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FAQ

I updated this page to hopefully cut down on the amount of email I get. I have a really hard time keeping up with email, so if you can find the answer to your question here, yay!  You may even find answers to questions that you didn't even have!

LONG OVERDUE UPDATE ON 5/6/11. Lots of stuff has changed and I have a plethora of new FAQ's to answer, so I thought it would be a good idea to update again.

Are you a robot?

Probably not.

How did you get started blogging?

I was procrastinating on studying for a physics final and I was like "I know what would be a good idea!  I'm going to start a blog!"  So I started a blog.

How do I find your archives?

They're in the sidebar, a little ways down the page.  Like this:

  

There are also links to my most popular posts under that orange "best of" button.  Just click the pictures!

Are your stories true?

Yes, but they are told very dramatically (hyperbolically, even) and they are told through my perspective at the time the story occurred. I sometimes add minor details where my memory fails me (for example, I don't actually remember how I got into the room with the cake, I just know that I got in there somehow, so I thought of the most plausible explanation and used it) and I sometimes leave out details to simplify things and keep the story moving (for example, in the story about the melted teapot, I was traveling with a few members of my college track team, but they were asleep throughout the incident and it would have been tedious to explain the exact nature of the trip, so I just said I was "traveling through Oregon.").  Basically, I try to tell the story in the most entertaining and efficient way while still sticking pretty close to the truth.

Why do you have all of these stories? Is there something wrong with you?

I was a horrible, mischievous child who lived in the backwoods of North Idaho and had very little to occupy myself outside of causing trouble. Also, I'm impulsive. I just seem to draw chaos toward myself.

Do you like ham?

I love ham.

Why do you update so infrequently?

There are a few reasons.  The first reason is that it takes a very long time to write a post [there's a longer explanation for this statement below].  Some of them take weeks to complete.  The second is that I only post something when I feel like I have something worth posting.  I would rather post only a few things that I feel are high quality than lots of things that I'm unsure about.  Thirdly, I try to maintain a life outside of my work.  I've been known to sit in my troll-cave of a workspace for 18 hours in a row, for days on end, and work until I hate myself and whatever I'm working on. As you can imagine, this practice is not psychologically advisable, so I've been trying my best to avoid doing it too very often.

But you used to update like, four times a week.

Those posts were spotty in quality and it was a very dark time in my life where I was writing to avoid having to think about the fact that I was poor and lonely and hungry and, in all likelihood, my future would be spent as a vagrant.  I don't think I slept.  But it was mostly because I didn't spend nearly as much time on my posts back then. And back then, I still had a lifetime worth of stories and ideas to blow through.  Once I blew through the easy ones, the stories got harder to write.  I can no longer have an arsenal of stories like my drunken boat adventure, which was a good story regardless of how I told it. Now I actually have to pay attention to story structure and narrative.

Are you ever going to write a book?

I'm writing one now!  Touchstone, a division of Simon and Schuster, will tentatively be released my book in the fall of 2012, just in time for the apocalypse!  The project is still in its early stages so I can't yet answer many of your questions about pre-orders or where the book will be sold or where I'll be going on my book tour, but I promise I'll let you know as soon as I find out.

Is your work copyrighted?  Can I repost it? 

My stories and drawings are copyrighted, but as long as you attribute your use of my images/words correctly (with a link to the source of the material), it should be fine.  But please don't completely repost anything (that's such a gray area and it has worked out horribly for me in the past). Problems only arise when you use my work in a way that suggests you're trying to pass it off as your own.  I work very hard to create these posts and it hurts my livelihood when my work is reposted without credit (websites like funnyjunk.com are horrible about this.)  Plagiarism always hurts the artist.

If you're so concerned about plagiarism, why don't you watermark your pictures?

I feel that a watermark on every one of my pictures would be intrusive and interrupt the flow of the post. I don't want my readers to have to stare at a URL in the corner of every frame just because some people are dicks and don't know how to cite properly.

What about if I want to use one of your posts or drawings for a project? 

I'm often contacted by teachers or students who wish to use something I've done in a project or lesson. In these cases, it's usually fine. Education is important and I'm happy that something I've created can contribute.  Just remember attributions (that's an important lesson for students to learn anyway).

I emailed you/friend-requested you on Facebook/tweeted at you/commented on your post and you didn't respond.  Do you hate me?  What happened? 

I get a truly humongous amount of emails and friend requests and tweets and comments. I do my best to read all of them and reply. But sometimes I don't know what to say, or there are too many comments in between your comment and mine and I'm afraid you won't see it (this applies to blog comments and Facebook comments, mostly) or I don't want to flood Twitter with @-replies, or I've already answered your question on the FAQ page or elsewhere. Other times I just get overwhelmed. I like to put some thought into my replies, and it can sometimes be difficult to reply to everyone with the consideration they deserve.  I also have a certain amount of social anxiety, and I get bogged down in trying to say exactly the right thing, or maybe I was going through one of my hermit-type-phases where I retreat into my troll-cave and avoid social interaction of any kind. Please don't feel like I hate you. The reason for my lack of response could be any number of things, but it's never because I hate you.

Do you have legs? 

Yup.

You sometimes mysteriously remove posts... why? 

I don't take the decision to remove a post lightly, but sometimes I'll look back at something I wrote and realize that it was never really meant for a large audience. When I started writing this blog, I didn't think it was going to be something that lots of people would read, so some of my older posts were a little loose in quality and some of them even contained information that would be potentially damaging to the dignity of the people I love.  When you write about your life, you inevitably come up against the problem of how much you should reveal about the other characters - the people who don't have a say in how they are framed by your words.  I can be as ruthless as I'd like with myself because I know that I'm okay with it.  But I need to be aware that the other characters in my stories - Duncan, my mom, my dad, my sister, my aunt, my neighbors, my college friends - aren't necessarily comfortable with the same treatment.  I don't want them to find something I wrote about them and feel uncomfortable that so many people are reading it.

Other times I remove a post because I feel that it is so embarrassingly bad that its presence on this blog causes me more anxiety than it is worth (some of my early attempts at humor were pretty awful).  If you ever had a diary as a kid or teenager and then read your diary again as an adult, you are probably intimately familiar with the feeling of "What was I thinking? Was I really like that? Did I think I was being clever or something?" You start to feel embarrassed for yourself and you hope that no one ever finds the awkward monstrosities within your diary's pages.  Now imagine if your diary was public.  And all those embarrassing word adventures were out there for everyone to see.

I don't remove every post I feel embarrassed about (if I did, this blog would contain roughly eighteen posts), but if the embarrassment passes a certain level and starts to affect my confidence while I'm trying to write, I get rid of it.  Because nobody benefits from me sitting there thinking "what if what I'm writing right now is as bad as that other post and I don't even know it? I didn't realize how horrible the other post was when I was writing it... oh god, I'm a horrible, embarrassing monster. I shouldn't write this. I shouldn't write anything. I'm going to quit and become a baker."

It's better for me to remove the post and pretend it never existed.

Will you stop using swear words?

I like swear words. I think they can be really funny. I try to use them sparingly because I know that some people don't feel the same way, but sometimes a sentence just needs the word "motherfucker" in it.  If I've used a swear word, I have probably thought long and hard about whether it was necessary and decided that it was.  In my opinion, they are just words and should not be given so much power.  However, I understand that some of you wish to share my posts with your children and not everyone feels comfortable with their children knowing the word "fuck." In that case, I give you full permission to transfer my posts to a word document and erase the offending words or print the post out and black out the "fucks" and "shits" and "motherfuckers." And I apologize if my use of these words has offended you in any way.

Why don't you have a donation button?

I had a donation button for a while, but it just felt weird to me, so I removed it.  I don't like the idea of having that button there, potentially placing guilt on my innocent readers.  I know that many of you wish to support me in some way, and I greatly appreciate that sentiment, but I can't stomach the idea of you giving me money for free.  I have a store with merchandise, but I have an extremely guilty conscience and that's about as far as I'm willing to go.

Why don't you have ads? 

I had ads for a while too, but it didn't work out.  I kind of like not having advertisements for the same reason I like not having a donation button.  I don't want to subject you guys to a bunch of ads just so I can make more money (not that sites with ads are bad, I just don't feel comfortable with it).  I feel that having advertisements on my page creates a sort of weirdness about my motivation for writing.  I think some people feel used when a site they enjoy is plastered with ads, and I don't want to make you guys feel like that.  I'm more comfortable having just the one little button for my store.  It feels less intrusive and it lets people choose whether they want to support me or not.  

If I see you in real life, can I say hi? 

Of course.  I would love that.  I'm quite friendly.  As long as you like me and aren't mean and don't throw things, we're good to go.

Are you really as socially awkward as you say you are? 

On the inside, yes.  You probably wouldn't notice it in person because I've developed some good coping mechanisms, but I am constantly plagued by self-doubt and I'm far too concerned about whether or not people like me.  But like I said, I'm quite friendly, and I enjoy the company of others.

Can I see a real picture of you and/or Duncan?

Sure.  Look!  I'm even wearing a pretty dress!

allie brosh

How about a picture of the simple dog and the helper dog?


How simple is the simple dog exactly?  

She's pretty simple, but she also shows flashes of normalcy.  We don't really know what to think of her, but we love her!

You write a lot of stories about your dogs behaving poorly. Are you a horrible pet owner? 

I'd like to think I'm a good pet owner.  I work very hard with both of my dogs and they get plenty of love and attention and exercise.  I've received some not-very-nice emails from people about how "if you were a better dog owner, your dogs wouldn't be like that."  First of all, you must remind yourself that my blog is called "Hyperbole and a Half" for a reason, and also that I don't write about the times when my dogs are behaving splendidly.  That would be boring.  Secondly, both of our dogs were rescued from abusive situations and we've had to do substantial rehabilitation work with them.  These aren't dogs that we raised and shaped from puppyhood. When we adopted them, they both had severe behavioral issues (that we were fully aware of) and they've come a very, very long way under our care. I am not perfect and I am not a certified dog trainer like some of you, but I love my dogs and I work very hard to obtain the best information possible about how to do right by them.  Please just enjoy my dog posts for what they are - dramatic retellings of the times my dogs have behaved poorly.   

What breeds are the simple dog and the helper dog? 

They're both mutts.  The simple dog is a bluetick coonhound mix but we've only been able to speculate about what else she could have in her. Possibly whippet or greyhound since she's tall and thin and really, really fast.  The helper dog is part german shepherd, part australian cattle dog and she might have some chow chow in her.  

Do you and your family get along? How do they feel about you posting these things? 

I'm very close with my family, and, for the most part, they enjoy being in my stories.  At first read, it can seem like my mom is often cast as the villain, but you must remind yourself that I'm telling the story as I experienced it.  In reality, she's often the hero of the story, but the story is told from the biased perspective of a problematic 5-year-old.      

What movie is this line from: "Did you ever dance with the devil in the pale moonlight"?

Googled it.  Batman.

How do I get on Awesome Button?

There is no algorithm for Awesome Button.  Basically, be awesome and act like you don't give a shit about Awesome Button.

You haven't updated the Awesome Button in eight porpskillion days! 

I don't often remember to update it anymore and I'm sorry!

How many is a porpskillion?

I don't know. I just made that up right now. It probably isn't a real number.

What program do you use to make your drawings?  

I use Paintbrush, which is pretty much exactly like MS Paint.

Do you really wear that same pink dress every day?

Sometimes.  I also have a blue dress.

What is that yellow thing on your head? 

It's a ponytail.  You may also think of it as a shark fin if you wish.

Does the name of this website have anything to do with math? 


Do you use a graphics tablet to make your drawings? 

No.  I use my trackpad, but my wrists don't really like that I do that, so I'm trying to learn to use a Magic Mouse.  Yes. I bought a Wacom tablet several months ago, and despite a difficult adjustment period, I love it now.   

Your drawings suck.  A five-year-old could do this. 

I know.  I do that on purpose because shitty drawings are funny.  I do work very hard on making my drawings exactly the way they are. Sometimes I revise one drawing over ten different times.  It's a very precise crudeness. 

Do you have any advice for new bloggers? 

There really aren't any special secrets to being successful with blogging.  Be nice.  Try hard.  If someone offers you a million dollars, say yes.  Aside from that, the best advice I can give you is to just focus on what you can give to your readers.  People can't be tricked into liking something, so promotional tactics aren't going to automatically make you successful. In fact, I think promotional tactics often do just the opposite. Commonly recommended tactics like hosting blog give-aways, frequent guest-posting and/or link-trading, and posting links to your site all over the place can drastically dilute the quality of your content and make you seem very desperate.

As for content, always try to view what you create from a reader's perspective - is it something you'd be interested in reading if you didn't know anything about yourself?  Are your stories moving along or getting bogged down in details?  Do your stories have a climactic moment or a payoff after the buildup?  Try to find ways to make your stories and experiences relatable to others. Use Google to research storytelling and test your stories out on friends and family.  Spend a lot of time reading the work of people whose writing you enjoy and try to pin down what it is you enjoy about it.  You can learn a lot by analyzing your own preferences.  Become a sponge for information and constructive criticism.  Always strive to improve and work really, really, really hard.    

Also, paragraphs.  Paragraphs are super important.  Huge, unbroken walls of text are going to cause your readers' attention spans to shrivel up like an injured starfish. 


And spelling.  If you write like you're sitting there blithely hammering away at the keyboard with your fists, you will come off sounding like a troglodyte.  It is terribly inconsiderate to expect your readers to wade through a wall of text speak and grammatically unsound ramblings. 

If you're looking for shortcuts, you're doing it wrong.  It might seem like this is an easy job or a quick way to make money, but it is absolutely not either of those things.  It's nice to be able to set my own hours, but I probably end up working more hours than I would otherwise.  It's enjoyable work and there are certainly much more grueling professions, but it is definitely not easy. 

But if you really love what you're doing and you work very hard to make it entertaining and enjoyable, you'll do great. 

Do you want to trade links with me? 

No.  Absolutely not.  Every time you email me to ask if I'd like to "link swap" with you, Cthulu disembowels a baby koala.  If I like what you do, I will link to it.  That's what the Awesome Button is for.  But I am not about to just unscrupulously link to your blog to get a few more page views in return.  My integrity is insulted by this kind of request.    

Will you share my blog/product/giveaway opportunity with your readers by making a blog post about it? 

No.  Go set yourself on fire and leave me and my readers alone.  No one aside from you wants me to write a post about your blog or product or ZOMGAMAZING give-away because it doesn't involve pictures of bears or any type of story and it is not entertaining.  One time, I actually had a woman knock on my door and try to give me a sample of her nutritional supplement in return for a write up on my blog.  She was very insistent and could just not understand why I would want to squander that amazing opportunity.

Guys, I write picture stories. It would be a horrible decision to suddenly begin posting product reviews for weight loss powders and energy boosters.

No really, my give-away-promotion-yay-tron is really fantastic and it's different from all the other ones.

Stop it. 

Do you really get a lot of hate mail? 

I'd say that 95% of the emails I get are wonderful and happy and filled with rainbows.  The remaining 5% is mostly comprised of people who are upset because they don't find me funny.  I don't know why they feel the need to tell me this, but they do, and they are usually very angry about it as if I personally came into their house and molested them with my sense of humor.  Then there's a very small percentage of people with really poor reading comprehension skills.  These people take what I say seriously and send me these long, rambling diatribes about what a terrible person I am for advocating the slaughter of kittens.

I don't like your writing or your drawings and I hate you and everything you've ever done. You are the worst thing ever to happen to the world. I'm very upset.

I'm terribly sorry.

I don't think you're funny and I'm frustrated that other people do.

It's okay.  Try not to be too upset about it.  Humor is simply your brain being surprised by an unexpected variation in a pattern that it recognizes.  If your brain doesn't recognize the pattern or the pattern is already too familiar to your brain, you won't find something humorous.

I took that thing you said really seriously and now I'm mad.

That's unfortunate. You shouldn't do that.

I liked ________ post better than this post.  You let me down and I hate you. Why don't you write the things I like?

I try.  I promise I try really hard. But your tastes are so specific and you've not given me any specific criticism to work with.

If I give you criticism, will you listen?

I can't say that I love criticism, but I certainly wouldn't do very well without it.  If you have something you think I could do to improve, please phrase it in a civil fashion and let me know.  But be specific.  It doesn't help me to know that you don't like a particular post or drawing.  I need to know why.  And I do reserve the right to disagree with you.  But I promise I won't be pig-headed.  I've learned a lot in the past from insightful criticism.  

Will you draw me a picture? 

I used to do this for anyone who asked, but now I get so many requests for personalized artwork that I had to stop. This doesn't mean that I won't spontaneously draw you a picture if I feel the urge to do that for any reason, but chances are good that I won't have time to illustrate things for you. I hate that it has to be this way, but if I drew pictures for everyone who asked me, I wouldn't have time to entertain you guys with blog posts. Please don't hate me :C

Can I use your artwork in my blog/Facebook page/company newsletter/school project/classroom/online magazine etc.? 

You absolutely can as long as you credit me for my work.  Proper credit includes a prominent, easily visible link to the source of the material you want to use, except in the instance of Facebook profile pictures... go ahead and use my stuff there without citing.  As long as you aren't claiming to have drawn the picture yourself, I'm happy that you like it enough to use it as your profile picture.  

However, I'd like to ask you to refrain from doing complete re-posts of my work without getting my permission first.  If you want to use a whole blog post for something (aside from teaching - go ahead teachers!), best to ask me first. 

How long does it take to write a blog post? 

UPDATED: It can take up to two weeks for the really long ones.  I edit myself pretty ruthlessly and I throw out a lot of drawings or redraw them because they aren't right.  My drawings might look rough, but it is very purposeful roughness.  I sometimes redraw a face over 10 times before it looks right.

So why don't you post every two weeks? 

The two weeks mentioned above is just the actual writing/drawing part.  It also takes a long time to nurse an idea from its infancy to the point where I feel like I can actually turn it into a quality post.  This is especially true when I'm dealing with stories from my early childhood.  I'll remember something that happened that was kind of funny, but then I need to go back and fish around in my memory (or the memories of my family members) for the other parts of the story to flesh out the narrative so it's not just "one time I ate an entire cake."

I like to spend a few days putting together the outline of a story and then wait a few more days before coming back and reevaluating the story structure.  When I come back, I often notice that I've left something important out of the setup or that my ending is really weak and I need to find a different way to phrase it or focus on a different aspect of the outcome. Sometimes I realize that the story has way too many parts and I need to trim it down (even those long, long, long posts are trimmed-down versions of what they used to be.)

And I don't publish everything I write.  There are times where I'll work on a post for weeks and then decide that it just doesn't work.  If I run into that problem, I save the post for later and hope that one day I'll be a good enough writer to finish it properly.  And sometimes I actually do come back and finish a discarded post.  Both "The God of Cake" and "The Party" were ideas that I previously felt did not have a strong enough narrative. So I let them sit for a few months while I thought about how to structure them so that they'd feel like stories instead of just meandering, anticlimactic "you had to be there" stories.  And for both of them, I eventually was able to focus in on the specific details that made them into stories. But it took months.  And I have some stories that will probably take even longer before they're ready to be published.

Then there are times where I just can't make myself write good material. One challenging thing about writing humor is that you can't just sit down and create something funny whenever you want to.  If I'm in the wrong mindset or I'm over-thinking things, I end up relying too much on a clunky, formulaic version of humor and what I write comes out feeling forced.  The best thing to do if this problem comes up is to just walk away and do other things for a while.

Okay, that was a really long explanation.  I guess I feel like it's important for you guys to know exactly why it takes me so long to make a post so you don't think that I'm just being lazy or something.  

Do you make a living doing this? 

As of April 2010, yes.  I finally make enough money from merchandise sales to support myself.  This is the first time in my life that I've been happy with my job.  

How much traffic does your site get?  

Right now, between 3 and 7 million unique visitors a month (with between 5 and 10 million total page views).  The fact that that many people want to look at the silly things I write and draw still blows my mind.

How do you come up with your ideas? 

I usually get ideas when I'm doing something mindless like running or showering.  The bad part about this is that I usually don't have paper or a pencil near me when the ideas strike, so I've lost a lot of good material.  I got sick of losing ideas in that way, so I've taken to keeping a notepad in my bathroom and carrying a small piece of paper and a pencil stub with me on runs, tucked into my waistband or sport bra.  When I get an idea, I'll stop and jot it down.  

Another way I come up with ideas (particularly if I'm struggling with creativity that day) is to use a random word generation program.  I just stare at it and keep clicking next until something jogs a memory.  Every now and then a word like "skeleton" or "fish" will pop up and I'll be like "Oh yeah!  I have a story about that!"  The "7 Games You Can Play with a Brick" post was also a result of the random word generator.

I have a great idea for a post!  Can I email you and tell you all about it? 

From time to time, I will ask my readers (via Twitter or Facebook) to suggest topics that they'd like to read about, but please refrain from sending me unsolicited post ideas.  I've rarely had this work out well for me.  I appreciate that you are trying to help me, but unsolicited post ideas can be a bad thing for several reasons.  For example, if you send me an idea I've already come up with on my own, I'm going to feel all awkward posting about my own idea, like you're going to be all "Hey!  That was my idea!  You stole it without crediting me!" I'd rather not have to deal with this.  If I use an idea from one of my readers, I'd rather have it be something that was suggested to me in a public forum, by my request.  If you send me an unsolicited idea, you are agreeing to release me from responsibility for anything having to do with that idea.  You cannot accuse me of stealing or hurting your feelings for not using the idea.  You cannot email me and bug me about linking to your blog because I mentioned something vaguely similar to the idea you sent me.  Do you see where I'm going with this?  It's probably best to just not send me ideas until I ask for them.

Can I write a guest post on your blog?  Will you write a guest post on my blog?

I do not accept or write guest posts unless the circumstances are truly exceptional.

If I draw picture with MS Paint on my blog, will you think I'm copying you? 

Probably not.  Unless you steal my work directly or redraw/rewrite my stuff, you are good to go.  I love that more people are getting interested in adding artwork to their blogs!

What happened to Spaghatta Nadle? 

I am continually surprised by the fervor with which you weirdos love that little noodle drawing.  I constantly get requests for more Spaghatta Nadle strips.  But the truth is, because these strips are all based around the same general premise, they have a pretty short shelf-life and Spaghatta Nadle can only be funny for so long.  I wanted to quit while I was ahead, before he became tiresome.  It's not to say I'll never feature him again, but I want to use his presence very cautiously.


4 comments:

  1. "You are agree"? Oh Allie, as a fellow spelling/grammar geek, I am saddened.

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  2. there aren`t any comments so I thought i`d post one. YOUR AWESOME!!! I love your blog, its my home page, heheheh :)

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  3. Your FAQ grew. :o

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  4. Thanks for detailing the amount of work and your tools-of-choice that you use in the creation of your blog. You're a great motivator to this would-be-blogger, and I hope you continue to have great success. -A

    ReplyDelete

I'm super creepy and totally capable of finding you