On Writing Like D.B.

I’ve always wanted to write like Dave Barry. But to do that honestly I’d have to be Dave Barry, and unless he’s secretly a sixty-ish, slightly crotchety, yet still-young-at-heart woman, that ain’t gonna happen. So I must be content to continue with the kind of short essays I’ve always written which address whatever serious issue captures my fancy at the moment. Or more accurately, whatever gets my goat at the moment. (If I were Dave Barry I’d now insert a clever little aside like: “What if I don’t have a goat to be got?” And readers would howl with laughter. Alas it seems only Dave can pull that off, and I shall have to live with DB envy forevermore.)

The best approximation of DB’s style I can muster is snarky, satirical, or ironic snidery that hopefully elicits at least a chuckle or smile. But better yet, a jolt of recognition, because ultimately my primary goal is not to amuse but to pull the wool off rather than over, uncloud, remind, illustrate, clarify, illuminate, awaken. To that end, my writing typically focuses on observations about culture, society, politics etc. and may at times seem esoteric, or even convoluted. (My father complained the stuff’s too complicated. This is a bit worrisome, because he was one of the kinds of folks I most want to reach! Not quite “Joe the plumber” but close enough.)

The writing doesn’t always start out that way, but ends up like that due to the way my brain works. I can take a pretty straightforward topic and by the time I’m done with it, there are all sorts of interconnections and extrapolations caught up in the tight net I’ve cast in the process of elaborating. Plus, as you can see, I like to use a lot of descriptive words, commas, italics, and quotation marks. Thanks to attending an almighty Journalism School I know I’m not “supposed” to, but I just can’t help it. They seem to have to be there for me to clearly make my point. Does that mean I’m a crappy writer who uses these cheap and despised “gimmicks” (see there they are again) to make my points? I don’t know, maybe.

In my defense I truly do strive for clarity, so don’t know exactly how what I was trying to say sometimes gets tangled up like yarn after a cat attack. During one reading it will all seem crystal clear, verging on dare-I-say “astute”? Yet reading the same essay another time can feel like I’m trudging thru water loaded with sediment. It’s like two people with entirely different sensibilities are reading the same stuff. Crazy. Honestly I’ve tried to do without these crutches as much as possible, and with enough reviewing often find that I can eliminate some. But oftentimes not, so there they stay like so much confetti strewn upon the pages. Just think of them as hieroglyphics……there for some very mysterious but good reason. (BTW have I used enough mixed metaphors?)

On the other hand some folks who’ve read my work have described it as: “like a dream”; “lyrical”; “paints terrific word pictures”; “a joy to read”; “beautiful prose”. They obviously know more than I do about what constitutes good writing! (And no, though tempting, I will absolutely NOT stick an lol in here. I abhor the things. But trust me I am, as I speak, laughing at myself.)

So hearing from you and getting your feedback would be both enlightening and terrifying. I look forward to it! – AH

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