Archive for the ‘Personal’ Category

A Boost for the Weary Writer

October 11, 2007

I recently came upon two books that jolted me out of the weary complacency I’d fallen into. I write for a living – ghostwriting and corporate writing. All day I am in front of my computer organizing bulks of information, creating an appropriate voice and writing material for other people. My own voice and creative appetites have sunk into near nothingness. I flee from this desk at five o’clock every afternoon and head to the trails of my local park. I pull on my sneakers as though my life depended on it. While running, I get loads of creative ideas, but unless I’m paying bills or checking email, virtually nothing will get me back to that keyboard in the evening.

Even my attempts to write longhand — into a battered notebook while sprawled on my bedroom floor — made no difference. Work writing had eclipsed my impulse to write personally, creatively. It was like a faucet that had been twisted off from below the sink. Maybe I’d go stand by the spigot and fondle the handles, but nothing was going to come out of that spout.

Then I came across Carolyn See’s wonderful book “On Making A literary Life“. In this part memoir part instruction manual, See illuminates the joys and cruelties of a writer’s existence with poignancy and deft humor. She shares her own insecurities, triumphs and failures in ways that reveal my own as being, well…not so bad. Maybe my demons are conquerable too.

In the end, See did a very simple thing – she lifted me from my own misery long enough foe me to recognize it for what it is: material.  A recent break-up, a stressful move, family difficulties…See demonstrates how such things are not tales of woe, but colorful characters and rich veins of plot. And they are. It’s easy to forget what writing is – it’s a reflection of life. Misery and joy, adversity and triumph. It is the expression of the human soul struggling through its existence. It’s the interpretation and representation of human interaction. Life. Suddenly, I don’t have a heavy load of troubles — I have a LOT to write about!

Even the worst of life is funny, because we always persevere. The future may not take the shape we’d intended or thought we would have preferred, but it always takes us somewhere and we’re always learning more about ourselves. See’s book brought me back to the reality of the writing life. Yes, I write for a living. But more than that, I am a writer.



“If A Girl Dresses Like A Piece of Meat, Why Shouldn’t She Be Treated Like One?”

October 10, 2007

I was recently contacted by an acquaintance of mine who, politely enough, wanted to know what the hell I was thinking… It took a few emails to determine that there is a writer in Illinois who shares my exact name and writes pieces like “Girls need to consider the implications of their immodest clothing choices and behavior”.

This promisingly-headlined college piece, published in March of this year, starts off with springtime on campusS3
where boys walk about “looking at the ground” in order to avoid regarding scantily clad co-eds as pieces “of meat.” And yes, she really does say, “If a girl dresses like a piece of meat why shouldn’t she be treated like one?”

Let me repeat: she really does say, “If a girl dresses like a piece of meat why shouldn’t she be treated like one?”

Are you kidding me? This profound “insight” so moved my namesake that she was roused to write a column piece on the subject. I assumed undergraduates these days were a little more enlightened than this. I also assumed that even opinion pieces were held to a certain standard of journalistic quality. This is fish in a barrel, but I can’t seem to help it (she’s publishing with MY name!) So here goes:

* The headline includes “…and behavior” where no actual behaviors are ever in the piece.

* The author repeatedly asserts that “no one wants to see…” varying areas of exposed skin. Really? No one? This unqualifiable blanket-statement is covered in writing 101. If she herself doesn’t want to see it, say so. If she can get quotes of others who don’t, use them. It’s called journalism.

* The author also asserts the old fall-back that things today are so much worse than they used to be and oh, if only we could get back to the family values of yesteryear. In the 80’s, she tells us, we had bad hair but at least we were “covered up.” Yeah, because no one in the 60’s and 70’s wore skirts that ended above her self-proclaimed standard of “mid-thigh”. Jesus, had she thought any of this through?

If she wanted to honestly write about the issue she would have talked to people – the provocative dressers, the conservative dressers, the disgusted men, the appreciative men… Instead she spouts off a dangerous viewpoint as though it’s either widely accepted fact or simple majority opinion. If this were so, then why write the piece? If not, then she surely needs more than “no one wants to see that!”