You call that writing?

Not too long ago, I was talking to a friend of mine. She is a poet, in the literal sense. She has a Master of Fine Arts degree in poetry, which means that she has undergone rigorous study and practice in pursuit of her art. Though I must admit I have never read any of her work, I can safely assume that she does, in fact, work her craft. She has been working for a literacy program in the city where she visits school classrooms and tries to encourage students to engage in the creation and appreciation of poetry in particular and the creative arts in general. She was telling me that I would be a good person for the job, and her reasoning was simple: "because you're a writer."

That statement triggered some heavy contemplation on my part. Am I a writer? If I had been a writer at one point, could I still consider myself a writer? I discussed my concerns with my friend, and she told me that until I convinced her otherwise, she would continue to consider me a writer. Her conviction is heartening, but does little to satisfy my doubts.

The mantle of "Writer" is one of the many creative vocations I have attempted to master, with less than satisfying results. Throughout my life, I have entertained fantasies of becoming a cartoonist, a film director, a TV news cameraman, a photographer, a high school band director, a rock/pop guitarist and vocalist, a professional bass clarinetist, and a novelist. More often than not these ambitions have failed before they could start. The one profession I did eventually acquire, librarian, seemed to happen as a result of pure circumstance.

My wildest ambitions have gone the way of most youthful fantasies, but the allure of the Writer lingers. The closest I have gotten to living the writer's life was my Bachelor's degree in English, where I sat through an impressive amount of your typical undergrad writing workshops, the results of which are a handful of short stories I'm inclined to forget and about five unfinished (read: barely started) novels. In a way, writing is like heroin, or maybe murder: once you get the taste, you can't get rid of it. I got the taste, but I don't have the cure.

Slow dissolve, and cut to a misty montage of a freefall through library school, resume scene, and you find me here. The only thing I do that could be considered writerly is this: blogging. It's here that I indulge all of my writerly impulses. And the conditions are perfect. No intolerable workshop mates to savagely castigate my exquisitely overwrought prose. No agony wondering if I'll get published. No second drafts.

Allow me to be to first to question the quality of the prose product being offered here. I've turned in a profanity-laden tirade against harebrained Christian bigots; a hearty defense of Katie Couric; a missive concerning my troubles with wine; numerous insults lobbed in the general direction of radical Islam; and perhaps most memorably, a passioned appreciation of one utterly forgetable second baseman from Canada. Oh, I almost forgot my critical investigation of the Dean Martin Mystique. All of which fails to paint a portrait of consistency.

Immaterial, you might argue; such is the nature of blogging. The typical blog chronicles little more than what crosses the mind of the blogger at times when they likely have much better things to do than to chronicle their whims for the world. The best blogs are consise, maintain a consitent theme or set of themes, and establish a distinct, memorable voice for the blogger. The best blogs are the ones you check on a regular basis, to see what's new, and to hear something you likely wouldn't hear anywhere else.

So can blogging be considered writing? I don't know, and regardless, I'm the last person to ask. While my experience in the "legit" writing world tells me otherwise, my gut tells me that this feels like writing. And really, that's good enough for me.

Barring the unlikely chance that I pick up any of those unfinished novels, my writing is exactly where it belongs, for now and the forseeable future. Until I regain my nerve and attempt to play the writing game again, I'm comfortable here.


This post was inspired in part by Paul, who recently told me to "Write something new, goddamn it. But not about fucking baseball; I'm getting enough of that shit from DeLillo."

Funny you should mention baseball! I've been plotting a big post about Barry Bonds, and about Hank Aaron's original eclipsing of Babe Ruth's fabled home run record, but I just haven't had the energy to start it.

However, during my research, I ran across this neat app: the Oracle of Baseball, which links any two baseball players by a shortest possible list of teammates. It's a sort of Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon for baseball players.

Tinker_Joe_1 cedeno

For example, here's a list connecting Joe Tinker, who played shortstop for the last Cubs team to win a World Series and was a third of the famed "Tinker to Evers to Chance" double play combination, and Ronny Cedeno, the current Cubs shortstop:

Fascinating, isn't it?

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