Blaine for County Executive

BY COLUMNISTS

| Patrick W. Allen | Steven R. Berryman | Chris Cavey | Joe Charlebois | Guest Columnist | Harry M. Covert | Norman M. Covert | Patricia A. Kelly | Farrell Keough | Jill King | Earl 'Rocky' Mackintosh | Tom McLaughlin | Roy Meachum | Zachary Peters | Cindy A. Rose | Derek Shackelford | John W. Ashbury | Richard B. Weldon Jr. | Blaine R. Young |

DOCUMENTS


 Re-Elect David Brinkley for Senate


February 23, 2009

On Writing

Steven R. Berryman

Having many writers in the family, both close and distant, I have begun to wonder whether the urge to put pen to paper is an inherited trait, or a learned one.

 

Some explanation of this will serve to identify several items of interest to those still holding their “inner writer” at bay!

 

We claim the seminal poet and literary critic John Berryman, and the famed Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonists Clifford and Jim Berryman, of The Washington Post, into our distant ancestry. My father Richard has also contributed to and assisted in editing a learned biographical book on Abraham Lincoln’s presidency.

 

Amateur journaling and writing a column, blogging, commenting and writing persuasive letters has offered me opportunity for both catharsis and purgation during these days of terminal frustration. Frustration is borne of the inability to directly impact a persistent problem, or worry.

 

The obvious best example of the simulative turmoil is the economic downturn, “The Great Recession.”

 

Frustration, when left unchecked, can lead to serious problems, and even depression.

 

I hesitate to use the word “depression,” even in another sense, the mood disorder sense, as words carry a “charge” related to their connotation. In the case of “The Great Depression,” that other usage, the term was intentionally coined – back in the day – in order to get away from the term “Great Panic.”

 

Panic had been used to describe a previous economic downturn and referenced a run on banks, so we seek to avoid the reminder at all cost.

 

But worry not, as I refuse to jump into said fray this week, my powder not dry.

 

Therefore I consider, how did I come to love the various sending out of the “messages-in-a-bottle,” which is what writing really is, as one never really knows what is actually read?

 

Barely graduating senior English in high school, the structured writing assignments where my worst nightmare. What I didn’t know at the time was that children have trouble finding a writing voice simply upon the basis of not knowing very much about the world yet, and having read very little.

 

Mrs. Evelyn Whitman taught this class above grade level and shall always be known by “specific is terrific.” Sage advice for this age of wasted words.

 

If we hadn’t been forced to write, I think the process would not have seemed to me to be so punitive!

 

A creative writing class offered balance to the structure, and a creative outlet.

 

But what I came to realize as paramount, was that in order to be a good writer, one has to be a good reader. A voracious tendency to put books in front of ones face, instead of the multi-media pornography of television, for instance, is essential.

 

And I mean read everything, from newspapers, to pulp fiction, to scholarly classics, to political criticism, to blogs.

 

To write about Fort Detrick labs, The Andromeda Strain helps on background. To write about possible nuclear annihilation, Fail Safe affords an object lesson. To learn about black budget projects in the National Security Administration, The Puzzle Palace is in order.

 

Of course, events unfolding today were predicted in great detail in the amazingly clairvoyant classic 1984.

 

Add these types of directly applicable source material to highly stylized literary classics by Shakespeare, Tolstoy, Faulkner, Hemmingway, and Michener.

 

Even complete genres of writing such as science fiction have other than entertainment use. For decades some of the most scathing criticisms of society, and social commentary were buried. For some, due to the political correctness of the day, it was the only way to get published! See especially Robert A. Heinlein, Larry Niven, Arthur C. Clarke, and Frank Herbert as examples.

 

The mind is an interesting device: Simply in the process of reading even foreign and unfamiliar items, an assimilation occurs via inference and context over time to fill in the knowledge and vocabulary voids of the lexicon.

 

Esteemed local writer Roy Meachum, of www.TheTentacle.com, when surveyed told me that the quality of what one was reading was paramount to writing skill, but the craft element of actually “working at the trade” was also.

 

Our publisher and editor at The Tentacle, John W. Ashbury, is a stickler on writing standards and such technical elements as crediting sources correctly, but is also an inspired writer in his own right.

 

Me, I vacillate back and forth between the relative import of content versus style elements in writing. The style is the hook that propels readers to finish the column to the end. The content is the reason for being.

 

Renaissance man and writer Isaac Asimov, the prolific science fact, fiction, and mystery author is famous for saying that he knew his books had to be worth skipping a lunch for the price of the book to be successful. Myself, I strive to keep the reader’s “minds-eye” at attention to the ending.

 

What I seek to avoid most avidly is to waste anyone’s time!

 

My writing method is to suck up information like a sponge, and from every conceivable source: Public Radio to Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge to Bob Miller, and The New York Times to The Tentacle. When stuffed by more than enough source material, somehow the sortation process of writing just works out for the news junkie in me.

 

The key to valid information in the aggregate is the breadth and diversity in what you take-in, searching for elusive truths. Only by cross referencing details and juxtaposing positions can a fair report be made.

 

Local activism got me started in serious writing, after a period of less serious blogging. I learned the value of persuasive writing working for groups like Citizens for Walkersville, and Help Save Maryland.

 

Writing about writing does seem somewhat incestuous, but sometimes it helps to discus the “why and the how.” Reviewing process does help to minimize bias, but slant and angle of attack will be there as long as there are personal agendas, forever there as a facet of the human condition.

 

The motivations to write are born of passion, and in my view, the truth is just waiting to be set free.

 

Of course, the truth is a matter of perspective, and truly in the eye of the beholder.

 

srbmgr@comcast.net

 



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