In 1993, producer Tim Burton released Tim Burton’s A Nightmare before Christmas. It is a touching and macabre tale about Jack Skellington, who was bored with his yearly chore of bringing Halloween to the world. Disheartened, he stumbled into the neighboring town of Christmas Town and discovered a world he had never known. With great enthusiasm, Jack decided he, and his citizens of Halloween Town, must kidnap the “Shady Claws” and put on Christmas this year. Of course, this endeavor doesn’t quite work out the way he planned. Fortunately, the lessons that the Pumpkin King (Jack) learned from his attempts can teach us something about blogging. These mistakes can tell us what to avoid and help us to become better writers in the process.
The first mistake that Jack Skellington made was that he failed to understand his audience. When Halloween Town began making gifts for Christmas, instead of building wooden ducks, cute dolls, and festive wreaths, they made horrible things such as tree-eating snakes, fearful bats, and shrunken heads. They did not know that people at Christmas expected something…well…joyful. As the result, Jack’s message was misinterpreted. Rather than looking at him as someone who wanted to spread Christmas joy, they thought of him as someone impersonating Santa and trying to destroy the holiday. The military even tried to shoot Jack out of the sky with cannons.
As writers, we too need to know our audience. We have to understand what the audience wants, but also how to best communicate that information to them. How effective would it be to publish an article about the quantum mechanicals involved in flying reindeer at supersonic speed when the target website is devoted strictly on 18th century architecture? Now this doesn’t mean that you need to pander to your audience. But this does mean you should not alienate them as well. For this reason, you often see mostly business related topics discussed here on the Thill Blog. That said; my co-blogger and I do our best to give you a bit of our own humor, flavor, and interests with that content.
This leads us well into the next lesson provided by the film. That lesson is the need to be yourself. In Tim Burton’s A Nightmare before Christmas, Jack was tired of being himself. Rather than be the Pumpkin King, he longed to be Santa Claus instead. He even had a costume constructed to look like Santa’s and a sleigh complete with his own version of flying skeleton reindeer. It wasn’t until everything fell apart that he realized that he didn’t need to be Santa, he just needed to be a better Jack Skellington.
Being yourself is extremely important as a blogger and a writer in general. Firstly, there are legal reasons to be concerned about. Plagiarism for example could lead to an uncomfortable situation. Closely related to that is copyright laws. But more importantly, I feel that being yourself gives you a voice. It is this voice that people hear in your writing. It is something that they expect and can continue to expect from you. Look at the differences between Carrie and my blogs. Our writing styles are quite different indeed. I tend to be more nostalgic about what I write, where as Carrie likes to write about more current things (with the most notable exception being her love for A Christmas Story which I find her quite nostalgic about). Like painters, we can take the same subject and create entirely different works of art, simply because we use a different pallet of words. This is because we write as ourselves. So much so, I’m pretty sure, if we tried to flip our writing styles, you would still figure out who is who.
If we were to attempt this switch on you, would you comment about it though? More importantly, would Carrie and I (as writers) notice that feedback? In Tim Burton’s A Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack failed to heed Sally’s warnings about his ill-fated plan to take over Christmas. Because of this, his plan backfired and failed. This didn’t mean that he needed to completely give up his quest based on her fears, but had he listened to Sally in the first place, he might have adjusted his initial plans and avoided some of the hiccups that he encountered. He might have been surprisingly successful as well.
We as writers and bloggers also need to look at our feedback (good or bad) to avoid hiccups that we may encounter in our writing. This feedback may come directly from comments left by readers, but this can also come from those that proofread our work or add graphs and pictures to it. It can even be something as simple as a “like” toggle or a “+1”. When possible, we should encourage feedback and comments, even if it means kindly replying back to a comment that we don’t agree with. Learn from the feedback left behind and ask questions about it.
Jack Skellington failed to recognize the feedback that was given about his plan. He also failed to be himself and failed to recognize his audience. These mistakes lead to his nightmarish Christmas. But from that experience, he did overcome and learn. Writers can also learn from these lessons. The most important is that to become truly successful, you must have Danny Elfman as your singing voice. Okay, I’m kidding about the Elfman thing. But we should definitely respect the lessons that Tim Burton provided in his story.