CAWTHON'S CATHARSIS - Why I Don’t Write Good

(09/12/2002)

I was informed recently by someone whose opinion I value highly that she could comprehend only about 30 percent of what I write. I congratulated her and added that that was about 20 percent more than my average readers. As she has had about 8 or 10 years of advanced education I am either writing above or below my audience, all-told, all-score of you.

I suppose all of this could fortify the opinions held by my past journalism instructors who were more than aware that I had ended up there because I had no place else to go, failing to find few post-high school drivers’ education classes.

The tendency was to be lenient with scholarship as some of the journalism grads might end up in TV, and so I was passed along to enter the work force, except I chose instead to become enrolled on The Payroll. This indiscretion led to 20 years, which I later discovered was a life sentence, served in The Institution where my talents were rewarded by naming me an editor, which everyone knows is a failed writer.

I was assigned the publications that dealt with economics and sociology. (Stick with me, as I think we are making progress in this self-analysis.) Now, if any of you out there have either chosen through curiosity or masochism to read either of these peculiarities, you will know where I am coming from and eventually where I will go to.

Looking back, I still think I received this cruel and inhumane punishment because my boss was a liberal who knew that I had voted for Barry Goldwater.

Liberals, who display the utmost compassion for widows and orphans as well as stray dogs and cats, can turn utterly vicious, cutting and slashing, when confronting conservatives (see Bob Weaver, Tony Russell, Karl Marks-not the one in Arnoldsburg, but the other one, et.al).

As I understood little what the economists wrote-I thought that M1 and M2 were combat rifles until much later-let alone the unknown tongue of the sociologists, I merely inserted assorted punctuation marks, highly favoring question marks, here and there, made sure to use high quality paper for printing and contracted with a confused graphic artist, another highly misunderstood profession even when understood, for an abstract cover which I told the authors was abstract impressionism, a term I made up. When the publications arrived from the printer I was praised as an editorial genius, a rare person who understood the genius of both professions. However, my bosses were upset whenever I received praise of any sort, even from the proletariat, so I requested my thanks in autographed textbooks which exalted me even higher in the eyes of my benefactors.

This short look backwards should suffice, as it did for Lot’s wife, as to why I write the way I do, but unlike Lot’s wife I haven’t shown nearly the salty curiosity that I should. If I had I might have become a pillar of society instead of the salt of the earth.

But bringing you up to the present and adding to my confused state of mind, I must admit that I have been sleeping with a poet, not any ordinary poet, but a published award-winning one. Please don’t all you purists reach for the delete button thinking I advocate illicit couplets because I have a good explanation, at least for the sleeping arrangement, as it is all perfectly legal, as well as moral, done under the bindings of holey matrimony, be it a pretty well torn fabric of our present society. The sound premise missing, as you might have noticed, is the good sense, or rhyme and reason, in choosing a poet.

I have never understood poetry, and, as the Good Lord knows, women either and only combining the two presents as much challenge as trying to decipher the instructions for the IRS 1040 form, although I must say it hardly shapes up as well.

For a brief time I liked poetry in college, and for a much longer time women both in college and out, because Glenville State had a gifted poet who had published in book form. His dedication went like this, as I recall:”Go little book and bring your author fame, so that everywhere you have went they’ll know that I have came” Man, was that ever heady stuff. I felt that he was speaking my language!

But soon all this appreciation came to a screeching halt when I enrolled in literature courses in college where poets, either lacking the sensitivity or creative genius, wrote pretty much like the economists and sociologists I was to encounter later in life. (This has been good for me and I hope for you to in that I think I am seeing the light even though it may be at the end of the tunnel. Is this called tunnel vision?) I guess that may have been why I chose to be a square peg in a round world and I have been square since, although perhaps off plumb at times.

I hope this doesn’t all sound like an excuse for my poor writing as I have tried to cloak that fact in confused rhetoric. I do appreciate you ten-percenters who hang with me, or dangle with me on participles, and just maybe if my 30-percent critic had attended law school instead of a “narrow minded” profession she might have achieved as much as 40 percent.

If enough of you request it I might even dig up some of my old work on economics and sociology and present here for your reading enjoyment. Let Dianne or Bob know your wishes as I certainly don’t have the guts, and never will, to run my address with this stuff.


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