Zombies! The plaguehorde of unoriginality. Their very definition is “take something which already existed and keep it going long after it should have stopped”. They’ve died twice over: the first time to create themselves, the second time as the internet ran them further into the ground than the six feet deep they started at. Every zombie horse is now a two-dimensional tartare picture, that’s how hard they’ve been beaten, but I’ll always have a necrotizing soft spot for them. Because they gave me an amazing new life as a writer.
Back in 2007 I was screwing around in a laser physics lab and spent a stupid amount of time making a Zombie Safety Poster.
It was fun, it was stupid, and I base my behavior on both so I slung it up on MySpace (I did tell you this was a long time ago) and forgot about it. And then an editor contacted me and asked if I wanted to write for money.
I wasn’t a popular author. I had no online friends. My page had about two visitors, counting me and Tom, but somehow a search had thrown up and this guy looking for writers for the new Cracked magazine wanted to know if I could write something for them, as long as it wasn’t about bloody zombies, because even back in 2007, Jesus Christ, even Jesus Christ was sick of things coming back from the dead and that was his entire deal.
The magazine folded before I could get paid, so they decided to run with the website idea instead, I made a list of internet safety signs and the rest is life-changing history. I even got to use one of the zombie posters in an article, and that article was being paid to nerd out about zombie plan weaponry. I never even dreamed this job because my dreams wouldn’t have believed this. And wouldn’t have paid me to watch my favorite terrible movies of all time.
And just like any internet creator, oh holy shit has it been ripped off more than the face of someone slower than shambling zombies.
My favorite theft has to be the Zazzle print.
That makes me feel so good. Looking over your own writing from seven years ago is like finding your own corpse from seven years ago — crawling with disgusting horrors and the awful knowledge that your younger self somehow did something impossibly wrong — but this makes me feel like Shakespeare. That’s like a schoolkid squeezing Wikipedia through a thesaurus and destroying every single joke in the process. I wouldn’t call myself a master prosodologist, because people would think I wanted to stick my fingers up their ass, but that text has less rhythm than a dead Dalek. And Zazzle put in more work just to destroy things.
So what’s the most important part for anyone who wants to write online? The stupid part. Specifically, the “stupid amount of time” part. I spent an appalling amount of time on that first poster back when I thought it would only be seen by ten people, half of whom wouldn’t care. I matched the colors to the existing posters, I wrote and rewrote the text, I spent ages sucking at drawing (in fact I’ve spent years sucking at drawing and foresee many more) but kept at it until I had something I was happy with. And I’ve never stopped. It’s not about how much you’re paid, it’s about how good the piece is. Especially when you’re being paid nothing, because it’s your only reward. Make it great. Then put it somewhere and get on with the next.