Matt Gemmell

Sponsorship

I’ve decided to experiment with sponsorship here on the blog, as a way to support my writing and allow me to devote more time to producing the kind of content I think you’ll enjoy.

If you’re interested in sponsoring my writing for a week, you can find out more about sponsorship here (including what you get in return). We’ll start out with a low weekly sponsorship fee, and go from there.

You, dear reader, are the most important part of all this, so I’d like to make some promises to you.

Paths

I wonder if I was a stupid child. I don’t think I was, but then I’m hardly the most qualified judge.

I learned a valuable lesson about the danger of assumptions when I was a young man. It was also a lesson about paying attention. I’m still a little troubled that I had to be taught the lesson at all. I feel like I should have been clever enough to put the pieces together myself.

But I wasn’t, for whatever reason, so I had to learn by experience.

Profanity

I’ve been known to use profanity on occasion, like everyone else. It’s infrequent here on my blog, and only slightly more common on Twitter. Still, I get complaints.

Actually, ‘complaints’ is probably too strong a word: I see people mentioning it in a disapproving way. Those people will no doubt find this article offensive too. The usual sort of remark I get is that such-and-such a piece was interesting or worth reading, but it’s a shame about the “bad language”.

Swearing isn’t bad language. Swearing is essential language.

Own your words

I publish articles in exactly two places: here on this blog, and in magazines (both digital and paper). In the latter case, the pieces are paid commissions. Sometimes I’ll republish my own commissioned articles here, and sometimes I accept requests to republish my blog articles elsewhere, but generally speaking a piece is either exclusively here, or exclusively elsewhere.

The distinction affects a number of things. Topic: I naturally choose my own topics here, whereas commissions usually specify the topic. Tone: Here, it’s my own; in magazines, it’s usually to fit the publication’s style and audience. Length: I allow articles to be their natural discursive length here, whereas (at least for print), magazines tend to specify the limit down to the word – and often the character.

There’s a reason I’m telling you this. If you’re reading something with my name on it, there are two things you won’t encounter: Someone else’s unattributed words, here; or my own (non-commissioned) words, elsewhere.

Empathy

Each of us has a very personal and implicit sense of ‘normal’. I do, and so do you. Each of us also assumes that we all share that definition; that it generalises. Naturally, we’re all wrong.

When we encounter others who clearly don’t share our views or responses, those others are categorised as strange, and the world becomes a little less predictable and understandable. It happens every day, and it’s a sad thing. It’s one of the main ways we end up feeling isolated from each other.

Raw materials

Stick to what you know. That’s what they say. I’m not convinced it’s always good advice, but it’s at least somewhere to start.

I’m writing full-time now, so you’d think it would be even easier to stick to what I know than when I was making software. You just write about people and situations similar to those you’ve experienced yourself. Simple. Until you start thinking about what you know.

Making changes

The first thing I ever wrote on a computer was code. The computer in question was a ZX Spectrum 48K, and I can’t remember what the program did – I was just painstakingly copying it from the pages of a magazine, without any clue how it worked. I didn’t really start to learn about programming until I was in high school, which was much later.

In the years between, I wrote stories – sometimes longhand, and sometimes on a sort of word processor that my mother was kind enough to buy for me. I had an inkjet printer and reams of budget-priced paper that smelled vaguely of wallpaper paste. I wrote hundreds of pages of fiction, printed it, and kept it in box files. I still have those stories.

Who to read in 2014

I’d been thinking of writing this brief piece even before I saw Hilton Lipschitz’s note of thanks to writers, which I appreciate very much.

I’d like to share three short lists with you: my five favourite big-name bloggers you’re probably already reading, five more that I’d also highly recommend you read in 2014, and my own five favourite articles I’ve written this year.

I’d love to see others share their own versions of these lists too.

Gamers

I’ve been playing video games since 1986. The longest I’ve gone without playing any games since then is probably about a month. I’ve owned most of the consoles and handhelds, and I’ve played games on various computers too. I even have a few on my iPhone, like most people.

I’m not a hardcore gamer, though. I don’t care terribly much for shooting games (though I’m enjoying Killzone on the PS4, and I’d buy a console to get a new Uncharted), and I have no interest in war-related titles. I also prefer my RPGs to be of the gentle Zelda style; I’m not one for stats and turns. I couldn’t care less about achievements or trophies. I rarely play online.

I’ve never played a Pokemon game in my life. The only sport I care to simulate is ice hockey. I like driving, but not racing. Platform games are great, but above all I love stories. I don’t mind how much or little I get to do, as long as the story is compelling.

I’m not sure how my gaming preferences intersect with yours, but if you were to ask me if I’m a gamer, I’d probably feel uncomfortable.