I Feel Bad About My Neck
The Boston Globe is quoted as saying I Feel Bad About My Neck is “Wickedly witty. . . .Crackling sharp.” It is, plus it’s a great primer for blog writing that’s only 137 pages, a length that a few blog entries have felt like as they drag on and on, and well, on again if you get my point, see? Too often an intriguing title like, “My Reason for Living,” starts out with a great first few sentences, but by the third paragraph I’m wondering where I missed the left turn to why Snickers melts only on car seats. It seems the writer started with a buzz of creativity, let it rip, and an hour later came up for air to post it.
I don’t feel confident making this a flat-out, no exceptions criticism, however, because blog entries that go on for for as long as a book chapter have proven successful, sometimes wildly popular. So consider this an appreciation of concise writing when concise writing is called for. I’m a short entry blog reader and I appreciate when others can tell the difference between excellent writing and self-indulgence.
Nora Ephron, a favorite writer of mine who died June 26, 2012, appeared to work with creative bursts of dense matter she knew how to handle. Her journalism background gave her contemporary life scenarios she dove into, then came up for air after writing, looked around from the top of her turtleneck sweater at the crazy world she lived in and returned to editing with clarity, purpose, and a good dose of humor. I Feel Bad About My Neck was not written as one more how-to write for blogs or books, but here’s what popped out of it for me:
1. She began her career in journalism and its rules of keeping on topic, being clear, and succinct keep a reader interested.
2. Every subject is a potential subject. Every woman knows the disadvantages to purses, but she thought to write about them. And some of us know about the life of being a small breasted woman. That topic catapulted her career.
3. Personal viewpoint and style make all the difference. Are there many psychologists who are honest enough to tell parents of a teenager to get a dog if they really want someone to be excited to see them when they get home?
4. She displays three or four ways of outlining that could be useful and creative for writers in fiction and nonfiction to use as their own launching pad. A favorite is the fourteen page chapter entitled The Story of My Life in 3,500 Words or Less. The reader gets story, despair, humor, insight, and epiphany, plus it’s a great outline example of memoir for an aspiring writer.
5. Self-revelation can be handled with a deceiving delicacy. All I can recall of husband number one is his attachments to cats, but with subtle though not vicious hints, I knew there was much more so that became a good enough reason for divorce and didn’t devolve into heartbroken slander.
These snippets of Ephron’s style works for contemporary, forthright telling of a tale. She is clear, entertaining, and heartwarming.