Monthly Archives: February 2011

On Writers

Writers are special people. Except for the fortunate few who can afford to live on a farm in the Netherlands and write 19th century pastoral poetry, most writers aim to please. That is, we write to sell. And writing to sell means being commercial. And being commercial means selling out. And selling out means not being a “real” writer who composes lovely haikus on milking Holsteins, but being a craphole writer who turns to Wikipedia to research Dutch cows and who seeks external validation in the form of dollar bills. Preferably big dollar bills. If we’re lucky, Hamiltons.

As writers, this is the source of all our issues.

The brain of a writer contains a huge tropical storm of garbage, sprinkled with a few tiny nuggets of treasure. Not unlike high-functioning schizophrenics, writers spend countless hours mining their own psyche for bits of inspiration. Sometimes the writer’s mind can yield great things. Most times, however, it’s just a repository for shameless self-indulgence. For example, a sampling of my random thoughts from today: “I just don’t get eyebrows. It’s like an island of hair on my face.” / “Stop staring at the fridge: you just ate two steaks an hour ago.” / “How much do egg donations go for these days? How many months of rent is that?” / “Why can’t human beings have three separate holes, two for waste and one solely for reproduction?” / “Who will ever love me???” / “Fine, go treat yourself to some ice cream.”

Some might think I’m crazy, but I ain’t.  I’m just a writer. And most writers are a little crazy. A little eccentric. A little smelly.  We fancy ourselves to be high-minded, beret-wearing hipsters who create Art & Culture, complete with a showy vocabulary and a penchant for the Ironic (and unnecessary capitals).  But really, we’re just hiding from the truth. And the truth is, most of the time, we believe that we are terrible writers. We believe that we create literary fecal matter that would be better served lining horse stalls than being read or performed by anyone other than our immediate family puppets. Writers are nothing if not neurotic. We’re flighty, we’re flaky, we’re strange, and we enjoy wallowing in our many insecurities.

Writers always worry about whether we’re being smart enough/profound enough/funny enough for an audience that will never be wholly satisfied. We slave over word choice and act breaks and storylines that may seem insignificant to everyone else but which causes us devastating internal turmoil and despair. We edit and re-edit.  We second-guess our second guesses. We frequently pull avada kedavras on our computers in stylistically-imbalanced fits of rage. CTRL-A-Delete. CTRL-A-Delete. CTRL-A-Delete.  And in addition to churning out daily doses of horsewallpaper, writers find numerous ways to procrastinate.  Whether it be cigarettes, alcohol, armed robbery, or gummy vitamins (my personal preference), all writers must find a vice upon which to blame all their troubles if things do go awry.

But then one day, amidst the haze of smoke, drugs, guns, and folic acid, something amazing happens. The cloud of mediocrity floats away, taking with it the banal dialogue and the unnecessary plot twists. The sky opens up. The story becomes strangely clear.  Suddenly we’re left with something that, despite all its previously-ulcer-inducing pockmarks, actually seems… good. And we truly believe, that after all this time, after all we’ve been through, we’ve finally managed to produce something that could be considered great — nay, brilliant.

And then we wake up the next morning, and we think that it’s crap again. CTRL-A-Delete.

Such is the life of a writer.

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Filed under Careers

More Punctuation, Please!

I admit: I like excessive punctuation. I am often quite liberal with my use of commas, parentheses (just to be a jerk), ellipses… and all other forms of fancy–and oftentimes unnecessary–word decoration.

However, despite my adulation for spare emoticon parts, I don’t think the Punctuation founders went far enough. How can anyone justify having only two possible endings for declarative statements? You can either choose the staid, buttoned-up period… or you can choose the doowop-dancing, likely-high-as-a-kite exclamation mark.

The difference between the two is huge. Let’s say you run into an old friend, Molly, at a rally to save the organic farming industry.  You exchange email addresses. You get a message from Molly the next day: Hey, it’s Molly, blah blah blah, weren’t those organic, hand-shucked corn chips fantastic, and then:

Herein lies the problem: #1 is boring and matter-of-fact, while #2 is almost overly friendly. Perhaps it’s just me, but when strangers use an abundance of exclamation marks in emails, I immediately picture them as trippy cartoon characters: Hello! You’re great! Let’s meet up! I’m free at noon! See you then! I’m going to stick my head in the oven first! Toodles!

Can’t we have a punctuation mark which implies greater enthusiasm than the period, yet less enthusiasm than the gung ho! exclamation mark? Perhaps… the midget exclamation mark? Then, we can easily decode the following:

(But I’ll probably never see you again.)

(I think you’re the bestest and I want to be with you forever and ever and say things like “Hehe” even though it’s completely unnatural, but it’s okay because I love you.)

(I genuinely enjoyed my time with you. And I’m not crazy.)

Unfortunately, given our limited punctuation inventory, we still don’t have a mini-exclamation mark that can quell the burn of the period/exclamation. So, until someone figures out how to put a mini-exclamation on their keyboard (Bill Gates, are you listening?), I’m just going to stick with what I always do… mask my true feelings with never-ending sentences:

(And now I’m going to introduce a banal topic to continue this sentence so that I don’t have to let you know how I actually feel about seeing you.)

Honestly, I love the dash–

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Filed under Random