Tomorrow I turn 62. It’s been (to put it charitably) an odd year–but hey, I produced two excellent books that everybody should rush out and buy, so it hasn’t all been bad. Anyway, I got a present of sorts that made me feel even a bit older…
Michael McGrorty posted this at Library Dust. It’s his non-contribution to a meme I haven’t contributed to. Here’s the money quote:
I write a blog; actually a couple of them, this being one. I am primarily and essentially a writer; I predate the Internet. In fact, I predate the personal computer and the electric typewriter. I do not predate Walt Crawford, who was present at the Big Bang and responsible for the current dimensions of the visible universe.
It’s a compliment, to be sure–an honor, even, given the high quality of McGrorty’s writing.
In keeping with which, I think this might be a good time to clarify my opinion of my own writing quality, given that I’ve called myself a hack writer more than once.
I believe I’m a pretty good writer–OK, I’ll say one of the best X writers in the library field, but don’t ask me to turn “X” into a number. (Somewhere between 5 and 100?) I think my zero-draft writing is clear and coherent–that’s what you see in this blog, which is, 99% of the time, written and posted in a single setting without revision. I think my 1.25-draft writing works well: you see that at Cites & Insights. The books? Second draft. And when I have the help of good editors, as at EContent (and soon, Online), I point with pride.
I don’t regard “hack writer” as a putdown. I regard it as a label, maybe the wrong one. I’m not a literary writer–I don’t consider myself an Author. I aim for clear, natural, idiomatic prose; I try to organize, analyze, synthesize and produce something that is both informative and interesting. I don’t agonize over each sentence and paragraph. If I produce memorable phrases at times–and I do believe it’s happened–that’s nice, but it’s not my primary goal. Michael is a prose stylist. I have a style, but I’m not a stylist. Both good, just different.
I started using an electric typewriter while still in high school, incidentally. (We had a magnificent old glass-sided Royal manual at home before that.) I started writing with a personal computer in, I think, 1983. The Big Bang happened 4,000 years ago–or maybe a few billion, if you’re fact-oriented.
Oh, and I don’t work on the web. I work in Mountain View, and use the web as one of several tools…