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Scott Lax Blog

I am Pleased to Announce this Award!

FIRST PLACE FOR THE 2010 OHIO PROFESSIONAL WRITERS COMMUNICATIONS CONTEST

(State affiliate of National Federation of Press Women)

Category: Writing for the Web, Column or Commentary

“The Long and Winding Road to Your Ultrasound”

By Scott Lax
For THE FATHER LIFE: The Men’s Magazine for Dads

Judge’s Comment:

“An excellent first-person account of a significant event written from the male perspective. While many people have experienced the event, being viewed through the eyes of a sports-oriented dad-to-be at age 58 makes it unique. Writing style is breezy and effective and the story overall is compelling – for both men and women readers.”

I would like to thank Lydia and Finn for making this possible. -- Scott Read More 

Clarity, Clarity, Clarity!

Finn pointing the way, clearly.
In THE ELEMENTS OF STYLE, Strunk & White write: "Clarity, clarity, clarity. When you become hopelessly mired in a sentence, it is best to start fresh; do not try to fight your way through the terrible odds of syntax."

Writers and Timing

Happy 4th Month Birthday, Finn (on May 11)
"When should I write?" This is a question most of us writers ask ourselves.

There are two types of answers that suit me; logically they work for two (really three) kinds of writing.

With fiction, or essays without deadlines, I agree with the great E.B. White, who said: "Delay is natural to a writer. He is like a surfer - he bides his time, waits for the perfect wave on which to ride in. Delay is instinctive with him. He waits for the surge (of emotion? of strength? of courage?) that will carry him along...."

Yes, that's how I write fiction. I'm not of the Hemingway school of 600 words a day and then I can do other things. (In his case fish and drink, but that's another matter.)

Yet, for those of you who are corporate writers or journalists, E.B. White's quote, above, is a luxury you can't afford; I understand this completely, having been both of those, as well as a creative writer, for much of my writing career. If you have a deadline, you have a deadline.

So how to balance these two disparate - and perhaps frustrating - views. I would simply say that I concur with White for creative writing where I have no particular deadline. For the other kind, what works for me is to relax into it. To psyche myself out. I have written under deadline and duress; I once wrote a magazine column while in the waiting room of an E.R. where my mother had been taken. When that kind of situation is the case, you have to compartmentalize your brain. Awfulness may be happening around you, you may be under pressure and even feel sick and exhausted. But you do it.

It's nice to be able to write in the way that White suggests. Remember, though, that he wrote in a different age. Simpler, mellower, less distractions. So apply these thoughts to your own situation. Only you can figure it out for yourself. Figuring it out is one of the things that separates the serious writer from the amateur.  Read More 

Happy Mothers Day

Lydia and Finn this past January
Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there. I was blessed with a wonderful mother, and Lydia, the mother of Finn and my very significant other, is also a blessing to me, to her three children, including Finn. Her son and I sang "I Can't Help Falling in Love with You," with me on guitar and we two boys sang. Her daughter, an incredible artist, made the card we all signed for her. (I helped Finn make his first signature. It was interesting.) Here's Lydia with Finn shortly after he was born.  Read More 

On Influence in Writing

Finn being thoughtful (at nearly four months in the world)
Lydia and I were talking this morning about how much a writer should allow herself or himself to be influenced by other writers. We both agreed: learning from and being influenced by a writer (or other artists) is fine and good. Imitating, on the other hand – notsomuch, as they say nowadays.

As a writer, I'm influenced by a variety of artists, and they widely vary. Here's a sampling: poets Pablo Neruda and Walt Whitman for their cultural sensibilities and lyricism; French film director Francois Truffaut for his love of story-telling about the elegance and pain of everyday life and love; F. Scott Fitzgerald for his ability to write astonishingly beautiful sentences that happened to exist within great plots; my dad, for his ability to write succinct business letters, which was my first important lesson in writing after college (he took a two-pager and showed me how to edit it down to a couple of paragraphs); E.B. White, for his elegant simplicity and brevity in nonfiction essays; Dorothy Parker for her wit, which was layered with the understanding that life isn't fair, but that you can be funny anyway; Ernest Hemingway for his often short, gorgeous, utterly misunderstood sentences (misunderstood because he was a much better writer, and more complicated, than the simplistic view of him as a writer of silly, tough prose); James Baldwin for his searing portrayal of post-war America (I would put John Cheever in that category); Tim O'Brien for his wondrous ability to weave realism and fiction in a brutal yet tender way. And drummers Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich and Uriel of The Funk Brothers (drummer for many Motown hits) for the execution of controlled, powerful rhythmic excellence and varying dynamics.

Whew. And there are others, but if you got through those, maybe you want to take a break and make your own list.

So to put a finer point on this subject: Don't imitate. Be inspired. Be influenced. But find your own voice. How do you do that? I'll write more about that in coming months, but for now, here a bit of advice:

Be honest. Don't ever hide behind experimental or clever technique. Allow the story and the language to be the star of your writing, but not yourself. Creative writing is not an advertisement for you as a woman or man. It's an art form. Read More