BUT WRITING IS ABOUT THE RECORDING AND COMMUNICATION OF IDEAS.
SOME DAYS, YOU HAVE MORE THAN OTHERS. SOME TAKE MORE TIME THAN YOU HAVE
I’m not conscious of having an individual style—though I have been told I have one. That point was brought home with some force when a contentious report I wrote in the Pentagon was identified by it.
I am reminded of that great crazy line in Catch-22: “I recognized his shot.” Senseless—if you stop to think about it—but perfect.
“Elementary, General Watson. The writer hasn’t used a single acronym in the entire document. He’s clearly not military. Besides, I understand what he’s saying. That means he is not a civilian employee of the Pentagon. The real giveaway is that there is humor in this report. Has the man no respect? It has to be that damned Irishman.”
Normally, I sign everything I write, but in this case it didn’t seem appropriate to personalize it. Institutions do not encourage personalization –and MS Word clearly tagged who had written it. Either way, my ‘style’ was identified very quickly (I was told) and all hell broke loose—four star general hell. I think they like to call it ‘shock and awe.’
Generals can be rather cute sometimes.
Regardless of the other consequences, it is always rather gratifying to hear when one’s writing has that effect.
Looking back, I have to wonder whether it was less that I write in a certain style—or more than most military communication is quite deliberately stripped of personality in the interests of producing conformity.
The military—in fact bureaucrats in general—love conformity. It turns them on. They feel macho and powerful and have huge erections—especially Scottish generals. Why do you think the kilt was invented? The sporran is there to keep the damn thing under some sort of control.
I’m surprised the U.S. Army has never adopted the kilt—and it would seem downright natural for the Marines.
I don’t much appreciate conformity..
I understand the need for uniforms—because it clearly identifies who it might be wise not to shoot at—and marching in unison can stir the blood—but, doubtless as a consequence of my boarding-school days, I tend to associate conformity with mindless discipline and the suppression of creativity.
There are, of course, many good applications for conformity—it would be awkward if a vehicle’s tires were different sizes—but what I’m really talking about is conformity for its own sake (not sensible standards like condom sizes or light bulbs)
Awkward to screw in the wrong size either way..
Note that I’m not against discipline. It is hard to be an effective writer—or any kind of creative person—if you are not fiercely disciplined in how you work.
I’m opposed to the kind of discipline which is imposed primarily as a manifestation of power—as much encountered in schools, the military, and large corporations. There, the movers and shakers seem to get a visceral pleasure out of their exercise of power.
Given half a chance, we are a disturbingly authoritarian culture.
I don’t approve of that—but I certainly understand it. After all, I get a buzz from the power of my written words—and power is exactly what they have. In fact, words can be downright dangerous. Look what Martin Luther unleashed after he had penned his thoughts—and Karl Marx didn’t do so badly.
And then came Adolf. If only the man had stuck to painting!
When I write, I don’t consciously think of style at all. If I did, I suspect I wouldn’t be able to write. It’s like breathing. If you stop and think about breathing, this rather useful automatic process becomes an effort.
I tend to focus solely on what I’m trying to say—and how to say it entertainingly—but I am far from sure I am consciously aware of how to do the latter.
The one thing I do tend to give conscious thought to is the punch line (or two) at the end.
Right now, I’m still thinking.
I had better fess up. In truth, providing I have slept well, and am not so distracted by some major event that I can’t focus, I am almost never short of ideas. However, sometimes I don’t have the time or space to develop them adequately in this blog.
A blog is not really a long format environment, I feel—though I’m still debating the issue.
Let me give you an example.
Today I woke up thinking: How should America defend itself? Is the present setup, with bases all over the world (not to mention golf courses)—and the MICC at the core—and with the American people almost completely ignorant of what is going on—really the best way to do business? Are we generating enemies faster than we kill them? And could we put part of the trillion plus dollars to better use?
A writer’s mind is a funny thing.
Then I went to start the day with black coffee—which I rarely drink (except when in the field with the Army, or with cops, where there is nothing else) .
My Irish blood makes me a tea drinker—and I’m out of milk.
VOR words 859.