From the Clipping Room Floor
So immersed am I in the World Wide Web, the vast ocean into which my writing trickles with a faint tinkling sound, that I have lost personal contact with friends and family, and my mental and physical health is going to ruin.
Mind you that I have an addictive personality when it comes to abstractions, thus I fancied myself an intellectual from the beginning, making myself in my father’s frustrated image. I did my best to withdraw from intellectual dope: I became a "dumb" dancer for ten years, and I sang rather well within a single octave. I hardly read. I abjured any technology standing between body and spirit, yet I took to writing again and am now an Internet addict.
What sucked me into the ultimate abstraction? The same thing that got me to dancing and singing instead of just exercising: my vanity, and a severe case of it at that. When I was a boy sent to my room to sulk, I fancied myself as the greatest author the world would ever know. Therefore, rather than suffer the same regrets as my poetic father, who gave up literature to provide America with electricity, I took up reading and writing. And then, with the advent of the Internet, I was provided with an unlimited opportunity to exercise my vanity free of cost and free from editorial restraints. I am now the author, editor, and publisher of my own company! Welcome to Three Stooges In One Unlimited, if you wish to be my worst critic.
Can you blame me for going hog wild? I think not, at least not if you were a writer and have received hundreds of rejection slips but remained convinced of the grandeur of your insignificance. Not all of my rejections slips were the standard, unsigned forms. I did have the honor of receiving a few personal notes from editors, and I am proud to display them:
Pre-Internet Rejection Samples
“Dear Mr. Walters. I am enclosing your article titled ‘A Penny Earned Saves a Penny.’ I think you are an unusually good writer; it is a pleasure to read writing which is so clear and specific, not to mention graceful. However, your piece is a little too abstract for use, although it is very timely indeed. If you would produce something which is a bit more appropriate, i.e. a little more practical and less philosophical, we would love to hear from you again. Good luck to you, Janette C. Tolbert.”
“Dear Mr. Walters. Thank you for your letter and for your appreciation of my criticism. A brief glance a ‘Indivisible Under God’ indicates that, though perhaps it may very well be more practical than you previous piece, it is not suitable. Offhand, I cannot think of who you should be sending your work to – you do, after all, write and think so very well. Since you live/study in a university town, maybe you should get one of the professors to have a long talk with you about your writing because I think you are very talented indeed. Sincerely, Janette C. Tolbert.”
“Dear Mr. Walters. With regret I’m returning ‘Contract for Marriage.’ I like it, but another reader axed it. I wish more persons wrote as clearly and as well as you. Sincerely, Lloyd Morain.”
Post-Internet Rejection Samples
"David Walters: I understand you, but your work is way over my readers' heads and much too verbose. I would welcome something from you if it were more simply stated using one or two syllables per word on the average, and never more than three. Jon Delbert."
“Mr. Walters. If you would only get to the point now and then instead of rambling on and on, you would be a remarkable and perhaps a great writer. Sally Wilson.”
"Walters: I have examined several of your submissions. Your writing is pointless. Please do not bother submitting anything further unless it gets quickly to a point and repeats it so the intelligent reader can grasp it. J.C."
"Dear David Walters, Your extended brief on anarchy, ‘The Real Anarchist’, is wonderful. Indeed, it is fine example of anarchic thinking, quite explosive in fact. You certainly are a gifted writer. However, my son has taken over and he has changed the format to coincide with today's trend. He is looking for fact-filled articles that make a definite statement in 500 words or less in plain language. Good luck to you. I am sure you will place your brilliant essay elsewhere. Graham A. Jones."
I stopped submitting – who needs to submit when one can approve of the publication of one’s own work?
My few virtual friends - whom I am too busy to meet in reality because of the anti-gravity of my pressing "issues" - provide me with some encouragement, and for that I am glad. But I deeply resent any negative criticism whatsoever even when given under cover of "constructive" criticism. If an editor appreciated my work enough to edit it to his or her liking, I would not mind at all. Since I am a self-educated editor as well as self-educated writer, and since I tend to fall in love with every word and phrase of my productions, the editing process takes a long time. The defects do become more apparent to me as I progress, so I do go back and edit my works every two years or so, taking care to throw nothing on the clipping floor away as the clippings can be used for another brilliant essay.
Perhaps I should have done something more constructive, maybe got a fulltime office or construction job. I started out in the factories, turning out screws, and decided counting beans in the office would be better. I could stand the office on a part-time basis. But I would wither up and perish under the florescent lighting if I were boxed up in an office full-time. As for construction, forget it. My dad’s construction job experiences, especially when they involved the pastimes of low-browed rednecks, turned me against the trades.
For example, he kept a water gun in his lunchbox, and, at one point, he displayed it when he was threatened by a union goon. A kangaroo court was called to order, and he was asked to explain what happened.
“I reached for my lunchbox and opened it like this,” he explained. And then he pulled the water gun out and squirted the union rep sitting across from him in the face.
My dad had taken me to the meeting as an apparent backup because I was already a big boy, six-foot tall, lean and mean looking, like my juvenile-delinquent movie idols. I put my hand in my leather jacket. There was tense moment, and then everyone laughed.
That was my dad, the law school graduate who became an electrician and was proud of himself for making more money with all the overtime than the small-town lawyers in our town. He supplemented his income by salvaging the trimmings from copper wiring. I did not like to sit in the basement for hours on end stripping the wire so the copper could be sold. I was not about to become an electrician! I would be what he really wanted to be, a great thinker and writer. In fact, he encouraged me to write and praised my efforts until his death.
“Never mind that everyone in the family thinks we are insane because we love to write,” my dad, who still wrote poems, advised shortly before his death. “We have the glory.”
Noble – those who are known. Know thyself. I know myself. I am vain. My “I” is vanity per se. Yes, indeed, there is something at the bottom of me that is empty. I doubt my very existence. My writing is a flight from nothing, as if everything comes from nothing. Again, I am essentially vain. My vanity pleases me, wherefore I would be better off writing a book about nothing than keeping accounts or pounding nails all day long.
“Sixteen tons, and what do you get? Another day older and a deeper in debt.”
Of course my vanity may not be worth a plug nickel in reality. My productions may be flatulent, but they are fragrant to me. Money is one thing, but at least I have my clicks. My little masterpieces will eventually get five-hundred clicks even if no one actually reads them. I imagine at least five people will read them and with relish, and my imagination suits my vanity, so do not show me the statistics.
Sometimes I encounter one of my own articles while doing some research; I do not recall writing it, and say, “Wow, this author is a good writer, really knows what is going on!” So my work must not be entirely worthless to others who would rather read than write.
If my vanity no longer pleases me, there is always Leaving Las Vegas, my favorite movie.
I wish I had written that story.