Friday, June 12, 2009

Good writing WILL survive

I blush to read that I said a cartoon had emotional depth, as I did in my last post. On the other hand, I can't remember a movie I've seen in the last couple of years that made me care that much about the characters.

I mentioned the tears to a friend who is a long-retired cartoon animator. His eyebrows went up. "You cried?" he asked, "At a cartoon?"
He thought, then said, "It must be a well-written story."

That sentence has reasonated with me since. He's right. It is well-written, and that is really different. Since everyone can write, the current fashion is to bypass paying for really good writing.

When I worked in public affairs at the University of North Texas, I had to manage and produce brochures. Now, we had some very good professional designers and writers. We didn't have Ph.D.s, true, but we were experts in our own field. And we were tough. We had to be, to wrestle a major department chairman to the ground and make him or her acquiesce to giving us at least SOME quality control over the product. Sometimes, actually often, we won 100 percent of the way. After all, the brochure was just one more thing that had to get done. We won often because of their desperation to get it done with the least possible effort on their parts.

We took the prose they submitted and rewrote the substance. And we rewrote it considerably better, and undeniably more briefly. It was kind of funny how amazed they often were when they saw the draft after we had done our jobs. It actually was better, more attractive, a better product to promote their program or department, than what they had wanted to insist we do. I didn't particularly like writing brochures. I liked writing about science, etc., for our university publications, because that was really fun. With the right attitude, however, writing brochures could be, and was, creative.

My granddaughter writes very well. Apparently that's a pity. Because unless she is very, very determined, writing well and a dollar will buy her a soft drink. Well, probably more than a dollar in the future. Fortunately, she has many other strengths and skills.

Journalism graduates this year have very few places they can go for work.And yes, I am genuinely sad about that. I think retirees have pretty much sewed up the vacancies as Walmart greeters.

I do love good writing.

Somehow, some way, I realize it will survive. As institutions disappear and laws become more illogical and the life I live changes in so many bewildering ways week by week--it is good to focus on constants. Landmarks to move toward, so to speak.

That's why I write a great deal about the mundane. The pinto bean, the satisfying cartoon, the ripening tomatoes--the people we love. These survive.

And, I am happy to hope, so will good writing.

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