Tuesday, February 4, 2014



Yesterday, I went over to the local paper to get my picture taken. I dislike having my picture taken, not least because it memorializes for all posterity just how unphotogenic I seem to be ... and there it is, staring me in the face.

The paper needed a head shot to go with a monthly column I recently agreed to write. Having come to the agreement last Friday, and being as anal-retentive as I can be, I immediately went home and wrote something, which I then sent to a couple of friends for reaction.

They were kind enough to indulge my request, but the key word is "kind." I realized that I didn't really want "kind," I wanted a gut-level, brass-knuckles assessment: Was the piece internally consistent and logical? Was it sluggish and boooorrrrring? How did it feel? How did it taste?

The topic is religion's contributions and encouragements to the world of war ... the contradictory nature of thou-shalt-not-kill combined with religion's implicit and explicit encouragements to kill in a time of state-sponsored conflict.

Anyway, when I went over to the paper to get my picture taken, I stopped by the executive editor's desk (the guy with whom I had struck the deal) and asked him if he'd run a comb through what I had written thus far. He agreed and then -- will wonders never cease? -- passed along his comments later the same day. The critique was not unkind, but it felt like open-heart surgery without the anesthetic.

 And as soon as I received it -- being as anal-retentive as I can be -- I went to work revising and reshaping. I stayed up past my bedtime. I felt the piece shape-shifting -- losing its seriousness, taking on the ballast of mediocrity ... but getting less abstruse and perhaps a little clearer into the bargain. I didn't feel that I HAD to make corrections according to the suggestions; it's just that I could see their point and usefulness and therefore made some changes.

The effort was focused and without any awareness of time.

I went to bed exhausted and simultaneously wired.

Which accounts, perhaps, for the almost-entirely-blank-slate that greeted me this morning when I looked around for something to write.

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