Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Meatgrinder World

Occasionally I become lethargic and mired in the quicksand of mundane existence and my writing suffers. In the past few months, I've been writing, head down buried in my keyboard sluggishly churning away at two adventures I'm running at Gencon. Besides this creative outlet, there;s been precious little else on my proverbial writing plate, save the drudgery of work.

Work is drudgery, you ask?

Journalism is not the exciting, adrenaline-pumping, whip you around by your nutsack world of orgasmic thrills and spine-tingling adventure?

In a word, no. Not everything you write will grab you, shake you by the lapels and slug you with the pearl handle of a snub-nosed .44.

The meatgrinder world sucks sometimes, and the mannequins floating by you glower with plastic, emotionless faces. And you have to interview them and draw words out of them like thick molasses, laboriously gathering their quotes and crafting them into readable prose.

Yet its this insane craft of writing, this bizarre exercise of downloading thoughts from my brain and dribbling them onto the screen via keyboard that both intrigues and horrifies me. Finger taps a few select keys, words form and suddenly I'm the Writing God, splitting the atom and breathing life into characters.

I haven't been able to partake in this wonderful exercise, this primitive creative process lately because my meatgrinder world job gets in the way. Though the meatgrinder world job grants me a salary, keeps me from homelessness and hunger and gives me a meager sense of accomplishment (journalism, yay!), I still long to stretch my wings and fly out into the ether, past the mundane atmosphere to where dreams grow.

The problem with journalism is it's boring. Gathering information, interviewing subjects, sifting through official documents is time-consuming and about as exciting as listening to David Attenborough drone on in detail about the planting and care of hydrangeas.

The most successful journalists are the ones who can stay awake. If you can, you begin fashioning this mountain of information into your story. Here's where the meatgrinder world erupts into a geyser of suck. Journalism writing, the actual way news stories are written, are simplistic and bare-bones. You present the facts without embellishment, without a hint of bias or personal flavor. It's like cooking a steak without spices. You just have a bland piece of cooked meat.

Over 45 years ago a group of eccentric madmen geniuses (Tom Wolfe, Hunter S. Thompson, Gay Talese, Truman Capote and Norman Mailer) created a style of reporting called the New Journalism, which put the writer in the story. News read like novels, with descriptive and rich prose that both entertained and informed. It was the written equivalent of today's infotainment news channels except it didn't pander to the audience or insult the reader's intelligence. The New Journalism brought writing back into the news room, with journalists flogging the meatgrinder world through fascinating, well-written stories.

When you write brain dead, bland stories, you might be an objective journalist only sticking to the facts. You might use basic words a fourth grader could easily comprehend. You might be a wizard in your J-school writing class. Yet as far as engaging your brain and opening the third eye of a true writer, as far as pulling the tiny imps hiding in your imagination out and fasten them to the page with a nailgun, then you fail.

For me, writing must engage me thoroughly, and when it doesn't I feel out of place, as if I'd lost equilibrium. Merging the meatgrinder world job and the grandiose craft of writing will only make me shine as both a journalist and writer.

If I lose passion at any time, it reflects in my work.

The secret is to never lose passion and to regain momentum.

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