Not Another Cycling Forum

~ => Freewheeling => Topic started by: sam on March 11, 2019

Title: write handed
Post by: sam on March 11, 2019
At the risk of giving the impression that it's my favourite topic, I wish to continue what I started here, ( only with less masturbation. Maybe not any.

I mentioned my dislike of talking about writing, at least to other people. So this should be a safe space.

sounding board and book club president

Actually I'll qualify that. I probably wouldn’t mind chatting about wordsmithery, should the opportunity arise, with a select few.1 What makes me shudder is the thought of entering a writers conclave, with all that flattery, fear, and jealousy constantly brewing.


People who excel at stringing words together are not so very rare. I’ve been dazzled by countless gems even on the fleet street of social media.

Stephen King famously said “If you wrote something for which someone sent you a check, if you cashed the check and it didn't bounce, and if you then paid the light bill with the money, I consider you talented.”

Seeing as there are plenty of professionals making money by virtue of talents at some remove from an elegant facility with the language, let's file that under G for Gosh that's Generous and move on.

I’m forever weighing up the meaning of words against how pleasing they are to the ear, because it matters to me that they sound good in addition to making sense (unless the sense I’m aiming for is nonsense ( My heart races when I think of a good phrase, with fear as well as happiness: will this darling have to be killed? As for the King test, I have been paid enough to cover more than a few light bills, though I've never tried to make a living from it. My problem is that I continually talk myself out of writing.2 That, and my rather leisurely approach to achieving goals.

mascot & life coach

When seeking a literary and a literal headrush (Maria Popova will serve as an example if you wish to calibrate – see the prelude to Figuring (, I pay scant attention to exalted venues or accolades, though worthies naturally tend to be well compensated with applause.

Which brings me back to William Bradley, subject of the blog post linked at the top.

Bradley was an essayist who gathered a bucketload of plaudits from his fellow creative nonfictionists. He also had his fans amongst the civilian population.

Perhaps surprisingly, given the effort I’ve put into compiling a Bradley reader (, I wasn’t really one of them. This isn’t easy to admit, even though there aren’t any sanctions to my confession other than a prick of guilt at saying it out loud.3 Being a critic actively pains me.

Listen, he wrote fine pieces for the LA Review of Books. His scholarly work was excellent, or so I’m assuming, given that he had a good head on his shoulders. His breakout essays about his cancer and love of opéras de savon are marvellous. He was pleasingly forthright, and perfectly capable of rewarding this reader’s attention with thoughtful prose, as he did in We Try, ( which starts with a meditation on honesty.

Though Bradley wasn't a humorist, The Collected Voice of the Vice President of Academic Affairs ( has its moments. He was a splendid eulogist. ( He gave good interview. What the Survey Doesn’t Say ( is a winner. As I’ve mentioned three times now, I’m a fan of the short but sweet You're a wonder. (

That’s the good news.

mixed metaphor alert

Playtime, ( the essay which apparently cost him his tenure, was so not a sword worth falling on. Brick ( landed with what sounded like a dull thud to me (the bit where you temporarily vacate your seat of knowledge for the ‘Country boy’ wasn’t advanced by parading those particular credentials, WB). His public letters left a lot to be desired [exhibit A (].

He had annoying tics and tropes, as do we all. There was a bit too much drinking of cheap wine. An almost compulsive self-deprecation that grew less endearing with each profession of ‘dorkiness’ (maybe I just don’t like the word). His wokeness (“a supporter of disenfranchised populations” was ( icing on the cake) didn’t help. And I’m glad that he loved his wife so much, but for all that he mentioned her, always garlanding her with extravagant praise, he was extremely skimpy on details; for a writer, it’s all about the details.

My lack of enthusiasm mostly comes down to the verdict that his earnest midwestern voice4 wasn’t particularly distinctive. For as much as he added to the educational literature of his specialist subject (, his personal contributions to the genre he so enthusiastically embraced didn’t exactly put the creative in nonfiction.

The thing is, I’ve never come across a bad review of his work. Either he ruthlessly eliminated his detractors – he did appear to be on the road a lot – or I have an appalling lack of taste. Neither option is palatable.

eat lead, buddy

This pristine record is partly explained by his being the benificiary of a circle jerk of academics,5 his chief peer group, who when they’re not backstabbing their colleagues are enthusiastic backscratchers; the academy is always under attack by the unlettered hoards. It also helps to pass the time at those endless conferences.

Much as I hate to say it, the cancer didn't hurt. I'm not sure he escaped being defined by it. (

My alternate title for this post was Some Thoughts That Nobody Should Care About, Really, lifted from Bradley himself. ( Why did I write this? A burning desire to be devil's advocate?

Well… these thoughts have been percolating for a while. I finally decided they needed an outlet. Freewheeling, you're it.

By all accounts (and I believe those accounts), Bradley was a genuinely good guy. His life had meaning. He made his mark; his prose was reflected upon. I hope I haven’t added to the oft-times unbearable rudeness of the universe by shooting this off into webspace. (

If the goal is to touch people in a positive way, to leave more of them happy than sad that they knew you, he safely won the game.

1. If you're reading this you qualify.
2. I’m very persuasive that way.
3. He was fond of quoting Joan Didion: “Writers are always selling someone out.”
4. It takes one to know one. I set out from the midwest half a lifetime ago with a fair amount of earnestness.
5. The collective noun is unfortunate.


This topic is locked as a graphic device, to summon the image of an old-fashioned diary; because I mentioned wordsmithery, which word brings to mind locksmithery, at least if your brain works like mine does; because Maria Popova is also in the mix, considering that her site is called Brainpickings; and finally, because I'm uncertain it's going to remain posted, and it wouldn't be very nice if somebody came along and replied, only to have the whole thing disappear. (There is precedent for this.) Consider me naked, my ambivalence on full display. It could be that even though I put a lot of effort into this, I don’t feel it actually “exists” unless it's read, in which case touché, Bradley.

Knowing the risk, if you want to chat about writing or some other creative torture you endure, or just to ask about Chompsky up there in the first picture, PM me for a key – though Chompsky has his own thread nearby.
Title: dancing with oneself
Post by: sam on March 11, 2019
Dear Reader,

Let’s continue with a blast from the past to set the mood. I’ll wait.

( (

Now a screenshot from the admin section of this site:

1. Been there, ( done that.
2. A state of equilibrium has been reached.
3. Redefining site stickiness.
4. These numbers are wonky, unless the stats facility is rounding down.
5. This is me. (
6. This is he. (
7. aka 1-2-3
8. Also been there done that. I don't recommend it.

This isn’t a mean and sheam exercise, and not just because we have no prawneds (belated anagram alert). It's an illustration of the reality I face every time I decide to post.

As an inveterate forum talent scout, it used to pain me that I couldn’t scoop people up and deposit them here, into what are clearly classier digs; and that those who had crossed the road ( seemed inexplicably to be unwilling to settle in. But there’s nothing baffling about choosing to spend your time where you can rub shoulders with fewer crickets: with actual friends, even.

What can happen when you google crustacean rather than frustration

I use social media primarily to help me indulge my passion for playing with words and pictures. ( One example is Please stay, ( where the observant will note that care has been taken to establish a visual theme.


It’s difficult to say which is more enjoyable, crafting images or sentences. My inability to get a post right the first time ( is almost legendary.


I’m no friend to amoral data hungry beasts ( whose only interest in me is my resale value. ‘Instagram influencer’ of any rank will never be on my CV. I don't even Strava. My credentials as an anomalous social media specimen are rounded out by distaste for the cheap baubles of smileys and likes, ( as well as an (antisocial?) aversion to happymemes. ( Though I won't go so far as to say this grouch ( is an example of creative nonfiction, he wasn't entirely a figment of my imagination. You get the picture. is probably the best fit. Such a pity that way leads to the writers conclave witches coven – or so I imagine is the chilling end of Followers.

This Simple Machines Forum is my typewriter in a room of my own. It has a panopticonic ( view. Next time you pass by, if you see me waving, I’m not drowning but stretching.

Sam the singularity (

Darlings killed ____