Tuesday, March 9, 2010

"Everybody's A Writer"

That title?


I’ve told my kids that sarcasm is the dialect used by people who don’t have any power. That’s me, in this situation.

Everybody thinks they’re a writer. And there’s nothing I can do about it.

I admit I’m a little prickly on the subject, my personal history as a relatively successful television writer riddled, as it was, by run-ins with network and studio executives, people who had no discernible writing abilities, telling people who had considerable writing abilities what do. A background of this nature can make one a little touchy when it comes to the criticism of their work.

What happened, Earl?

I’ll tell you what happened, Italics Man.

I got rewritten by my Internist.

That’s right. My Internist, a man of medicine, but not writing,

Rewrote something I had written first.

What is his writing experience? He writes prescriptions nobody can read.

Yet, that guy,

“Dr. Illegible”,

Rewrote me.

You’ll have to excuse me. I’m still fuming about it. Here’s the back-story. I’ll keep it short, ‘cause it’s not that interesting. I may send it to my Internist to see if I’m telling it right.

More sarcasm? You betcha.

Okay. Fourteen weeks at a mandatory, medically supervised cardiac rehabilitation program prevented me from training at my regular gym. My personal trainer, Eve, informed me that if the gym got an explanatory letter from my doctor, they would extend my year-long contract, so I wouldn’t have to pay for the time I was absent.

So, fine. I need a letter from my Internist. Now I’m figuring, my Internist is a busy guy, his days filled with telling his patients they’re deficient in some essential nutrient or other, and they need to take supplements he just happens to sell out of his office. That’s not fair. He’s a good doctor. (Though he does sell supplements out of his office.)

But it’s not just that he’s busy. I am generally uncomfortable asking people for favors, and this is unquestionably a favor, since it’s not a medical service I’m asking for, it’s a way for me to save a few bucks at the gym.

I formulate a plan. The plan is to write the letter myself, and then fax it to my Internist. The doctor signs the letter, faxes it back to me, I send it to Eve, and she presents it to the gym. Problem solved. Problems make me anxious. But I immediately relax when they’re solved.

This one will soon be solved.

I write the letter. I fax the letter to my Internist’s office. Later, that day, a letter is faxed back. It is not, however, my letter with the Internist’s signature on it.

My Internist has made a few “changes.”

I couldn’t believe it. My Internist had rewritten my letter. Why? I have no idea. I don’t diagnose ailments. You’ll never hear my saying, “That sounds like gallstones to me.” Diagnosing is doctor’s work.

And writing

Is writer’s work.

I was too steamed to sit down and compare our two letters, to see what exactly he “improved.” I should have. I’m sorry. If I had, I’d have tangible evidence, rather than just my word for it, that nothing was substantially changed. A few words here and there. Some adjustments in emphasis. Nothing major. Nothing – in my view – necessary.

Like many an externally mandated revision, the material had been rewritten “sideways.”

My Internist had clearly found my original effort lacking, and since – and it’s admittedly true – his signature would be at the bottom, he felt required to give my deficient letter his own personal “punch up.”

Maybe he felt, “Earl hasn’t been working in a while, and he’s gotten a little rusty. I’m going to take a pass at it, and give this letter what it’s so obviously missing.”

It never ends.

It doesn’t matter that you’re off the playing field. “Indignity” will find you wherever you are.

And when he does, he will ruin your entire day.


MikeThe Blogger said...

Can you post both letters. It would be interesting to SEE the changes.

James said...

Could have just been a form letter.

I think'd it'd be funny though if you sat in his reception area giving second opinions to patients as they exit.

Rinaldo said...

I've been thinking about this for a few days, because I wasn't sure what I thought. I guess I feel that if I'm asked to sign my name to a letter, I would want the letter to be in my own words -- to be MY letter. Anything else seems dishonest. So from that standpoint I can understand a bit of rewriting, so that signing it doesn't feel wrong; it's a sign of integrity, even if he's not as good a writer.