Thursday, July 29, 2010

Cursives! Foiled again

On first note, Snidely Whiplash, the Dudley Do-Right villain who made sport of tying damsels to train tracks, has nothing to offer the writer. But look again. Have you a sentence handcuffed and chained to a metaphorical train track, not able to break out of a stranglehold to show an emotion? Or inform? Or entertain? Do you get whiplash from the ebbs and flows of pace and dialogue? One minute it’s speeding along – the next it’s stopped dead?

I think Snidely is both a wonderful and sinister character. He’s the villain that makes us try harder to do good work. And yet, he’s the pain in our side, the weed that keeps growing and no matter how many times we try to succeed, he keeps giving us what my husband describes as the oonyas. Or is it unyas? Onyas? Translated: That little jab to the gut.

When I began writing at age 10 or 11 I didn’t use a typewriter (I’m not going to make the typical joke made against people of a certain age who didn’t have the option of a computer mouse and who would – GASP – actually write longhand). I sat at the kitchen table and wrote in cursive on a white sheet of notebook paper and every time I made a mistake – a typo in longhand – I ripped up the paper, threw it in the garbage and started the whole thing over again. Cursives.

Snidley would say, “Curses! Foiled again.”

Nonetheless, it’s how I began to write and process information from brain to paper. Later on when my newspaper editor wouldn’t let me write in longhand first – meaning I had to type and compose the story directly via keyboard onto a computer – I became my own worst Snidely, unable to loosen up to write directly onto a computer. It was a very painful process for me, to write well while also learning to become a good reporter.

Snidely still gives me a jab in the gut, but he does it differently than he used to. But whether he’s foiling me or I’m foiling him – whether he’s tying up your unconscious and preventing you from breaking through to the next level or it’s you telling Snidely to take a hike – I think the trick is to recognize that there can be a give and take relationship . You lean from Snidely as he takes you from one disaster to the other, remembering that there’s always a way to untie yourself from the train tracks.

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