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Saturday, Oct. 20, 2001
Monitor, who is one of the better writer's on this venue got me to thinking about how and why we write. She expressed it better than I will.

But one of the points she made was the one most often voiced by the more serious wordsmither's. That being - in an online format, do I write for myself or for an audience? I read a little essay on that somewhere, and the author pointed out that "If you think you're not writing for the benefit of an audience, you're kidding yourself. Someone will see it, someone will want to comment on it. It's a big internet world out there."

Yes indeed it is. As much as I'd like to just type away here having a conversation with myself, it's silly not to acknowledge that there will be others who happen to drop by. If I didn't want that I'd password this thing and throw away the key.

I think I rationalize writing for myself as meaning I'm writing for my own benefit. That this is an outlet, my personal dump site. Which is why I rarely type anything up in Word, or offline. Having a grammar or spell check do the once over on these entries would be depressing as hell. Talk about a creativity buster, sheesh. No more fragmented sentances? I'd wither up and die, honestly.

I had English teachers in high school (we called it English back then, none of this 'Communications and You' fluff) who told me that I should pursue journalism as a career and encouraged me to contribute to their school newspaper. Which was, I guess, a nice way of motivating me and get some cheap filler for their rag.

It so happened I was dating a girl who was the editor of the newspaper. This lass had the unfortuante trait of never having had an original thought in her entire life, and in encountering me, thought she had discovered the font of all wisdom. Boy, did I have her set up for a suprise. I'd jot down some thoughts and she'd have me on the front page of the next issue. Poetry, diatrabes, rants, you name it, I was fit to print.

Some of it was the worst sort of drek you can possibly imagine.

When I was a senior, the English class had a requirement to read novels from a prepared list, and write a critique style report on it. There was a minimum length and you had to answer certain probing questions about the book, using descriptive style writing. Not question and answer, in other words. I love to read, so novel critiques were not a problem for me. I poured my heart into some of those reports, disecting styles and author intents and symbolism. Proudly, I'd hand them in and await the grade.

A fair amount of them came back graded 93, or A minus, or B plus. While I wasn't failing the class by any means, I just couldn't seem to crack the A barrier.

One week I had a lot to do, and put off the novel report until the night before. Went to the list of books to find an easy one. Ah hah! 'Of Mice and Men' was still available. 'Mice' was the book we all saved for situations like this, a simple, easy to understand tale that would allow for minimal effort, a quick B or C grade in an emergency. Minimal effort was exactly what I did. I've seen police reports which had more creative writing in them. I recall spending all of half an hour ripping off the 500 word minimum for the report and never once thinking real hard about it.

I pretty much forgot about the 'Mice' report until a few days later. The teacher, a good little man with many years under his belt in the classroom, passed back the graded reports to the class. Except for mine. He stood in front with my report in his hand. I awaited the axe to fall.

In a voice cracking with emotion, he said "I've read hundreds of these reports throughout the years, and I must say this is my vision of what they should be like. I graded it at 99, because I'll never give out a 100, but this is the first I can recall that got a 99, ever. Outfoxed has written a beautiful, concise review of 'Mice' which I'd like to share with you. I ran copies of it so that all of you can see what I expect these reports to be like, but I'd also like for you to hear it aloud."

And so he did. Read that thing aloud to the class. Kids were nearly in tears at the end. I was alternateing between joy at the big grade and cringing at the thought that my worst was somehow his best, and astonishment that 30 minutes work could emotionally move that bunch of slugs.

Time goes by and nothing seems to have changed in that department. It amuses me to no end when I write out something of little merit, something that I put about 5 seconds of actual thought into, and find that it rates more commentary than the one that I toil and slave over and polish up and feel really pleased with.

Which is why I'm so profoundly grateful to have people who actually read this silliness. It keeps me grounded. I think I'll go find a copy of a book and review it for you. How about 'Of Mice and Men'?

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