February 3rd, 2011

krazy koati

You're broken-hearted, but you go on

So, for approaching five years now, I've written a roughly 700-word humor essay for publishing each Friday. To first order it's for me: I want to have humor essays of the kind I like and this is one way to do it. But probably like any public performer I get an outstanding thrill from learning somebody else likes what I did. The greatest thrill comes when I see someone quote me --- dglenn has been most generous in that --- or refer me to friends --- xyzzysqrl has been very kind there, and Electric Keet too --- and while I haven't caught anyone stealing my quotes for publication on T-shirts or coffee mugs, I don't think it's impossible either. I've even got a few I think might someday make it.

And the next-greatest thrill is when anyone says they're amused by something I wrote. I venture to say everyone actually reading this instead of letting their eyes skim it has posted such approval, and thank you for doing so. (I'll spare the list of names, but thank each of you for it.) Even a chuckle makes the time I spend creating these unquestionably worthwhile, and make next week's essay that much more fun to write.

Last week, lexomatic --- an old friend, impossible as it seems for the adjective to apply --- posted the kind of response that's rarest and which hurts most, but which can be the most useful to me. lexomatic identified it as a weaker piece, pointing out flaws in the construction (particularly how parts of it are really more vocal rather than written), internal logic (which I don't agree with, but see as defensible), and phrasing. They made me wince, yes, but I have to agree: several of them are serious flaws in the piece.

bunny_hugger and skwerlbuddy came to my defense against the harshness of the criticism. And I thank them, sincerely, for doing so. But ... well, technically speaking I'm a professional writer, in that I've earned several thousand dollars from co-writing textbooks, but I do want to be at least in part a real professional writer. And I know that I can't get to that level without bleeding. I try to be reasonably ego-less and to take correction in good grace. (You wouldn't believe how harsh my co-author or anonymous reviewers for the textbooks could be.)

I know some of my weaknesses as a humor writer: I depend on logic-salad to the point of it being hackwork. I've barely got any sense of character to anything I write. I've tried a few comic stories and they've pretty much wholly flopped (by my lights, at least, and I don't insist anyone who has liked them is wrong). I can, if intermittently, work on fixing the flaws I can see. It's in the hands of my sympathetic audience to tell me of the flaws I don't see. The bleeding eventually stops and I go back to writing.

Trivia: Joseph Pulitzer bought The New York World from railroad magnate/financier Jay Gould. Source: Pulitzer: A Life, Denis Brian.

Currently Reading: Emmy Noether's Wonderful Theorem, Dwight E Nuenschwander. Man, as it gets into tensors it just gets better.