Saturday, June 14, 2008

Something to Fall Back on

A diary or journal is a record of what you did and perhaps even with whom you did the listed things. A blog entry is a litany of the things you did not do and wished you had, did not understand or realize and wish you had; it trumpets the things you felt good about doing or thinking, a record as it were to haunt you the way YouTube streams hurt John McCain. In your blog entries, there is the ever-so-slight tinge of hubris, caught up in an arm wrestle with your sense of how tomorrow you may have more of a handle on your neural transmitters and the traffic therein.

There are traces of progress from time to time, adding to your sense of hubris, slight tracking of your having understood a process, of being able to give a more dimensional and exciting definition than those found on the likes of Wikipedia. You take heart at the blog sites you continue to visit, remembering those you no longer consult. Each site arouses some question within you the answer to which seems a worthwhile pursuit. You see a friend posting a photo that so stunningly is a photo rather than a snapshot that you are stunned by the implications and beauty of the process. Another friend ventures an opinion with which you take some mischievous issue and in the ensuing dialogue, an idea for a play presents itself to you, a gift from the Muse of Blog. You consult your judgment about the blog sites you no longer visit, The Huffington Post, for example, reminding you of the tabloid headlines you see while standing in the checkout line at Von's. Bill Clinton Hits on Space Alien. Hillary Asks Joe Lieberman to Be Her Running Mate on Third-Party Ticket. Ah, you think. So long, Arianna.

Even more important is the sense that the Universe is in the process of doing something completely remarkable and that for all your interest, you cannot possibly keep up with it, a thought that leads you to the soft landing of awareness that it is all you can do to understand your own universe. Why does my dog so tangibly love me, come ninety percent of the time when I call her, even though her instincts and senses are so sensually engaged? What was there before The Big Bang? Why do so many people hate San Francisco and Los Angeles yet yearn to live in either place? Would New Yorkers still be so combative if they had more room and cheaper rent? Are all Porsche owners assholes? Why do Republicans resent progress?

It sounds like the beginning to a poem by John Donne.

Go and catch a rented Porsche,
Immunize a crooked pol,
Tell me how to pass the torch
Of existential folderol...

What is your own Universe, what are its boundaries, what are your feelings to it, if you order for two do you get egg roll? Who are its heroes? Who makes the best peach cobbler? Where would you go to get sincere hot links?

It is often said of kids, unfairly I think, that they ask too many questions for the specific purpose of irritating grown-ups. I don't think kids have to ask questions to irritate grown-ups. I also think writers do not realize for quite some time that they need to ask questions, persistently going after answers to such things as what now, what next, and why not. It is my observation that most writers have been importuned at some time or another to latch onto something that they can fall back on in times of weal and woe. I am of an age where hitching rides was standard fare. I can recall numerous times when hitching rides home from the intersection of Fairfax and Melrose, directly across the street from Fairfax High School, to give serious thought to technical writing. Any number of individual with cars who offered me rides said there was no disgrace in technical writing. At another time in my life, a number of close-level friends were actually employed as technical writers, which seemed mysterious to me because none of them had what I would call a technical or scientific frame of mind. Indeed, one managed to sell short stories to Playboy back in the days when Playboy did not seem so Republican. But in time they began to have nervous breakdowns, drink too much, go to law school, or become teachers. Not being a technical writer, I had no funds to finance such adjunct ventures, but continued to write short stories, use razor blades more than was prudent, and distance myself further from any potential of being technical. To this day I cannot read instruction manuals, which I suppose gives me some platform for imagining instructions for things and doing to them what James Frey did to memoir.

The real answer to at least one question a technical writer could probably do better at on an employer's test is that there is nothing to fall back on, no safety net, no prudent decision that will provide a person a soft landing on any planet in the known solar system.

The only technical writing then is the analog of a Mars probe, landing on your own landscape, reporting what and who you see, and where to get a decent side of hot links.

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