Once Works Well was pure technology. Now it seeks merely to divert.
Pansy subjects - Verse! Opera! Domestic trivia! - are now commonplace.
The 300-word limit for posts is retained. The ego is enlarged

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

The Corsair? It's unequivocal

HOW I BECAME A HACK Part three. Returning from the USA in 1972 I looked back on two decades of journalism. The early years had included amateurish, unconnected writing; latterly I’d improved others’ stuff. Now, thanks to Plutarch, I was writing about a subject I was familiar with. At this shockingly late juncture (aged 37), and for reasons I cannot explain, I decided to learn to write.

“Learn to write” is open-ended; everyone dies a student. “Write more disciplined articles” sounds better. Later, the matter of style arose.

Earlier methods were a hindrance. Writing at 1000 words/hour meant finishing a sentence in such a way that a new sentence might be tacked on seamlessly. Nothing more. Optimism drove the process. I needed to plan. A tangential first paragraph, a significant interviewee quote three paragraphs in, the project’s difficulties ticked off one by one, a growing sense of enlightenment, success. Bingo!

Amateurs love the first, fine careless rapture; to them planning sounds dull. But from planning rhythm emerges, first between paragraphs, then between sentences, then within. How slow I was to recognise the short contrasting sentence, thrown like salt into a stew. And that sentences needn’t bustle in like Mrs Peg’s subject-verb-object but could sidle deferentially.

But we are what we are. My weakness is facetiousness (to the alarm of many Americans). A desire not to be taken as serious or – worse – earnest. I tried my hand at verse but lapsed. I enjoyed the cleverness but the very act of setting out to write verse seemed grandiose and smelt of academia, never my natural lair. The techniques I have half-learned are rarely employed on big subjects. The novels are an attempt to set this right but I may have left it too late. Le style, they say, c’est l’homme.