Reader Mailbag II
I am a horrible correspondent. It’s not that I don’t respond—eventually, I do, and I never know whether it will be with a brief squirt of syllables or a fire hose of verbiage. Here, I will try to briefly answer some questions that have been emailed me by readers (email@example.com).
How much do you edit or rewrite your blog posts?
Zero. Nada. Zilch.
I really believe the old adage “rewriting is the key to writing well,” and, unlike many, I enjoy rewriting more than I enjoy writing. Think of diamond mining, where the process begins with going down inside a dangerous, dirty and dark mine. Lives are endangered to bring up what looks like broken glass or overgrown mica. These shiny objects are then carefully crafted to form beautiful objet d’art.
On second thought, wipe that image from your mind. Completely. Don’t let even a whisper of it stay in your consciousness. When I say “diamond,” think baseball. Play ball! In the image you’ve forgotten—although you’ve forgotten having had it—my finished work was compared to incomparably beautiful gems, when even on my best day of writing, I’m more likely to offer you a clever mosaic composed of pieces large and small of the days writing. These mosaics are worth buying (for instance, On Account of Because, available on Amazon), but they don’t fetch the price of jewelry.
These posts I put up each day are unedited (and sometimes even unread) bits and pieces from the mind of a man who’s much better at the generating than the refining stage, although it’s the second I enjoy.
In the eulogy for your mother, which made me cry, you mentioned being adopted. Will you write about adoption? Also, what do you know about your birth family?
I’ve written about adoption at some length in other places. One of my favorite pieces of writing was a letter I wrote a probate judge when a biological half-sibling asked to have my adoption records unsealed. (I’ll be glad to republish that here, if there’s any interest.) That medium-length essay helped me outline my life philosophy, one which has served me well.
Also, I wrote a nonfiction book proposal. When I lost interest in writing the book, I published the proposal. Here’s a sample response to that:
“You want to promote ignorance, you want to promote a practice that harms children. Shame on you for not having the ganas to acknowledge the truth about adoption.
I have strong, ill-thought-out and contradictory views on adoption, but I doubt I’ll write a stand-alone piece on the issue. Of course, the memoir I’m working on now will have some things to say, but that’s still completely in the mining stage.
(Good readers here will say, “mining stage? What’s that supposed to mean? He’s never mentioned ‘mining’ before this.” Bad readers, and you know who you are, will be required to undergo a George Romney brainwashing. (If you know, without resorting to Google, what the hell I’m talking about here, prove it in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’ll mail you a Tiny White Box sticker. Please include your recent browser search history so I’ll know you didn’t look it up. Unless that search history includes the phrase “Korean midget porn.” I’m a First-Amendment absolutist, but I don’t want to know what my readers do behind their eyeballs.)
As for my birth family, I know some things. I suspect some things. I have random pieces of paper from almost 60 years ago that allege some things. Let me just say my supposed biological lineage includes some very wealthy and distinguished folks, aviatrixes and aviators, but my family of origin took me in when I was six months old. Before that, I was Baby Piper or Baby Newell or Baby Whoever. I became myself when I became Keith Howard.