Today is a special day for all bloggers.
It is January 30, that day when all bloggers look at their recent output and go “Oh. Crap.” They then fall prostrate before the statue of Saint Expeditus (true saint but of questionable origins) and vow to publish more stuff more often. (A really good blogger would wait until January 2nd or 3rd to make such a vow — but those with pure intentions start early and crash and burn by the 2nd.)
So the time has come for me to do the same: I promise to write more stuff, more often.
Ha. Ha. Gotcha!
My soul is in thrall to Saint Procrastinatus (not a real saint). Just ask Rose. She never ceases to be awed by my ability to put off things to a later day. You see, without the structure of rigid deadlines and red-eyed, vein-popping editors, I am adrift.
When I was very young (that would be in my late-twenties) I read a biography of Emile Zola and was amazed by his discipline. He would rise, sit at the same desk at precisely the same time and write the same number of pages each day. Every day. He would then set out for walks around the town, recording all that he saw, heard, tasted, touched and smelled in notebooks – some of which would find its way into his novels.
That is just the way I wanted to be. I even collected and read quite a few of his novels.
But when I began reading Russell Baker’s column in the New York Times, I found a new hero and a champion of the school of inventive loafing. Baker insisted that his creative process consisted of hanging out, feet propped on desk, mind adrift until his deadline loomed dark and ominous. Only then, when it was too late to turn his ship around, so to speak, did he bend into the wind and write unfailingly entertaining and insightful columns.
So, yeah, I drove more than a few editors and backshop pressmen crazy over the decades as I rode my copy right up to the edge of deadlines (and sometimes over the cliff).
I feel bad about that.
Did the tension make my writing better?
To be honest, though, as I sift through boxes of old newspaper stories and columns, as I shed weight and possessions in advance of our move to Belize, the most common conclusions I come to are 1. I should have spent a little more time rewriting and 2. I should have given copyeditors and editors a little more time to go over my stuff.
Today, of course, your everyday modern blogger is asking “What the hell is an editor and copyeditor?”
Blogsters, I will say this: Editors and copyeditors are like dogs. With proper training and a clear message as to who is master and who is not, they can be your friend and make your writing better. But a timid or unsure writer is like red meat to most editors/copyeditors.
If you do not signal to them that you care about your stories and how they are written, your stuff will be met with contempt and – because the copyeditor most likely has a master’s degree in English or creative writing and you don’t, you will often be very very very surprised by what makes it into print under your name.
But I digress (as a good editor would likely point out).
The best I can do is promise that I will write less, more often.
My problem has always been knowing when to get off the stage. I can’t tell you how many people have told me I simply write too much in a single sitting. If you know how many children and step-children I have you can figure out how many people I’m talking about. They are my best critics and keep me humble.
I can hear them exhaling slowly and multitasking as I write this.
That is my cue.
Here’s to a fabulous 2014 for one and all. My you heed the call of adventure and always take the path your more-timid friends and family warned you against. Here’s to fulfillment, compassion, enrichment, challenge and wonder in equal measures for all.
And now, exit stage left.