differently—writers steal whole worlds from other writers.

Why do fans write fan fiction? I’ve already mentioned the aspect of wish-fulfillment. Some fans read or write fanfics as a way to delve deeper into stories they love, and fan fiction writers are usually guaranteed an audience within their fandoms. (Of course, conversely, they are usually guaranteed an audience nowhere else.) Like shipping and waifus, fan fiction is an enthusiastic outpouring of affection and interest toward a story.

In this post, I’ve been rather merciless toward fan fiction as a genre. I don’t mean to offend anyone who enjoys reading or writing fanfics. Heck, I’m as guilty as anyone. In years past, I read a few fan fictions, and even wrote a few. I still enjoy a lot of art, music, and webcomics by fans. We live in a culture of remakes and remixes, and fan works are part of that. Even unimpressive fan works are proof of how stories encourage and inspire creativity in their fans!

Calvin & Hobbes

Fan works are at their best when they add something funny or clever to an existing work. In this picture, a fan of Calvin and Hobbes reimagined its characters as… well, Calvin and Hobbes.

Reading and writing fan fiction are valid hobbies. Creating it can develop writing skills, and reading it can evoke positive emotional responses. Fan fiction isn’t necessarily a bad thing… but I don’t believe it’s a particularly good one, either.

Everything I Know about Creativity I Learned from The Legend of Zelda

Today’s post was written by Wes Molebash, blogger and cartoonist extraordinaire. Be sure to check out MOLEBASHED, his latest webcomic!

Like most people my age, I grew up playing the Legend of Zelda video game series. I loved every minute of those games, and Ocarina of Time played a defining role in my young adulthood.

Now I like to consider myself a “creative person.” What I mean by this is that I love to create art and I’m always scheming of my next “big” project. Ideas are cheap; art is work, and I’m absolutely in love with the creative process.

That being said, I realized the other day as I was toiling in my basement office that everything I know about creativity was learned from playing the Legend of Zelda video games.

For instance:

It doesn’t matter how small you are or what tools you are using

In several of the Zelda games, Link starts his journey as a little boy who wields a measly wooden sword and a Deku shield. A DEKU shield! No one is afraid of a Deku shield. But he doesn’t let this stop him. He goes straight into his first dungeon and defeats the baddie with his slingshot David-and-Goliath-style. The journey has begun. He’s received his first taste of victory, and he’s off to the next dungeon.

So what does this tell me about the creative process? Simple: It doesn’t matter how skilled you are or how big your platform is or how expensive your tools are, just create! Don’t be hindered by your limited experience or lack of resources. I know famous cartoonists who draw awesome cartoons on three-thousand-dollar computer tablets. I also know a lot of amateur cartoonists who draw awesome cartoons using Ticonderoga No. 2 pencils and Sharpie markers. Take the resources you have and use them to the best of your ability.

Every obstacle has a weak spot—exploit it!

The Legend of Zelda series has been around since the eighties and it continues to follow a familiar formula: go into dungeons, collect maps and compasses and special weapons, and fight seemingly indestructible beasts who all have a glaring Achilles heel. Does the beastie have one huge, rolling eyeball? It’s a safe bet that you’ll want to shoot some arrows into the beast’s ocular cavity. Does the baddie occasionally stop to roar for a prolonged period of time? I’d grab some bombs and make it rain inside that guy’s maw. No matter how big the monster is, his weak point is right there in front of you begging to be struck.

The same holds true with our creative obstacles. They seem impossible to topple, but—the fact is—they’re quite easy to destroy! If I had to guess, I’d say that 99% of our creative obstacles can be toppled by simply CREATING. Are you having a hard time motivating yourself? Get out your tools and create. Do you have some naysayers telling you that you suck at life? Tune them out and create. Are you swimming in a sea of rejection letters from agents and publishers? Take the critiques and criticism with a grain of salt and create.

It really is that simple. Once you get started it’ll be hard to stop. The weak spot of your obstacle is right there staring you in the face. Exploit it.

You’re going to get better

As I said above, when Link starts his journey he is just a little boy with a crappy sword and shield and three hearts in his life meter. However, as he continues his quest he gets better. He collects more weapons. He becomes more resilient. He ages. By the end of the game he’s got the Hyrule Shield, the Master Sword, some rad magic powers, a pair of flippers that help him swim and hold his breath under water, a bunch of sweet weapons in a bag that would be impossible to carry in the real world, and eighteen hearts in his life meter. He finally ends up at Ganon’s door and he’s ready to—as they say in the UFC—“bang.”

The same is true for your creative endeavors. The more you create, the better you’ll get. You’ll also acquire new tools and awesome advice from other creators. Most importantly, you’ll gain experience. No longer will you feel completely daunted by project proposals, pitches, and rejections. It’s all part of the process and you’ll get better and better at those things.

So wipe your brow, keep creating, and—when you need to take a break—dust off your N64, pop in Ocarina of Time, and wander around Hyrule Field for a spell.

What have you learned from video games? Let us know in the comments!

This post was originally published on November 18, 2011. TMTF shall return with new content on November 30, 2015!

400. The Five Stages of Blogging, and Other TMTF Trivia

TMTF will be taking a three-week break, during which it shall republish old posts on its usual schedule. The blog shall return with new content on November 30!

Today we celebrate four hundred posts on TMTF with a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the Five Stages of Blogging.

These describe the creative process experienced by people who write blogs. (They are unrelated to the Kübler-Ross model and its five stages of grief.) Of course, some bloggers may experience more than five stages. Some may experience fewer. The stages may vary from person to person. After all, every blogger is unique!

In writing posts for this blog, I have experienced five distinct stages. The easiest posts took only one or two, whereas the most difficult ones demanded all five.

In this extra-long and extra-special blog post, we’ll take a quick look at the Five Stages of Blogging. (This post took me through all of them.) Then I’ll share a few bits of TMTF trivia before concluding with grateful acknowledgements and a couple of announcements.

Here we go!

Blogging Stage One: Optimism

Blogging Stage 1, OptimismI enjoy thinking of ideas for new blog posts. It’s the effortless part of blogging: the deceptively easy warm-up to sitting down and, y’know, actually writing something.

Blogging Stage Two: Annoyance

Blogging Stage 2, AnnoyanceAt some point, I struggle to translate the exciting ideas in my head to words on a computer screen. Ideas are elusive. They don’t like to be pinned down. Sometimes, when written down, ideas change and grow in alarming ways. This is sometimes an amazing thing to see—except that by “sometimes” I mean “roughly 0.086% of the time.” It’s usually just annoying.

Blogging Stage Three: Frustration

Blogging Stage 3, FrustrationAt some point, annoyance escalates to frustration. I scowl at my laptop, mutter under my breath, brew another pot of coffee, and wish I had chosen a better hobby than blogging. I could have been a cyclist or amateur voice actor, after all. TMTF was an awful idea. At any rate, whatever post I’m trying to write is clearly a stinker. I should really just give it up.

Blogging Stage Four: Depression

Blogging Stage 4, DepressionFrustration darkens to depression, anguish, and bitter regret.

“I just… I just wanted to have a blog, y’know? I didn’t ask for this. This is impossible. I’ve put so much time and stuff, y’know, into this post, this one flipping post, man, and it’s a mess. It’s such a mess.

“Even if I fix it, and I’m not sure I can, it’ll take hours. Hours wasted, man, for one flipping blog post. Then I’ll write another post, and another post, and another flipping post. It never ends. Nothing new under the sun. It’s like that poem, y’know, about the mariner and the albatross. ‘Day after day, day after day, we stuck, no breath nor motion, as idle as a painted ship upon a painted ocean.’ I’m stuck, man. This blog is my albatross.”

Then I stare into my empty coffee cup, crying on the inside.

Blogging Stage Five: Talking to Plush Toys

Blogging Stage 5, Talking to Plush ToysI can’t afford counseling. Don’t judge me.

Everything You Always Wanted to Know About TMTF (but Were Afraid to Ask)

Moving on, here are a few pieces of TMTF trivia in celebration of four hundred posts.

  • This blog was inspired by Jon Acuff’s Stuff Christians Like. His blog used humor to say meaningful things about culture, religion, and side hugs. I wanted to do the same kind of thing as Acuff, but with less hugging and more coffee jokes. I also wanted to build an audience (or as the publishing biz calls it, a platform) for my novel. Although the novel bombed, TMTF has stuck around.
  • At first, I treated blogging the way I treated creative writing. I constantly fussed and tweaked and revised, going so far as to edit old posts long after their release. It took me time to realize that a blog isn’t really a work of art, but a journey. Blog posts are footsteps. They represent a writer’s changing experiences, moods, beliefs, and opinions. Instead of worrying about the past, a blogger should keep moving forward.
  • For every hundred posts on this blog—not counting Geeky Wednesdays and creative writing—I try to do something extra-special. The hundredth post coincided with the release of my ill-fated novel. For the two hundredth post, I collaborated with Kevin McCreary (video and podcast producer) on an EPIC RAP BATTLE. (I had never rapped before, and it was a learning experience.) The three hundredth post featured an original animation by Crowne Prince (self-described rogue animator and antagonist) in which I sought counseling from DRWolf (YouTube personality and literal wolf) for my blogging problems. (The good doctor was a much better counselor than any of my plush toys.) I had planned something more ambitious for today in celebration of four hundred posts, but as Robert Burns reminds us, “The best-laid schemes o’ mice an’ men gang aft agley.” (Translation: Stuff happens.)

I love collaborating with creative people!

  • The format of this blog has changed gradually over time. (I’m a bit obsessive-compulsive about it, actually.) In a recent experiment, I’ve put key points in bold type in an attempt to make this blog more accessible. The idea is to let readers skim through blog posts, reading only the bold text and getting abbreviated versions. I’m honestly not sure how well this is working, and I could really use some feedback. Does the bold text help? Is it annoying? Distracting? Let me know in the comments!
  • My jokes about typewriter monkeys, as well as the name Typewriter Monkey Task Force, began on September 10, 2010 in an email to my family. My monkeys quickly became a running joke. When I decided to start a blog, I settled on typewriter monkeys as a consistent motif. It’s nice to have someone to blame when things go wrong.
TMTF clean (paper)

My dad, God bless him, handles most of the original art for this blog—monkeys and all.

Grateful Acknowledgements and Obligatory Threats

Speaking of typewriter monkeys, I have a few words for my blogging assistants, who have just set fire to a corner of my desk. These words aren’t appropriate for this blog, however, so I’ll have to settle for threats: If you monkeys don’t start behaving and put out that fire right this instant, I will end your employment and donate you to the zoo. I mean it this time.

Besides my usual threats, I guess I owe my dirty dozen a reluctant thank-you. Here’s to you, Sophia, Socrates, Plato, Hera, Penelope, Aristotle, Apollo, Euripides, Icarus, Athena, Phoebe, and Aquila. Thanks for working on my blog. I love you guys. At any rate, I’m trying.

As always, I owe my readers many thanks for their support and encouragement. Thank you so much for reading, commenting, liking posts here or on Facebook, writing guest posts, taking part in Be Nice to Someone on the Internet Day, and generally being wonderful. I appreciate every one of you.

You are awesomeSpecial thanks to my parents for their support over the years. My dad deserves an extra round of thanks for all the kind emails and monkey pictures. Thank you, old man. Special thanks also to JK Riki for being the most thoughtful and supportive reader in the history of people who read things. Seriously, JK, thank you.

As always, as I write about Disney villains, chain mail bikinis, and other nonsense, soli Deo gloria—to God be glory.

What Next?

TMTF will be taking a three-week break, during which I will republish old posts on its usual schedule. The blog shall return with new content on November 30!

In other news, TMTF will sponsor a Christmas fundraiser this December for charity! I’m still working on the details, but it will be very similar to last year’s fundraiser, with donor rewards and whatnot. I’m open to suggestions for rewards and fundraising, so feel free to share ideas via Twitter or the Contact page. I’ll release more information about the Christmas fundraiser at the end of this month.

We’ll be back!