24. Scholumly


Even bad writing takes time. And time is limited. Which should limit bad writing. But does it? Apparently not. Vanity pushes the mediocre and the rest of us below that line to keep pounding on the keys in hope of one day writing something worthy. If vanity is pushing the green Jell-o sculpture uphill, tell me, Blog Reader, how can it end well? It can’t. You know that. Vanity’s hand gets stuck in the butt of the gelatinous blob and the two become one tumbling down messy mouther-piece, rolling down a steep hill, gathering small children and hamsters in its sticky fury. (Would you pass me the cheese puffs, please?)

Good writing captures the reader; great writing captures the reader, even  against his will, and slays him. The reader does not want to buy into the author’s style or subject but can’t help reaching instinctively for his wallet. “I don’t even know where this literary vehicle is going, but I can’t get off now.” What pushes good writing? More than vanity. Dancers have to dance; singers have to sing; and so on. I guess it’s in the soul of writers to write. I think writers are not dancers, by the way. Writers sit on their butts a lot. There is no live audience with writing. It’s very solitary. The “performance” aspect of writing is work for the reader, who reads in isolation. Yeah, it’s a very different art. Pretty dull and tedious too. There are occasional live readings, but what is that, really, once you get beyond elementary ages?

And here we are in the blogosphere, neither art nor memoir nor journalism. What then? Maybe it’s like Sports Center– highlights, flashes of something, kernels for other work. No one frames a blog entry or gets one signed. There’s no first edition market for blogs that I am aware of. No debuts or parties or premieres. And I’d like to know why not. I think it’s about time for some celebrity blog parties, formal ones with champagne and the glitterati of blog nation.  Granted, there are many problems with where to hold these parties when you only have three readers who live in three different time zones. Ummmm, Kansas City seems central enough, so let’s get together there around 8 p.m. Central time, of course. On a Friday. Good, done. That’s off the do list.

Yeah, it’s not enough to simply cover the blank white screen with black letters. I was an English teacher once, seventh grade, the land of crash test dummies and cat herders. Teaching writing to 130 kids who were all over the ability spectrum was an exhausting exercise. However, experts thought that weekly writing was just the ticket for kids to develop proficiency. These experts never taught kids on spectrums, however.  They had all sorts of nifty, cool ideas about how good writers could improve in a variety of ways. Meanwhile, back at the cat ranch, I was hoping to get kids to write full sentences or to chop up run-on galactic word salads into bite-size units of meaning, while holding their attention and interest as we plunged forward toward ultimate meaning and purpose in their young lives. (I tend to exaggerate.)

 “Just put something on the page so we can start the process. At least put a mark on it so we can tell which side is up.” Uuuuhhhhhhh. It was mass obstetrics of a literary sort. Birthing paragraphs and little five paragraph essays, 25 at a time. “I can see your piece is stuck at 5 cms. Nurse! I need an I.V. over here.”  “Nice work, Billy. I can see your piece is crowning.”  “Forceps, I need the forceps for Dylan.”  “Oh my Gosh! C-section in aisle three. I need O2 and plasma, and that’s just for me.” “Ahh, Edith’s creative water just broke. Let’s get her in under the halogens.”  “Epinephrine, now! I’m losing the writer’s pulse on Cindy.” Yeah, it was something like that. I would drip sweat by 9:00 a.m. and collapse by 4:00 p.m. I’m not sure that they are all accomplished writers today. One thing is certain, however. I gained dramatic experience from it all.

Well, that barge set sail about 8 years ago. What a sense of relief as I left a 23 year career that I had backed into. (See previous posts.) True, it was better than parking cars, shoveling hardened poop out of a manhole, ironing things in a dry cleaner’s shop, copy boy at a newspaper, EKG technician, moving specialist, gas pumper, federal government office gopher, short order cook, house painter, and many other forgettable exercises in what not to do for a living.  Still, it felt like OJ’s gloves– “If they do not fit, then you must (a-hem) quit!” Thank you, Johnny Cochran.

I’m not sure that I have developed anything here, so concluding would be pointless. This side with the marks on it is up. See?

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