I’ve started taking a writing workshop, down at Wayne State. It isn’t precisely what the doctor ordered, oriented more to freeing the writer within than I’d like. (My inner writer has been free for some time, running around the pasture kicking up her heels; what she needs is some work under saddle.) But it’ll do. It’s two hours a week when I have to concentrate on something other than the things I’ve been concentrating on, and the course description contains my favorite words in the world: free and open to the public.
The teacher and I have some differences of opinion, primarily regarding the value of longhand. For years now, I’ve been doing all my writing at a keyboard, to the point that my handwriting muscles have atrophied. I pick up a pen to write checks and grocery lists; even my sympathy notes are done on the laptop. (As a consolation prize, I try to make them long and meaty, letters rather than notes. There’s something about the lines “Dear Bob, so sorry for your loss. You have my condolences” that, when written on a computer and printed out, really says “You shouldn’t have.”)
However, this teacher believes we get in touch with a different part of our creative selves when we compose by hand. I can agree with that — it’s the part that says “ouch.” He gives us short assignments we’re supposed to write in class, in our notebooks. Last week my hand felt like a claw by dismissal time, so this week I switched to a No. 2 pencil, figuring less pressure would help. It didn’t, at least not much. I pared my scratchings down to my journalist’s combination of shorthand, abbreviations and the sort of incomprehensible scribblings we hope will protect us in court if our notes are ever subpoenaed. And so I have a legal pad that contains a two-page reverie on Ohio State football fans that I could only reproduce at gunpoint.
This is the thing about writing, though, the really cool thing — you start out thinking you’re writing about one thing, and then you start writing about something else. Your brain gets out the way of the mystical bond between your fingers and your subconscious. (Some call this “losing the plot.” I prefer to tart it up with b.s. about the creative process.) So I wrote the sentence, “Columbus is the sort of place where a man named Gray can name his daughter Scarlet Ann and nobody considers this child abuse.” It made me think of when I first heard this story — when I was just starting my career in Columbus. Mr. Gray was a lawyer, I believe, and baby Scarlet Ann would be an adult by now. Whatever happened to her, I wonder? Did she grow up to become S. Ann Gray or did she fully embrace her dad’s egomania in making an infant a reflection of his sports-team loyalties? If I were a betting man, I’d take the latter option. Every little girl wants to make her daddy proud.
(Why should no one be surprised Mr. Gray was a lawyer? Discuss.)
Parenthood and sports made me think of the earlier comments this week about the new basketball uniforms, which made me think of a funny line from the Poor Man, from years ago, in an entry called “Fashion Victims of the ’80s.” No. 9, Larry Bird:
Super-short green shorts split up to the waist are a notoriously hard look to rock, and Larry Bird was uniquely unqualified to pull it off. Unafraid to show all twelve feet of his milky-white thighs on the basketball court, Bird topped the ensemble off with knee socks, Chia-hair, and a permanent milk mustache.
Of course, Larry would have looked even worse in those baggy shorts. Most white guys from French Lick, Indiana would, I expect.
You see how this works, you amateurs? You start out talking about Columbus, and end up at Larry Bird. And you make your readers suffer along with you! This is why blogging is such a runaway success.
Speaking of which, I was checking my incoming links the other day, and found a blog I was unfamiliar with, Englishgirl in Indiana. Whaddaya know, it’s run by the folks who bought our house in Fort Wayne. She links to photo albums of family events, and I ignored the people in the pictures to concentrate on what I’m really interested in — what they’ve done to our house. They refinished the floors! They look fabulous. They painted the dining room yellow! It looks fabulous. I’m wondering why I didn’t paint the dining room yellow. I’m so pleased our old house fell into the hands of someone who loves it as much as we did. I’m still forging my relationship with my new one, and while I like it more every day, I say with real regret that I miss my Fort Wayne eaves. I used to leave my upstairs windows open all summer long and now I have to run around like a commando every time a drop of rain falls. The Committee to Bring Back Eaves — this is my new cause.
Have we meandered enough? Does this entry make as little sense as possible? Good. On to the bloggage:
In re Fox’s attempt to make “conservative” humor, Roy Edroso points out the difference between art and propaganda.
Henry Allen, one of my writing idols, makes a point about the Walter Reed fiasco that hasn’t been made yet: It has something to do with the difference between enlisted soldiers and officers.
I am shocked, shocked to hear Newt Gingrich has a wandering pecker and the soul of a hypocrite.
Gotta go bust some scum. Guests for dinner tomorrow.
MarkH said on March 9, 2007 at 10:25 am
Ha! Great post looking into the writing process, Nancy.
However, in looking at what computers/the internet/blogging, etc. have wrought re: the meandering through topics: I’ve come to the conclusion it’s become no more than gasoline on the fire of whatever level of ADD we all have. Yours truly frequently flaming up like the sun at at times, of course.
And, YES, I remember the Scarlet Ann Gray story, lo these many years since I left (and tried to forget about) Columbus.
26 now, to be exact.
Bob said on March 9, 2007 at 10:30 am
“though I run the risk of being deeply embarrassed,”
Yeah, right, Newt!
cce said on March 9, 2007 at 11:17 am
As for Newt, wow, I just commented on this at Looka.com. He did his own send up on Newt earlier this week. I said:
I could regale you with tales of the Newtster. I had the misfortune of covering his public appearances for a Cobb County newspaper back in ’95. Let me sum it up…Gingrich, sweaty, overweight, pimple that he is, was always hitting on younger women. He would’ve had his own Monica long before Clinton, had he not been so repulsive. I took great pleasure in rebuffing his none-too subtle advances. If only he was as attractive and charming as Clinton he might have hung himself a long time ago.
Turns out he DID have his own Monica. My question is, how desperate was this women to bask in someone else’s glory that she would get it on with the Newtster. He is, and always has been most repulsive. More so in person than on FOX!
4dbirds said on March 9, 2007 at 11:18 am
As an enlisted person who later became an officer (albeit a Warrant Officer), I could tell you some stories. What was most shocking to me was my first officer only staff meeting where I discovered just how stupid some of them were. We were intelligence officers and considered ‘the cream of the crop’. Officers could always get away with more. They closed ranks and protected their own. My commander in Germany was a serial adulterer and everyone else just winked it away.
brian stouder said on March 9, 2007 at 11:26 am
Say – the book now on my nightstand is Lincoln’s Sword (subtitled The Presidency and the Power of Words) by Douglas Wilson. The book just won the 2007 Lincoln Prize, and my daughter Shelby and I attended his recent lecture at the Lincoln Museum (and she seemed to enjoy the evening very much!)
The book’s thesis is that, first and foremost, Lincoln was a writer. When he was a kiddo, he learned to read and write around the age of 5 or 6, and then he would write letters and words wherever he could. It made him almost angry if a person spoke to him in a way that he could not understand. If a reference was that he did not understand, he would (obsessively) strive to ‘get it’ – and THEN put it into words that others would also ‘get’.
Attaching the RIGHT words to common ideas (let alone more complex concepts) was essentially and always what Lincoln did. (that obsession helps immensely if you’re a lawyer or a campaigner)
It’s a great book – a writer could do worse than to check it out
Connie said on March 9, 2007 at 11:27 am
Ten years ago I did a three day intensive interview for the job that eventually moved me to Minnesota. On the second day they gave me a list of 3 “essay questions” to which they wanted written responses the next morning. I ended up with 9 pages and a very sore hand, having not written much more than a grocery list by hand for sometime.
I have noted that my daughter and her teenager friends can barely read cursive let alone write it. I think it is dying. Soon we all speak and write text message, don’t U think?
Danny said on March 9, 2007 at 12:32 pm
This is the thing about writing, though, the really cool thing — you start out thinking you’re writing about one thing, and then you start writing about something else.
This reminds me of the foreword in the Vonnegut book, “Jailbird.” He said the story he set out to write started out innocently enough, It was about life in heaven with the premise that one could be any age one wanted to be there, so long as you had been that age during your earthly existence. For his part, he had chosen to be 35… wise enough, but still sexy enough.
But, he was disappointed at meeting his parents in heaven. His mother had chosen to be 16-years old again. And a cheerleader. His father, had chosen to be an 8-year old boy who would annoy everyone by following them around and continually asking them to look at his juvenile drawings. The bullies in heaven would pick on his father, de-pantsing him and hanging him and his underwear over a well that led to hell.
He said he tried to imagine Adolph Hitler sufferring in his ultimate fiery agony, occasionally draped about the head with his father’s underpants.
It was becoming an increasingly unfriendly story and he said he decided to leave off writing it.
Marabel said on March 9, 2007 at 12:32 pm
TOTALLY off the subject…but you Ft Wayne people…does anyone know what is up with Northrop’s swim team coaches?? (see front page of todays Journal)
Marabel said on March 9, 2007 at 1:41 pm
SPORTS section, that is….
nancy said on March 9, 2007 at 1:55 pm
Whatever, it’s going around.
Marabel said on March 9, 2007 at 1:57 pm
……..something in my gut tells me this may have been more Romeo – Juliet-ish…?
alex said on March 9, 2007 at 2:45 pm
Speaking of writing longhand, I experimented with “The Artist’s Way” a couple of years ago, a sort of a “Drawing from the Right Side of the Brain” for writers. The author is a proponent of longhand for getting the creative juices flowing. I forget the rationale. Never found it particularly helpful either.
Futz said on March 9, 2007 at 3:20 pm
Scarlett Gray still lives in Columbus, married Jim Saling, and changed her name to Scarlett Gray-Saling. She became a ferret breeder and is well-known throughout the world for her ferret knowledge and has been invited to Japan to be a judge at ferret contests. (Ferrets are big pets in Japan, since they don’t take up much room and don’t need a big yard to run around in.)
nancy said on March 9, 2007 at 3:37 pm
I bow down before you, Futz.
Ferrets. You can’t make this stuff up.
jcburns said on March 9, 2007 at 4:29 pm
Hm, didn’t Nora Ephron write a book called…
basset said on March 9, 2007 at 8:34 pm
are they bred for show or for ferret-legging? big difference in temperament.
basset said on March 9, 2007 at 8:36 pm
and before anyone asks, this is the classic account of a rare and manly sport:
brian stouder said on March 9, 2007 at 9:52 pm
The sport of ferret-legging looks like a violation of the penal code, to me
ashley said on March 10, 2007 at 12:13 am
My suggestion: switch to Big Chief (TM) writing tablets, the best for describing your world view. They have the proper geometry and theology for the true writer.
michaelj said on March 10, 2007 at 6:14 pm
Larry would have shot the lights out like Richard Thompson no matter what he was wearing, and if his daddy had gambling debts, Larry would have paid them before anybody got shot to death.
As for pencils, it’s still possible to buy mechanical Scriptos if you look hard, and that is the Lamborghini of pencils. With the .1 leads. And with all due respect or none at all, Big Chiefs should not be used, in remembrance of John Kennedy Toole, whose mom pestered Walker Percy into getting a book deal, but only after the kid she drove certifiable killed himself. Thanks mom.
Gray-Saling is where Bilbo went when there were no more adventures, right? There’s a conjoined lawyerly couplet in Savannah called the Dove-Barrs. And this ferret business reminds of these brawny alleged country alleged musicians that shoot penned animals. Ain’t that a man.
Pencils, Pilots, Logitech, doesn’t matter Nancy. All take you wherever you didn’t intend to go in the damned first place. I do remember this scrawny middle-aged guy scribbling on yellow legal pads with a Bic at the Birmingham Surf Club while we had swimming practice. We all figured he was a pervert. He was writing Get Shorty and escaping from J. Walter Whatever. Ya ta hey.
michaelj said on March 10, 2007 at 6:25 pm
Oh, and Larry still made Isiah look like the poseur he’s always been, and DJ still layed that perfect pass in the bucket. And the world still owes a debt to the Chief for doing what everybody else wanted to do.
LA mary said on March 12, 2007 at 12:02 pm
Ferrets are illegal as pets in California, but that does not get in the way of the existence of a volunteer ferret search and rescue squad. I saw their brochures in the waiting area of the vet’s office. Maybe they rescue them from guys’ pants.
LA mary said on March 12, 2007 at 12:18 pm
Just to tie two of the themes of this posting together neatly, I suggest we all chip in and get a ferret for Newt to stick down his pants.
brian stouder said on March 12, 2007 at 3:24 pm
Put me down for 5 bucks; I’ll skip the NCAA pools, and immensely enjoy watching the result of a ferocious ferret finding such a ‘wandering pecker’!
Scarlett Gray-Saling said on April 25, 2007 at 11:39 am
Hey, I’m the Scarlett Ann Gray-Saling with the ferrets.. I’m not the same one with the lawyer for a father. My father was a politician – State Senator for 3rd district in Ohio for 43 years. I might be a little older than the other Scarlett mentioned as I’m 55. I was also not born in Columbus, Ohio – thank goodness – with my name. Columbus goes a little overboard on OSU but than again… I had to keep the Gray part of my name when I married as my husband is the OSU fan. As for ferret to put down Newt’s pant – still looking for one. :>)