Cutting myself

Copy­right 2004 Ben S. Pollock

Mon­day, Nov. 8, 2004: I may see a trend in this Brick busi­ness, a hier­ar­chy. When I work for pay, or at least print pub­li­ca­tion, I not only think hard about clar­ity of thought in the writ­ing but how to frame the pub­lished writ­ing to max­i­mize its appeal to the reader. Often this involves humor, forms of humor: par­ody, satire, mini-short sto­ries, fake plays or just deft turns of phrase that might be called witty, to make seri­ous com­ments palatable.

At the other extreme is my long­hand jour­nal, whose cur­rent incar­na­tion began in 1998 (mean­ing 1–7 entries a week). The Morn­ing Pages (yes, orig­i­nally inspired by Julia Cameron), range from first drafts of columns pretty enough per­haps to be pub­lished by my stan­dards (see graf above), to more often record­ing of dreams, gro­cery lists and things-to-do-today lists.

In between is this Brick busi­ness for my fewer than 14 read­ers (“Art is not art if only 14 peo­ple know about it.” — Joni Mitchell). They’re basi­cally jour­nal entries I don’t think will embar­rass me if peo­ple I know read them. They rarely, though, begin as Morn­ing Pages, but I think of a sep­a­rate issue while doing the Pages that would be a good Brick. About half the Bricks are revised once, and the other half just spell-checked; this comes from column-writing, where I have the con­fi­dence that my stan­dard of just not being embar­rassed by myself has been met.

What these Bricks rarely are, though, are funny. I gen­er­ally want them to be but seem unable to make myself invest the time to that end. Humor takes con­cen­tra­tion and time; the incen­tive of ego or renu­mer­a­tion helps.

One thing that I’ve learned about my own pub­lished columns and essays is that in the first draft, the best open­ing sen­tence is around three grafs from the top, and that those first grafs can be suc­cess­fully dropped (I learned this from Frank Fel­lone of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette). For Bricks, I leave them in. I kind-of like my 12 or 13 read­ers to know my com­pul­sion for frozen pizza, and a graf or two off-topic is only a few sec­onds of their time. –30–

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