Somewhere between method and a paycheck I have lost my grasp of good writing. The world, thinks I, doesn't need one more tutor who presents a formulaic and uninspired way of cranking out an essay when one is needed. Yet here I sit, planning what I will wear as I perpetrate the aforesaid.

Good writing is a craft, and like all crafts requires a craftsman (craftsperson? craftswoman?) to sit with it, and patiently allow the time to take care of itself while she/he cares for the words on the page. Rules exist and must be followed: rules governing grammar, rules governing word usage, rules governing the appearance of the page -- and then unspoken rules governing the rhythm, sound, process... the crafter cares about such rules, uses them as tools. The crafter breaks those rules, too, on purpose and for effect.

What I do has nothing to do with that. I sit for an hour, and teach the process of putting pre-digested thoughts to two sides of paper within 25 minutes. This is not writing. This is orthography.

So I have lost sight of the earmarks of quality. All thought, all words seem "just fine" to me. If I can read the words on the page, then I find them perfectly adequate. "oh, fine, fine...let's move on..."

I move on because I am ashamed of my lack of discrimination with words. If I could bring out some spirit...

The rules of writing should be like reigns on a wild horse, like military discipline on a freedom fighter, like deportment on a wild girl. The spirit, the energy, the desire to reach out, lash out, cry out to the world... the rules are there to be the vehicle and the channel. The crafter with a message plays with the formals to create the work. The passion simply poured out on the page conveys only passion. The rules turn it into genius because the forms bridge the gap between the unexpressible figures of the mind and the receptivity of the audience.

The rules without the passion fall flat. The page remains two-dimensional. The reader checks off the little boxes on the rubric and is mechanically satisfied, yet must long for some little jab at his/her own complacency. A reader might want correct expression, but longs for some improper idea to disturb his/her ordered existence.

My mortgage, however, is not going to pay itself. The dog won't forage for his own prey and the phone company isn't patient forever. So I peddle the illusion that good writing is a trained reflex, like a jumpshot. I coach writing, teach the writer to endure the twenty-five minutes like a soccer player paces out the entire half. My soul rebels, my flesh commands.

But I wanted someone to know.