Thursday, December 7, 2017

"Course Correction"

Boy, was I in a mood yesterday.

I was writing this honest but frivolous piece of fluff entitled “’Night, ‘Night” about how much I enjoy going to sleep, and when I read over my first draft, I realized I was parodying my own writing style. 

Criticizing my efforts is an activity I invariably leave to others, which I subsequently ignore.  (Not emotionally, where the “Ouch!’ remains forever, but in altering my individualized approach.) 

What triggered the unconscious self-lampooning was the post before “’Night, ‘Night” entitled “Story Time”, where I recounted a “Grace” story involving the birth of my daughter Anna as an imagined storytelling performance.  The bloated silliness in that post made me realize that what I wanted to accomplish in this blog and what I was actually delivering were dismayingly no longer in sync.

When I read over the first draft of “Story Time”, I began to notice that, though I was purportedly “telling a story about telling a story” – where you would, if anywhere, expect me to “write talk” –  I was, in fact, “writing talk” sometimes, but more often than I was happy to discover, I wasn’t.

My “transcribed storytelling” sounded too much like writing and not enough like talking.  How, I wondered, had I inadvertently turned into an “author”?

Maybe it’s a generational concern.  Truman Capote once assailed Jack Kerouac’s “spontaneous prose technique”, acerbically observing, “That’s not writing.  It’s just typing.”  Since I did not want to be accused of “just typing”, I threw some adjectives into the narrative.  And adverbs, many of which, my computer tells me, underlining them in red, are not actual English words.

I am, admittedly, a sucker for an artfully turned phrase.  In the recent (listened to) Michael Connelly mystery, when Detective Harry Bosch traded cars to make it harder for him to be followed, the writer described this maneuver as “vehicular subterfuge.”  The book was ten discs long – that’s the only thing I remember.  When I heard it, I thought, like the Australians say after an admirable achievement, “Good on ya!”

I really liked “vehicular subterfuge.”  But that is not what I am supposed to be doing here.

So in the post “‘Night, ‘Night”, when I described sleep  as “sweet surrender” followed immediately by “beneficent slumber” and then said to you, “Pick one”, I was, in humorous fashion, acknowledging, “This is not ‘talk’ and I am deeply embarrassed to have included it.”

In my unfortunate “lapse into literature”, I had forgotten the original Just Thinking mandate.  Paraphrasing the sage studio head in The Three Amigos, I had “strayed from the formula and paid the price.” 

I was apparently too busy writing to remember I was supposed to be talking.

I know that blog writing – because it’s writing – is not – and cannot ever be – talking.  When you write – no matter what the format – you are required to adhere, at least minimally, to the basic writing “Rules of the Road.”  Unlike “talk”, although, as with writing, you want to communicate the story simply, succinctly, (as) truthfully (as you can) and completely – and if it’s funny nobody’s going to complain – there are further essential obligations in writing. 

One of numerous examples:

You have to produce (comprehensible) complete sentences and clarifying “bridges”, facilitated in “talk” by gestures, facial expressions and conventional speaking inflections.  (The latter replaced here by italics.)

I spend hours rejiggering sentences so they will “flow better.”  I don’t do that in casual conversation.  Who would stick around till I got it exactly the way I wanted it?

“Nice talking to you.  Call me, and tell me what you were trying to say.”

Unlike “talk”, where the communicational cadence is inherently natural, I work hard to make it sound inherently natural. 

And then also I don’t. 

For example, I assiduously avoid using the same word twice.  In writing, especially comedy writing, writers are vigilantly on guard against repeating a word when telling a joke.  Repetition distracts the listener from the ultimate payoff. 

“Didn’t they say that already?  Oops, I missed the punch line.”

In life?  Who ever thought, talking to someone, “I just used that word in the last sentence.  I’m going to stand here till I can come up with a synonym.”

So many ways – or as the writer would revise, “In so many ways” – writing is distinctively different from talking.   Paraphrasing “O, Canada”, I have to assiduously “stand on guard for thee,” the “thee” in this case being the considered balance between “Lemme tell you something” and “Lemme tell you something in print.”

My less-than-natural imagined storytelling post came as a… there, see?  I am trying to conceive of an appropriate descriptive before, “Wake-up Call.”  I would never do that when I’m talking; I’d either get it or I wouldn’t.  Maybe just “Wake-up Call” is enough.  I throw in a colorful adjective and it’s like,

‘WAKE-UP CALL”:  “Why are you doing here?”

Fashioning the ideal combination of writing and “talk.” 

It’s not going to be easy.

But I need to get closer to my intention, whatever that mystical amalgam might be.

And that’s the last time you’ll hear, “mystical amalgam.”

I hope.

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