On Writing Well

If you haven’t read Howard Zinn’s “On Writing Well” you have made a mistake. A readily remedied mistake, but a mistake nonetheless. Go to the bookstore and get it. I’m a library person, but I almost insist that you buy this book so you can write on it, highlight it, cuddle with it in bed and treat it with respect the next morning. He has lots of examples and lots of rules about great writing. He is a huge EB White Fan – you have heard of Charlotte’s Web, Stuart Little and maybe even the Trumpet of the Swan. He is admired most, in the groups that matter, (no offense) for his perfectly executed essays.

Sometimes E.B. White rewrote a page nine times.

When it was time to write, White was committing to what seemed to be an arduous task – he worked free of word processors or even white-out. I can’t imagine him complaining that the task before him was not worth it. I can imagine him re-writing and giggling when he found just the right word to say just the right thing after five tries. I can’t imagine boredom overtook him because he was one of those interesting people that find life interesting. In that case, I want to be on that boat.

I once hated a woman whose friends got together and wrote a collection of essays/poems/whatever. She told me she just started writing, wrote for fifteen minutes and then stopped. No editing, no nothing. Send it to the printers, boys, bad writing waiting to be birthed to the world. If writers produce spiritual children while they write, how can they take such neglectful care of their work? It is like letting their children cry themselves to sleep? Poor little things – wet and neglected. Kids grow out of that, though – eventually they accept no one is coming and stop crying. Books, essays, poems do not have that to look forward to.

Of course I have this blog and I know blogs are not the place for re-write after re-write. My poor little blog has cried from neglect and is not my best writing. I don’t quit because I think it is good for me to do it, to write down my thoughts and keep myself up to date as far as what is really on my mind. What I don’t know is if it is good for you to read it.

I used to be better at re-writing. As early as middle school I wrote and re-wrote my assignments. In high school I attacked my writing work. I ran out of beta readers because I wanted constant comments on the intricacies of my papers. The things I wrote were unusually good for someone my age – and heck, probably your age, too. The teacher would read my assignments and sometime the class would clap. They never clapped for anyone else and there was a boy int he class who wouldn’t believe I wrote those things. It’s a nice memory. I wonder if the teacher remembers me.

I am recommitting to my novel, but I am reclassifying it a memoir. I think that the subject matter is better suited to that genre. I can’t claim it’s fiction if I write a a memoir. I will tear the curtain and the whole world will know I am mentally ill. A psychologist warned me that every mistake I make, every time I am late, every slip in speech will be attributed to my medication. My mother warns that this will be too hard for Small. I hope it isn’t, and I doubt that her compadres will read a memoir of Mental Illness. If they do, I hope at least some of the people there they will see that sometimes it is tough, but honestly, it is really not a big deal. I’m an ordinary house wife in an ordinary city with a tiny family who sees a doctor a lot more than average. Okay, I’m not such a great housewife, but I’m nothing out of the ordinary. I’m not crazy, I’m bipolar.


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