Sunday, December 12, 2010

Two kinds of writers.

There's a wonderful "appraisal" in "The New York Times" sports pages today written by veteran sportswriter Harvey Araton. The piece is called "Mensches and Mentors in the Press Box" and it's an appreciation of what Araton learned from two famed New York writers who died this past year, Maury Allen and Vic Ziegel. You can read the piece here:

Here's the part I really liked because it seemed to me to explain how so many of us in advertising deal with the pressure of our trade:

“The deadline is the enemy,” [Ziegel} once wrote in standard Ziegelese. “It’s there, at the same time, every night. You relax your fingers, and it comes closer. You can’t fake it out because it doesn’t move. It grows closer and towers over you. It doesn’t understand that you’re trying to do the yeoman thing. Or that you need a better word than fast to describe a base runner. Very fast is very bad. Fleet is a bank. Swift, nimble, speedy, no, no, no. Fast is starting to look better. There’s coffee spilled on my notes. And the stranger in the next chair is on the phone telling somebody named Sweetie he’s on the way home.”

"Allen was that proverbial neighbor, packing up as others bogged down on the transitions between their first and second paragraphs. “A billion Chinese don’t give a damn,” he would say on his way out. As the years passed, as my generation filled seats around him, some wondered if Allen gave a damn. What they missed was that in the process of writing countless articles and 38 books, he had come to realize that natural storytelling — Allen’s specialty from ballparks nationwide — was not brain surgery, as long as the ego got out of the way and the story told itself."

I guess I've always been more a Maury Allen than a Vic Ziegel. Never sweating too much a deadline, confident that the right word would be there and the larger idea was more important than the mot juste.

Or not.

There are times, of course, I struggled. I gnaw my fingers and sweat out something good.
Or try to.

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