Saturday, August 2, 2008


Yesterday or perhaps the day before, word of a new publication came lumbering up to me like a Golden Lab puppy, dropping at my feet an assignment as though it were some chew toy. It was not the kind of assignment I particularly wanted but years of reflex were in play as muscle memory. I said yes almost without thinking, then promptly put the assignment out of mind until that Golden Lab puppy came back last night with a tangible due date for this 3500-word assignment. August 20, a Wednesday.

Never do today what you can put off until, say, August 18. But I should have known better. The process began shortly after lights out last evening. The Working Self got a good jump on it, stayed with the idea beyond the point where I could conveniently forget about the jump start, entering in fact the place where I was so invested in the project that forgetting this approach in the thick soup of sleep was no longer an option.

You're kidding, I told my inner editor. Surely you'll let this notion, this approach get away and, on awakening, you'll have lost the idea and its energy as though it were merely another dream.

Fat chance, the inner editor said, and here's why. You're not going to get to that deep a sleep. I'm wise to your tricks. You get to deep sleep and you likely will forget the idea, which would suit your purpose entirely, so forget that notion and let's get to work, blocking the material out the same way we do when you're working on something you are enthused about or curious about or audacious about or all three simultaneously.

The reason I was so lackluster about the project in the first place was its appearance as dumb journalism or puffery. There seemed no way I could come up with an approach that would entertain me much less interest me.

The message comes crashing through like the Titanic meeting the iceberg: Get yourself to the place where you can enthuse about or be curious to see the outcome or feel some kind of audacious thrust or better still, a combination of all three.

The piece will not be an essay, not in the formal sense; it will be instead a series of snippy, snarky letters to the editor about the things Mr. Lowenkopf could have talked about but neglected to mention at all , accordingly giving Mr. Lowenkopf the opportunity to apologize for the oversight or minimize its importance. The entire piece will have morphed from a dreary laundry list to a fun use of point of view and misunderstandings to freight the material.

More important than that is the ratification of understanding how important it is the get into the work, to be a part of it and have it become a part of you until there is a symbiosis in which you two entities are conversing back and forth about it, you with your energy for it, it with its desire to emerge as an entity apart from you.

This may be the long way around of saying: Always put something of yourself into your work. If so, I will add to it by saying: When you begin to believe you have put something of yourself into your work, reach in to find more, then add that as well. Reach to the point of risk.

You have to at some level accept the fact that the Letters-to-the-editor trope you have invented could turn out to blow up in your face. Risk it, by all means. The risk must be there for it to have any chance. Failure must be an option.

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