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.