Answer unknown

Friday, December 11, 2009

"I have a story for an article that you need to write." That is a common line that many of the contributors to our local newspaper hear frequently. I cannot speak for all of my fellow journalists, but I suspect that many of them have been approached with the same half-request, half-directive. It comes with the job.

Again, I cannot testify for other authors, but I for one do not mind these types of inquiries. In point of fact, I genuinely relish hearing from our readers. It provides for me a necessary reservoir of possibilities. Without these sources, a writer faces periods when nothing of interest appears on the horizon.

Any writer who has experienced what we refer to as "writer's block," can readily attest to the forlorn, totally bereft feeling one experiences during such a time. To me this condition is comparable to what I would define more accurately as "writer's Alzheimer's!"

There appears to be nothing that seems worthy to put on paper, or to type on the screen of one's computer. It is out there, and you know it. It remains out there however, just out of reach of your ability to discern its content.

Like a poor soul with real Alzheimer's, an author's mind becomes unable to grasp the thought or subject that has true meaning. Everywhere you turn there is a blank spot with no seeming escape to the light of day. It is an excruciating sensation that has lead more than one scribe to literally want to "pull his hair out!"

I consider myself one of the luckiest of writers. This condition has not often come to bear on my soul or mind. I have for now, at least, a seemingly endless supply of information and ideas that present themselves to me. Friends might even tell you that I often have too much of this supply in that regard.

If you have ever been telling a group of people something you think is important, and you suddenly get this dreaded sensation that they don't really want to hear anymore of your drivel, then you know exactly what I mean. This is generally followed by a screaming "Oops" in your brain. Embarrassed, you suddenly suspect that they all think you are crazy. It is the worst of times for a serious thinker.

Again, I am the most fortunate of egotists in situations like this. My sense of my own worth and knowledge does not let me worry for long about what others think of me or my ideas. If you are going to be a writer, musician, artist, actor, or any other person who puts themselves on public display, you must have a thick skin.

Judgement by our readers is a constant. A familiar statement to every columnist goes, "I can tell you what you should have said!" I avoid saying what is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear such a comment. My first inclination is to reply in a sarcastic manner, "well if you feel that way, why don't you write it yourself?"

Then my better nature regains control just in time, and I usually respond with some cordial sentence like, "that is a really good idea. Let me think about that and I will get back to you."

There are reasons that a writer has to answer in this manner. Early on in a writing career, you have a true realization. Most people love written words and stories. Whether it is a good book, magazine, newspaper, or simply a script for a movie or television show, writing is essential to our society.

While almost everyone loves and appreciates good writing, it is a talent that is given to but a few. Therefore, it actually becomes a responsibility, as much as a gift, for the writer.

Perhaps I can give a better insight. I have some limited talent for writing. That does not mean that I don't understand the true meaning of the adjective "limited" regarding my skill. I also love to play golf. I have tried to play the game for years, but I am by no means to ever be considered a real "golfer."

Some of my friends let me play the game with them, but I know it is an imposition for them. Between bad shots, losing balls, and colorful language, I have most certainly ruined many a round for my playing partners.

When it comes to writing, I am up the ladder a little further than most. Like the guys I play golf with, who actually know how to play, I am of a comparable skill level. I can write things that some people (I know for sure this is not everyone) actually enjoy reading.

Like my golf game there are basically two other types of writers. The first is comprised of the really talented authors. Those lucky people who can write things like novels or television scripts. If I live to be a hundred years old and practice every day, I will never be that good.

The other group of writers includes those people who love to read, but have a difficult time putting their own thoughts into a meaningful text or other art form. Like my golf game, that does not mean they do not enjoy writing, it just means they are not very good at writing.

To you readers, don't ever feel that you cannot comment or advise me about my column. I am not in the least offended. You and I are in a collaborative effort.

I cannot promise that each idea you give me is going to be something I can actually write about, but I will consider each idea that is presented. Between us we just might find an answer that was unknown to us both before.