What I used to do

I used to write a column five days a week for a salary from Salon. In this column I practiced a particular kind of literary art whose purpose was to affirm the dignity of individual suffering. This required a particular kind of writing, one that could sustain and encompass an individual’s dramatic situation. That dramatic situation included both personality and social forces. My aim was to acknowledge the totality of forces bearing on a situation — the individual’s personality as well as the choices available in the world. And then to produce something that was pleasing: sometimes pretty, sometimes kind, sometimes funny,  sometimes beautiful. Sometimes  crazy.

This was constant: I was always swinging for the fences. Swinging for the fences was my mantra. I knew I was lucky to be doing this and that it couldn’t possibly last forever and so never once did I succumb to cynicism. At times I was tired or distracted or simply wrong. But I was never glib. I never took it for granted. This meant working every day four to six hours writing. That is a relatively long time to spend writing. If you are doing that, that is pretty much all you are doing. This had consequences which we’ll get to.

I knew that this job was a rare opportunity to do a kind of writing that very few people do, and that as long as I had the job it was best for me to give it everything I had. In doing this job I created a body of work. It is literary work. And because I was being paid to do this work, I never cut corners. I dedicated myself to this.

Tomorrow: Some things that confuse me