August 18, 2006

The Misadventures of a Budding Critic

What a long, strange trip it's been. I never thought that my little writing hobby would go this long or this far. That isn't to say that I am any good, or that I am worthy of your time, but I do thank each and every one of you who have taken the time to read anything written by me over the years.

My adventures into the written realm began way back in 1997. I decided that I wanted to learn what this "html" thing was all about, and if I could use it share my thoughts on movies with the world, or anyone who happened to stumble across my little corner of the web.

The first thing I did was open up a site at Geocities. I used their little push button page builder (early blog?) to make a home page. I then viewed that page in Notepad and copied it, altering bits and pieces to see what they would do. In this manner I was able to get a handle on basic HTML skills. I wasn't very good, nor did I really understand what the tags did, but I was able to put together a rudimentary site. Yo be honest, I don't remember what I had on that page, and it is probably better that way.

From those early experimentations, I picked up a book on HTML and was able to teach myself enough to be dangerous. I started a more ambitious site using space provided by my ISP. I spent a lot of time building different sections of the site, quizzes, concepts, articles, and a separate section for reviews. The biggest part of this was obviously the reviews. I set up each page with some info on the film, writer, director, stars, length, rating, all of that sort of stuff. I also started messing around with javascript, with which I set up an email form for people to comment and rate individual films (which only ever got 1 response).

With all of those elements in place, I set about populating the reviews section. This turned out to be an absolute trainwreck. I had no experience writing reviews, and was terribly unsure of my written expression. In short, I had no idea how to write (which may not be all that different now). I ended up spending a lot of time on layout and navigation, trying to make it completely user-friendly. In a way, I was much more successful at that than I was about the content. That translated to no one who happened to find the page actually sticking around. No reason to stay at a page with lousy content right? The site fell into disrepair and was soon forgotten. Don't worry, I still have some of the content which I may one day break out as examples of how not to write a review.

Between then and Spring of 2004, my writing aspirations were next to nothing. My enjoyment of the cinema and other entertainment enterprises was still there and growing, I just did not express my thoughts to a world full of anonymous strangers. The desire to espress my thoughts was still simmering, the problem being, I did (and do) not have many friends who are into movies/television/music/etc. the way that I am.

Back to 2004, a new word entered my vocabulary, "blog." I had no idea what it was, or what they were used for. I investigated it a little bit and what I found was something similar to what I had found in Geocities many years back, a way to put my thoughts online easily and simply. Ahhh, simply, that's what I wanted. The big appeal of the blog over a website (although I still consider a blog to be a website), at least to me, I would be able to write and not worry about the design and layout, that would already be taken of for me.

So came the dawn of a new age of writing for me. On April 28, 2004, Draven99's Musings was born. At the time, I still did not know what I was going to do with the "blog," but I had some ideas. I figured I would start posting reviews and see where it took me, seemed simple enough. April 29th brought with it my first real post, a movie review of Man on Fire, and some brief thoughts on recent music, DVDs, and television.

I kept writing off and on for the next couple of months. Slowly I gained a little bit of confidence. I got a counter (of course) on the site and I was able to see that people were actually finding me. Those of you who haven't done this have no idea who good it feels to see the hit counter go up and knowing that the hits aren't all you.

Then came July 2004. I was surfing around and came across a page that had a link to this site called I didn't know what it was, but I was "blogging" and I was a "critic," so I clicked the link. A new world opened up in front of me. The site had all sorts of different columns on all sorts of different topics, but there prominently on the page were sections for video and music. My kind of place. Then I found a section asking if I wanted to be a Blogcritic, I clicked it and was introduced to a one Eric Olsen, publisher of this fine site. I sent him an email asking to become a member. A couple of days later I was in, with my first review appearing on July 7, 2004.

From this point on I had nowhere to go but up. I was no longer alone in my quest for writing greatness. I found a wonderful community of writers there who were always more than willing to lend a helping hand.

I have now been a contributor with Blogcritics for over 2 years. During that span, I have watched as the site grew in notoriety and importance. It attracted more and more quality writers, and an even greater number of visitors seeking to read the thoughts of the sinister cabal of superior bloggers. I watched as the site grew from a group blog into a veritable online magazine, complete with an editorial staff who have helped me hone my writing into something better.

What does this have to do with me being a budding critic? Everything.

My early adventures with a Geocities website gave me basic web-coding skills that have helped me with the peripherals of my reviews and my blog. Things like image placement and a professional looking layout. Moving into my website days, I learned how not to run a site and how not to write a review. The blog helped me focus on writing. Finally Blogcritics has helped me improve those writing skills and encourage me along my path. Without my family on Blogcritics, I seriously doubt I would still be writing now, more than two years out on my journey. Their support is absolutely priceless.

Am I a good critic? I cannot answer that. I like to think that I am, but I think I would be doing myself and anyone who happens to read my work a serious disservice if I did. I am always striving to be better. I recognize that I have my bad days and my good days. This writing thing is not easy, it is a skill that needs constant attention and nurturing.

Over the past few years I have tried my hand at a variety of different areas of entertainment. I have written on a number of different musical styles and movie genres, always looking to expand my horizons and bring my experiences to something new.

I look to the future. Hopefully, I will be able to continue writing for a long time to come, both for my site as well as for Blogcritics. I look forward to continuing my journey, improving my writing, expanding my horizons, and hopefully become a voice that you will respect. My opinions are not always popular or even clearly stated, but I always try to be fair to whatever I am writing about.

With your help I can continue to improve on this critic's path.


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