One Hundred Monkeys in Texas

April 25, 2009

A pause for thought at the wordsmith’s anvil

“We are all like the Word himself — we might say that we are ‘little words,’ made to be communicators in words just like our Creator. God is the One who called all worlds into being by his creative word, who sustains and rules over all things by his powerful and law-giving word, who reveals himself by his truth-giving word, who communicates by his life-giving word. We are to use language in imitation of him by exercising the gifts of creative imagination, by understanding and naming the world around us, by revealing ourselves truthfully in all we say and write, by communicating with our Creator and with one another to build trust and to give life to all our relationships.”

— Jerram Barrs, Through His Eyes: God’s Perspective on Women in the Bible

September 12, 2008

A Flannery blouse for the spouse

Filed under: Books,Creativity,Writing — alancochrum @ 11:35 am
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“Writers write!” my wife reminds me occasionally. This is probably wise of her, considering that in some ways I am particularly susceptible to Sloth among the Seven Deadlies. (Not that this is the only one that I’m susceptible to, but that’s a discussion for another day. Maybe. When I get that “round tuit” that everyone talks about.)

She probably would agree with this thought from Flannery O’Connor:

“I’m a full-time believer in writing habits, pedestrian as it all may sound. You may be able to do without them if you have genius but most of us only have talent and this is simply something that has to be assisted all the time by physical and mental habits or it dries up and blows away. … I write only about two hours every day because that’s all the energy I have [because of ill health], but I don’t let anything interfere with those two hours, at the same time and the same place. … Sometimes I work for months and have to throw everything away, but I don’t think any of that was time wasted. Something goes on that makes it easier when it does come well. And the fact is if you don’t sit there every day, the day it would come well, you won’t be sitting there.”

— Letter of Sept. 22, 1957, The Habit of Being

August 8, 2008

Author! Author!

Filed under: Creativity,Newspapers,Writing — alancochrum @ 9:13 am
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I finished a consulting job yesterday. A family friend asked me to analyze a weekly newspaper in which he’s considering investing. He thought it might be handy to have an ink-stained wretch take a look at the product, and I was happy to oblige him.

The sense of relief/accomplishment that I felt when I mentally typed “30” on my report — don’t worry if you don’t understand; it’s a newspaper thing — merely confirmed something that I’ve long known about myself: I enjoy the writing process much more when it’s over.

When I was working years ago at the Waco Tribune-Herald, one of the opinion writers whose work I copy-edited was Lewis Grizzard, a longtime humorist for the Atlanta paper. (For those who are too young and/or insufficiently Southern, Grizzard was the Jeff Foxworthy of his day, with his roots in newspapers rather than TV.)

In his 1982 book They Tore Out My Heart and Stomped That Sucker Flat, Grizzard wrote: “I was back at my typewriter writing newspaper columns eight days after my [heart valve] surgery. … [I]t’s what I do for a living. I hate it. I curse it. But without it, I’m somebody else.”

Unlike the late Mr. Grizzard, I don’t really detest the creative process.  But as Boston Globe columnist Ellen Goodman noted once about herself (long after I had decided the same thing, independently), I like having written much more than I like writing.

July 8, 2008

1 percent inspiration, 99 percent perspiration

Filed under: Creativity,Writing — alancochrum @ 2:36 pm
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Thought for today:

“Every few weeks [Jo March] would shut herself up in her room, put on her scribbling suit, and `fall into a vortex’, as she expressed it, writing away at her novel with all her heart and soul …. [Her] cap was a beacon to the inquiring eyes of her family, who during these periods kept their distance, merely popping in their heads semi-occasionally to ask, with interest, ‘Does genius burn, Jo?’ … If this expressive article of dress was drawn low upon the forehead, it was a sign that hard work was going on, in exciting moments it was pushed rakishly askew, and when despair seized the author it was plucked wholly off, and cast upon the floor. At such times the intruder silently withdrew, and not until the red bow was seen gaily erect upon the gifted brow, did anyone dare address Jo.”

Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

“Genius doesn’t work on an assembly line basis. … You can’t simply say, ‘Today I will be brilliant.’ ”

— Capt. James T. Kirk, “Star Trek”

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