Since coming back from the time away, I've been noodling on some ideas. I think there might be two longer-form pieces in my drafts that will see the light of day, or at least the thin blue light of the internet. Writing them has been tough. It could be because I'm reading Raymond Carver and John Updike and they set a high bar, or, more charitably, that I'm trying to say something a little more complex than my usual. Either way, the drafts are beginning to linger.
The contemporary difficulty of writing and publishing approaches zero. You can even have an AI generate some text for you; it takes about five minutes to put it on a website or into your victim's email inbox. You can see a future where us humans aren't even involved: once the robots produce this stuff, there will be so much of it that we'll need other robots to read it for us. That may happen, but it won't matter: what matters is that good writing connects one human with many. The humanness of it is where the juice is.
E. B. White, in his essay collection The Second Tree from the Corner had this great piece about ghostwriting. First, he joked that the ghostwriter would've started the Gettysburg address, "87 years ago..." Then:
Lincoln probably had as much on his mind as the president of the motorcar company, but when an occasion arose, he got out a pencil and went to work alone. His technique is as good today, despite electronics, as it was then. Few men, however, have that kind of nerve today, or that kind of loneliness. They're all too busy taking their ghost out to lunch and filling him in.
I will be getting out that pencil and going to work alone. Once I have it, I'll think for a while, and then send it to you to ask, "is this anything?"
For the reading this week, we're back to where this little weekly missive started: a piece of good writing. This piece covers a topic that I don't care much about (Hollywood writers going on strike), but the quality of the work more than makes up for it. Here's a man who got out his pencil and went to work alone.
How I Became a Union Man
A bunch of deer is a herd of deer. A bunch of lions is a pride of lions. A bunch of crows is a murder of crows. And a bunch of writers is a Complaint of Writers.