The Writing Project
When professors talk about writing, they usually mean scholarly efforts, such as refereed articles or textbooks. But for me, writing plays a larger role.
My first writing for an audience was a monthly column for M-Pressions, which I later edited. Later, I became National Publications Officer for American Mensa. In that role, I was able to meet excellent writers who taught me that there was a lot more to the craft than I had imagined.
I learned that people had different motives for writing — but all were rooted in a sense of urgency. They had to write, in the way that a shark has to swim. Once infected with that urgency, I, too, had to write. Over the years, I’ve written approximately 300 essays and columns, 50 short stories, two novels, and countless bad poems, for myself or, sometimes, for friends.
One of those friends recently asked if I still wrote. I felt as if he had asked me if I still slept. The problem is that, without an audience, your writing muscles atrophy. You never make that final edit, the one that separates good writing from OK writing, and — trust me — the world doesn’t need more OK writers. I decided to make those final edits and post some of the results here.
It will take time to relearn how to write well, but I hope you enjoy watching the process. Oh...and thank-you, Donald Kaul, who taught me when to write; Richard Freed, who taught me how to write; Anne Lamott, who taught me why to write, and Tom Wolfe, who taught me not to write.
By the way, if you are looking for something to read this weekend, here are some of my recommendations:
“Heebie-Jeebie Ergo Sum”
My early writing hero was Donald Kaul, columnist for the Des Moines Register. His column, “Over the Coffee,” was witty, intelligent, and well-written — and he did it six times a week. I met him after he had been fired, in essence, by the newspaper. The Register had held what amounted to tryouts for people to replace him — with dreadful results.
He noted — with some glee — that writing a regular column looked easy. “Everyone,” he said slyly, “has two or three good columns in them.”
After a few publications of “Heebie Jeebie Ergo Sum,” I thought, “Well, there’s my two or three good columns,” but, thanks to Donald’s generous wisdom, I didn’t stop there. Here are some samples:
My short stories are as good as time allows. It’s amazingly difficult to write short fiction, because each word counts, and there is simply no room for badly designed, badly phrased story-telling.
I haven’t posted anything substantial yet, but stay tuned.