Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Write Stuff

A Profession That’s Perverse

If you are not writing to publish, please continue to do so. Writing is a perverse profession in that it is one filled with extremely deep, aggravating psychological and emotional valleys, followed by short, euphoric highs.

For the past ten days I have been engrossed in the former as I worked on three different writing projects, rotating between the first two, and now you are reading the third.

Before I leave town for ten days on August 12th, I wanted to get out an issue of the irregularly published print and PDF (Portable Document Format) version of The Ho-Ho-Kus Cogitator. This entails locking myself in my writing room while I pour through a multitude of file folders filled with newspaper clippings, magazine pages, Internet materials and pages of my handwritten observations. Then I have to choose which of the dozens of topics before me seem to fit together, along with a lead story and a concluding profile.

The Student Prints

Since I promised a trilogy on education starting with my own, then as a professor, it was time to write the lead story about the students I have encountered in nearly thirty years of university teaching. Within my garage and office, I have five file drawers —not file folders — with observations, letters from students, faculty meeting notes, and articles relating to students from 1969 to 2008. At one time, I may have had twenty different sets of file folders spread out as I tried to find some logical order and make some sense out of this gargantuan accumulation.

You Have to Persevere

When I finally did, only then did I begin to write. Doing so is difficult at any time, even more so on a sunny summer day when it seems far more spiritually rewarding to sit in the backyard and listen to the soothing, flowing waters of our fountain and lazily read. I began to write and write, then I edit and rewrite, and then I rewrite again and again and again. There will never be a perfectly written effort, so after a week it became time to stop writing and move on to selecting the illustrations and feeding all materials to my designer and syntactical enhancer. Stephen is a genius and not only does the design but can take my writings and diligently tweak a word here or a sentence there to make it flow even better — and to precisely fit in twelve pages.

I reviewed the first PDF copy-only layout, and we spent an hour on the phone working out some of the kinks and eliminating excess verbiage, which means eliminating whole stories.  At this moment I anxiously await the PDF in a more final form that will require another bit of tweaking before I can send it out to you.

A Huffington Post Script

When I felt overwrought and overworked concentrating on the Cogitator, I would turn to the Huffington Post where I have become a contributor and try and decide on a current topic that would first be challenging to write and also be acceptable to my blog editor. The semi-debilitating process is the same as with the newsletter. Go through files. Select topic. Write. Edit. Rewrite. Rewrite. Rewrite. Then I make sure that it is no more than 800 words before sending it in for approval. I submitted the 784-word post entitled “Don’t Blame Palin, Blame Stalin” yesterday and it is up today. You can read my Huffington writings at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/harvey-gotliffe-phd/

Thus Far, Have You Read This Far?

The brief euphoria comes in two stages — first when I see my writing published and then when someone comments on it, which is a rare occurrence. The comments can be positive or negative but at least they indicate that someone has read what you have written. How will I ever learn if you have read this?




Anonymous said...

The parent company of the Mercury News filed for bankruptcy this year. The paper has reduced its staff by 75 percent over the last decade and lost tens of millions of dollars a year to online sites like eBay and Craigslist. So have most other major metropolitan newspapers. Without other sources of revenue, like the paid obits, there won't be a Mercury News. It's that simple.

Lori H., 2002 SJSU alumna said...

I read it! And, love the following line:

"Writing is a perverse profession in that it is one filled with extremely deep, aggravating psychological and emotional valleys, followed by short, euphoric highs."