Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam

Essential thinking for reading Catholics.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

"A writer writes."

That line comes from a so-so film called Throw Momma From The Train. In this film, Billy Crystal plays a guy who teaches (I dimly recall) creative writing at some junior college/learning annex sort of place, and that line is his character's signoff at the end of every class session. "A writer writes."

I mention this because someone came up to me for help with something and said, in the course of conversation, something like: "Well, you're the writer, you should know better than I."

And that kinda took me aback a bit.

Mind you, I LIKE writing. A lot. I think I have a modicum of natural talent in that direction, but I have far too much respect for the term to call myself a Writer. I write a lot, because I enjoy it, and I scratch out an informal column on wine and on civilized gentlemen's apparel, and I am a prolific sort of emailer. Guilty.

That said, I have always been naturally drawn to the writers of the species as friends. During my Wilderness Years I spent an inordinate amount of my social time dating English majors, to such an extent I should have been able to meet my undergraduate curriculum's English requirements on dinner dates alone.

A couple of decades later, I still have a perfectly absurd number of For-Real-Perfessional-Writer friends. People who churn out books and articles and "pieces" on a regular basis in exchange for currency. Even curiouser, these writers are all exercising their talents in widely divergent fields. Novelists, poets, automotive & entertainment journalists, wine media-types, all rarely rub shoulders in real life, but each of these lovely people have something in common with me and they manifest this common-ness in interesting and interestingly elegant ways.

I'm not sure what it says about the human condition -- or my perception of it -- but I find there is a certain something about a person who has and broadcasts a polished command of the language. To my mind, that sort of person views (whether they know it is irrelevant for the purposes of this post) the world much the same way I do, as a series of possibilities. Not limitless possibilities, but finite ones. The idea that something glorious may be achieved with the (often flawed) items at our disposal appeals to a certain part of my brain. Someone who can take language and perform that same sort of juju thereupon, yielding paragraphs and pages that slide across your mind like a soothing beverage is, frankly, a bloody genius.

So I hang out with wordsmiths.

The funny thing I have noted about writers is that, unless they are in society with other writers of the same subspecies, they tend not to carry on so much about writing. This is usually good, because hearing things such as "So then I told my editor 'If you change one comma of my dishwasher review, I'll sue you!' " can make, y'know, things a bit dull. Writers tend to be observers, which is good, and they tend to be capable of spotting things (patterns, motives, etc.) that others can't, until they point them out.

In my experience, there are two main groups of writers. There are those given to flights of "authorial bipolarity" and those who grind away. The former spend a lot of time wondering why they didn't major in "accounting...or something useful" during their university years and live in the fear someone will one day point and shout "You're not a real writer! You're just a very lucky idiot with a keyboard!" and then the whole world will know their secret and they'll be exposed as a hoax.

The grinders, however, are just people who see stuff and write it down. These guys tend to be a bit more shy and self-contained. They tend not to be very self-analyzing, and their greatest fear is someone pointing out not that they aren't a real writer, but that they aren't a real expert on Lutonian Dance or Mattress Technology or what really happened during the Boer War.

I find both types of wordsmith to be ceaselessly fascinating. Not as fascinating as this, though: Most writers I know read VERY, VERY little.

Not that you asked, but now you know.