Friday, February 3, 2012

Brick by Brick

Since early morning, a small crew of masons has been busy replacing an old concrete patio behind our home.  Soon we'll have a stately new brick one in its place.

Although I don't envy the guys one bit (the work is backbreaking and it's bitter cold out), I feel empathy with them.

While they're just outside my door stooping to remove concrete shards and stacking bricks in neat piles, I'm inside, hunched over my computer, stringing words together, then taking the strings apart; typing phrases, then deleting them; inserting punctuation marks, then replacing those same marks with different ones.

And I'm beat after whole a day at it.

Writing is hard for me, even though I've done a lot of it.  Composing sentences, paragraphs and whole pages feels a lot like laying a brick patio.

Ann Chenoweth and John Hayes are two social scientists who've studied writers.  They've discovered that writers compose sentences in a pattern: burst-pause-evaluate; burst-pause-evaluate; and so on. 

Inexperienced writers, they claim, produce short bursts; experienced writers, long ones.

Either way, it's slow, brutal work.

In my book, the Jack Kerouacs of the world—the writers who burst with the force of a firehoseare few and far between.

Sportswriter Red Smith was once asked if grinding out a daily newspaper column wasn’t difficult.

"Why, no," Smith answered, "You simply sit down at the typewriter, open your veins, and bleed."
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