Monday, December 8, 2008

Hey Joe! Where You Goin with That Pen in Your Hand?

As I noted in my last post, I hadn't published in awhile. Sure, I've been writing on this blog for over a year now and in a couple other places under assumed names or ghostwriting, but I'd been having difficulty finding my voice when I immerse myself in the writing of so many brilliant, talented, and entertaining journos and authors that I am lucky enough to count among my friends. It's pretty intimidating, to be honest.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading this today in the NYT, describing why "Joe the Plumber" shouldn't be published:

Most of the writers I know work every day, in obscurity and close to poverty, trying to say one thing well and true. Day in, day out, they labor to find their voice, to learn their trade, to understand nuance and pace. And then, facing a sea of rejections, they hear about something like Barbara Bush’s dog getting a book deal.

Writing is hard, even for the best wordsmiths. Ernest Hemingway said the most frightening thing he ever encountered was “a blank sheet of paper.” And Winston Churchill called the act of writing a book “a horrible, exhaustive struggle, like a long bout of painful illness.”

When I heard J.T.P. had a book, I thought of that Chris Farley skit from “Saturday Night Live.” He’s a motivational counselor, trying to keep some slacker youths from living in a van down by the river, just like him. One kid tells him he wants to write.

“La-di-frickin’-da!” Farley says. “We got ourselves a writer here!”

If Joe really wants to write, he should keep his day job and spend his evenings reading Rick Reilly’s sports columns, Peggy Noonan’s speeches, or Jess Walter’s fiction. He should open Dostoevsky or Norman Maclean — for osmosis, if nothing else. He should study Frank McCourt on teaching or Annie Dillard on writing.

The idea that someone who stumbled into a sound bite can be published, and charge $24.95 for said words, makes so many real writers think the world is unfair.

In fact the world is unfair, but his point is well-taken.

However, I think my favorite part of the piece was the last line: Maureen Dowd is off today.

Headline reference:

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