Why write?

I bumped into a friend the other day at the St. Lawrence Market, someone I hadn’t seen in a couple of months.  During our chat he mentioned that he’d been reading and enjoying the posts in this blog of mine.  I was touched and thanked him, and also said that it’s interesting he likes it since this blog violates a fundamental principle of blogging.  That is, it doesn’t really have a singular focus on a topic or theme.  I admitted to him that I’m all over the map with my commentary and maybe that’s because I don’t do it to accomplish anything other than to satisfy a keen personal interest in writing.  I blog because I like thinking, and I enjoy the mechanics of transcribing thoughts to written word. If you read this blog, you might think it does not make complete sense all the time or even part of the time. That’s okay because  it’s not about the reader. 🙂 It’s about my wish to express thoughts and tell stories, as a means to understand myself and the world around me.

I’m being a little glib when I say it’s not about the reader but just a little. It’s the same attitude I have about my engagement with Twitter (@peterarmaly). I tweet for the same reasons I blog, for the enjoyment I receive when sharing thoughts and opinions.The number of followers I have is a minor consideration. I acknowledge that a voice needs an ear in order for sound to be heard but a voice can also do its thing even if there is no ear there.

I’ll finish with a quick story. I was about 8 years old and I had written a tale about an astronaut on a space walk. He ran into some sort of trouble which caused his tether cable to snap and there was no way for him to be rescued. He had an oxygen tank and the short story was mostly about his thoughts of life and loneliness as he drifted slowly into the void, waiting for the oxygen to run out. Waiting to die. My mother loved it and I recall one of my older sisters WOW-ing about it. I was embarrassed because it was never meant to be read by anyone (I had hidden it within a book in the bookshelf) and declared that I wanted it destroyed. My sister argued with me but in the end my mother sided with me and said, “Your stories are yours; you don’t have to let others read them. Lots of people would probably love to but it’s okay to let your imagination create for the pleasure it brings to you alone.”

Say what?

“Canadians were found likelier to spend money that looks dirty.”

How do you read that sentence? Do you read it as this? ===> Canadians are more likely than people of other nations to spend money that looks dirty.  Or, do you read it as this? ===> Canadians are more likely to choose to spend money that looks dirty over money that looks clean.

It’s safe to bet that the writer of that sentence in the latest issue of Harper’s Magazine meant it as the former, a comparison of Canadians’ habits versus those of people from other nations.  Think about it.  Who would choose dirty over clean money?

I bring this up not to debate the finding.  I so rarely use cash that it hardly matters and anyway, perhaps the real question should be why anyone would even study the matter of dirty versus clean money.   I bring this up to illustrate how the way sentences are written and published these days in popular media, even august journals like Harper’s, could benefit enormously from a return of the editor.  I don’t blame the Internet.  I don’t blame Barack Obama or the Kardashian clan. I don’t blame anything at all other than all of us.  Editors were once linchpins to communication clarity, kings and queens of the written word and cogent thought, precision-obsessed individuals who juggled in their heads the knowledge of all mankind, or so it seems when I speak to a close editor friend of mine.  They were unheralded in their heyday but just as vitally important to the finished product as were the authors themselves. They’ve been replaced (not yet completely) by software and, when not, by lazy and distracted readers.

Here’s another safe bet.  If a sentence makes you pause and wonder as to its meaning, it’s probably poorly written and should have been challenged by a living, breathing editor.  Maybe this book below should be on the desk of anyone who finds they have to write a sentence at some point that another person will need to read.

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