Banner photo of Larry Eugene Meredith, Ronald Tipton and Patrick Flynn, 2017.

The good times are memories
In the drinking of elder men...

-- Larry E.
Time II

Monday, May 31, 2010

A New Appreciation for the Lonely Art

I have written every day since I was 12. Whether I have the talent may be debatable, but that I have the disposition for it is not. I definitely have three of the four requirements and have convinced myself I have the fourth. These requirements are not mastery of grammar, vocabulary, spelling and typing. These are technical skills that can be learned. I have learned to some extent, but remain woefully inadequate at each. When advisers from the Pennsylvania Labor Department came to our high school to advise we seniors on career choices, they told me I would never be a writer because I lacked vocabulary. These august counselors told me I was best suited to operating machines. (I read that Hemingway used a minimal amount of words in his body of work, yet he and Faulkner both won the Noble Prize, and I'll bet you more people read Ernest than William. I mean no disrespect to Faulkner, I read both.)

I am not certain which machines. There are a lot of different machines to operate. I hope they didn't mean the typewriter. I have always been a two finger hunt 'n' pecker (which sounds smutty somehow). I wanted to learn typing. (For those of you born in the last thirty years -- think non-musical keyboarding.) I elected typing in tenth grade, but they ran out of typewriters and sent me to art class. I was told I would be given typing in the next semester, but I am still waiting for the switch.

The skills I have are these.

As a young boy I lived a period in semi-isolation from other people and learned to fill in the emptiness of a quiet place. I am not afraid of being alone and I don't get bored. This is an important trait, for writing is a lonely art.

I also have a cast-iron seat. I can sit for hours if I have to, and a writer often must. The characters emerging on a page sometimes demand it.
The third is the blessing and curse of scribing, my brain won't shut up. It tries to drown me with ideas, plots and snippets of verbiage day and night. I have to mentally arm wrestle it into submission not to spin off a tale or verse in the mind when I have no paper or screen before me, or I will write it out in my head and lose it. I have lost more than I've written. (And I want no remarks from Retired in Delaware about losing my mind years ago.)

The last is the hardest. It is applying the other three. It is sitting alone in a room before a blank screen and transcribing those ideas into lines of words that make sense to others. I try to manage this. Sometimes I have succeeded.

Blogging has given me a new appreciation, perhaps the first real appreciation, of the columnists, commentators and preachers who do it for a living. You sit in a comfy chair, cup of coffee at hand, reading the morning paper. There are these columns under some byline, tiny essays of 250 to 500 words. What a cushy life, you think. This guy gets paid for this? I can skim through this in five-ten minutes. I could do that, how long can it take? How hard can it be?

Back to where I began this, I have written every day since I was 12. Except for a very few times, I had no deadlines to meet. I didn't have a clock face glaring at me, nagging at me with its tsk-tsk-tick-tock, telling me an anxious editor was waiting. I had all the time I wished to take and if it didn't work, I could start it over tomorrow or next week or next year. No one ever had to see it if it was twaddle. I was a "freelancer" free to take my time. If I thought a piece was ready, I would drop it in the mail and forget it until either the rejection slip or the check came. There were always more rejection slips than checks.

Although as a Blogger, I still am not beholden to an editor to meet a deadline, I now feel an obligation to post often because people actually read these words. Some even come back regularly to see what's new. I actually have readers, perhaps few and far between, but they are there and expect I will be too. Now I appreciate the men and women who "post" daily or even weekly. It is not easy to come up with a piece each day and write it reasonably well. If I don't, it doesn't matter. I can write my blog if no one visits, and if it be slush and slop no one is harmed, not even me. But if those columnists miss the mark once too often, they may do without their next meal for they won't get paid.

Thank you all you columnists, commentators and preachers, even if I don't agree with you all, I bow to your ability to be there.


Ron Tipton said...

Ah, but you DID lose your mind years ago. Didn't anyone send you the memo?

Ron Tipton said...

Excellent! From the heart. I enjoyed reading it.