On Writing

There are probably hundreds of people in this country who consider the sports pages a place for idiots and fools to unite in their love of the inane; a place where mediocre hacks meet up with the minimally IQed to praise simple men who swing wood sticks and hurl skins of pig through the air.

All this might be true.

That said, this evening I was scanning the Facebook bios of some old high school classmates when I stumbled upon one person who works as a writer. Way back at Mahopac High School this guy was as arrogant and smug as they came—a snot-nosed prep who thought himself better than the rest of us. I’m not suggesting people don’t change in 18 years—they certainly do. But this is what he wrote about his current work:

I’m writing a book that finds the humanity in the open relationships of Emerson & Fuller, Lou & Rilke, Stieglitz & O’Keeffe, Diego & Frida, Sartre & Beauvoir, & Miller & Nin. Writing the book has helped me search for healthier ways to purge the contempt and self-loathing these lovers all internalized for having grown up in a culture damaged by industrial modernism. I think that we live in the most exciting times in history, because new kinds of relationships—new fulfillments between people, are possible now which were never really possible before.

Uh … yeah. I suppose I should see writing as some sort of holier-than-thou artistic endeavor; one that frees the soul and opens the imagination and lifts spirits and blah … blah … blah. Truth be told, I love to write for a very simple reason: I dig expressing myself, and allowing others to express themselves through my words. I don’t need to delude myself with flowery bullshit. Whether I write another paragraph or not (Hell, whether Jhumpa Lahiri or Tim O’Brien or Steve Rushin or Jason Sean Garber write another paragraph), the world will go on; the sun will rise; the sun will set. Yes, words can exude an unparalleled power; they can uprise; sedate; inspire; anger. But men like my former classmate confuse message with messenger. If the message is powerful enough, it matters little whether it is delivered by Hemingway or Gary Galvao, the guy who recently dug up my basement. What matters most is who’s listening.

3 thoughts on “On Writing”

  1. Judging from the description of the book, your old classmate is possibly a professor of history, English, or American studies. Having spent time in a history Ph.D. program, I can attest that there are a good share of academics who pepper their work with ‘flowery bullshit’ partly as a means of elevating their work. However, I think you’re being a little too hard on this guy. Assuming that he is an academic (kind of a big assumption, but somewhat reasonable), he is likely adopting the language that he was exposed to in graduate school. Academe is full of smug people, but also plenty of nice, down-to-earth people who write like your former classmate. Put another way, if you remembered him as a nice guy in school, would you have reacted differently to his description of his work?

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