Spring 2007




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Writing Is
Matthew Spillum

Writing is…I could try to be wise, lyrical and inventive. I could bring my substantial vocabulary to bear on the topic. Muse on passion and power, measures of method, of monkish devotion to craft.

Is it compulsion?            Compassion?                 Contemplation?

Writing is easy:  All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.  ~Gene Fowler

The more modern equivalent would, of course, be to stare at a screen until a brain tumor forms. Thank goodness for my panel of experts, who parse my offering into coherence. Lend me that veneer of authority. 

Without them, make no mistake; I could go on…and on.
You’d hate it, though, since there are only two possible ways to take advice from a student.


He (for I am a he…the pronoun retains relevance despite the indefinite article above) is a prodigy. There is much that can be gleaned from his genius.


He is an insufferable fool, drunk on his imagined prowess. A cautionary tale of the confluence of hubris and youth.

When deciding between the two, you should remember that the person in question pays good money to be taught, and therefore at some level (obscured as it might be) thinks he has a lot to learn.

Thankfully, I can return to my panel of experts.

Writing is a socially acceptable form of schizophrenia.  ~E.L. Doctorow

The word to key on here is acceptable. Words are everything. The writer is not talking to his or her demons on the park bench, scaring children and discomfiting the citizenry.
The writer does that in the privacy of his or her own home…though laptops do allow the option of public insanity.

To be perfectly honest…or honest in fits and starts…writing is a nag. An itch at the back of the eyeball, an erection at an unwelcome moment.
I believe I mentioned I am a he.

Writing is a struggle against silence.  ~Carlos Fuentes

Carlos has clearly seen me write. I chuckle. I speak my dialogue. I growl and gnash my teeth. I slap my forehead and moan about the right word. It all seems a desperate bid for attention…which would be weird alone in my room, except I know Carlos is watching.

Writing is the torture of knowing that there will always be a better way to say what it took hours of wool-gathering and computer screen-staring to arrive at. And that better way will likely be found by a fifteen-year-old blogger in suburban Connecticut who will not have even been trying.

Writing is utter solitude, the descent into the cold abyss of oneself.  ~Franz Kafka

It must be remembered that Kafka was an insurance adjustor as a day job. Imagine the despair that fifteen-year-old blogger would produce in him. Oh, you’ve read Kafka? Well imagine even more despair, then. Try.

Writing is a serrated blade, undulating between high-minded intellectual expression and straight-talkin’, shot-from-the-hip slang. This blade never seems to slice just right. Foucault and folklore might sound alike, but just try getting them to agree on a restaurant.

I need to go back to the panel of experts. Maybe someone looks as writing as other than a self-imposed life sentence to inner-skull solitary. We all need a little validation.

Writing is both mask and unveiling.  ~E.B. White

Ah…truth hidden behind fiction. Lies couched as truths. Hiding behind…you see, this is what I mean about writing and its attendant frustrations. How can I riff on this quote?
E. B. is too good. There isn’t a better way to say this. Even now, I hear the rasp of my serrated blade against the empty cutting board, scoring the oddly cheery red anti-bacterial plastic surface with spent witticism. Beaten to perfect expression again. By a dead guy. Of course, that doesn’t stop the itch at the back of the eyeball. I may not have been perfect at anything I’ve ever done, but tomorrow I can try again, since I’m alive.

In addition, Carlos Fuentes has reminded me that, by and large, my way of saying things utilizes less of the word ‘dude’ that that of a certain blogger out there. Writing is, after all, a panel discussion with the spirits of our better and worse natures. And my angels and demons are not currently helping me cope with acne.

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