The Sound of the Selectric


I dreamt of the Selectric.  The now-vintage IBM machine that was the host for countless drafts of my stories, poems, journal entries .. mental wanderings in the last century.  In the dream, the same machine I had owned – beige with black keys – appeared in a corner, and of course, I put it on a desk, inserted a sheet of paper and started typing.  The familiar click-click of the spinning ball was soothing in its familiarity.

Was this a nudge, a reminder, to get back to writing?

I’ve been stuck for a while.  In the midst of a memoir, a story based on rendering facts, the characters of my story, the ethics of the my cast radically changed, and I’ve found it near impossible to proceed.  I’m struggling to convey who they were to me once-upon-a-time in the face of their current and transformed state.  My coach suggested writing about someone else, as if it were that person, but my mind refuses to comply.

For nearly a decade (maybe it was a decade plus), I wrote columns for the local newspapers in Laguna Beach.  Many of these were picked up by various web-purveyors and I felt as if I had a voice that spoke beyond my small hometown.  But finances and mergers ended the paying market for freelance columnists – in both Laguna papers.  I was asked to stay on – to write for free – but my ego wasn’t large enough to denigrate my craft.  I asked my editor if she thought she could get the plumber to fix her pipes for free.  She said she understood, but her hands were tied. Management, etc.

There is an endless stream of online media outlets for freelance writers – but the payment is not remunerative – merely recognition.  Writers are told it’s good for their ‘brand’ – to develop their ‘platform’ …  and that should be enough.  The writing serves as content for the websites, which then charge advertisers for screenspace and click-ability, but the revenue does not flow through to the creators.

Content is the backbone – the reason we read – for information, alternate points of view, even entertainment.  I feel a deep ache that many writers are willing to give away their ‘work’ for free.  It renders much of what we do as valueless in the scheme of a financially based marketplace.

Financial freedom is rarely the rationale for scribbling away in notebooks, slips of paper, and computer keyboards.  No, we write because we have something to say. Something that has value beyond the combination of tiny letters that make up words, sentences and our language.  Something we feel an innate need to express.

Very few writers ever make it big. But we still need gasoline and groceries.

Back to the dream and the words …..  the nudge was significant, and I’ll find a way through my personal abyss.  A fragment of writing came across my inbox this morning.  It seems apropos to share:

“What is required of us is that we love the difficult and learn to deal with it.  In the difficult are the friendly forces, the hands that work on us. Right in the difficult we must have our joys, our happiness, our dreams; there against depth of this background, they stand out, there for the first time we see how beautiful they are.”  – Rainer Maria Rilke

Now … to get back to work.

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