The Good Writer
Written by
Maggie Heim
June 2011
Written by
Maggie Heim
June 2011
I have a day job.  It is not unlike the day job of the character in the  TV series, The Good Wife.  I am essentially doing the work many times of a junior litigator in my studio lawyer position because we do not have any one else to do it.  My job is interesting sometimes and frustrating at others.  At least I do not have to deal with a public figure cheating husband.  But I do still do document review for discovery (a task too boring for TV) and (shudder) depositions.  At times I even get to do some policy work and am allowed to think for myself.

In light of my day job, I have this fantasy that in my spare time I could be a writer.  So I started this blog to write little essays on issues, frequently with a personal twist.  It has been fun but I have not really been able to build a particularly large readership.  I do very much appreciate those who do read what I write.  I would love to have more people to appreciate.

© halighalie 2007- Joyce Carol Oates
It occurred to me this weekend that perhaps it takes a lot more than what I have to be a "good writer".  I am  listening to Joyce Carol Oates' new nonfiction book, A Widow's Story, A Memoir I marvel at her choice of words to describe certain events many of us have experienced.  For example, I loved her characterizing her and her husbands' reaction to a car accident as being flooded by cortical adrenaline.  Most of us would not add the descriptor that the adrenaline was "cortical" and yet it sounds so much more precise and important than calling it merely adrenaline or epinephrine.  I am not sure what "cortical adrenaline" means and cannot find a readily available definition.  Adrenaline comes from the adrenal gland.  Cortical typically is used for cortex which brings to mind the brain, but in fact merely means the outer part of an organ. So there is, for example, an adrenal cortical part of the adrenal gland.    The adrenal cortical gland does not, however, secrete epinephrine aka adrenaline.  The adrenal medulla does that.  Anyway,  while I obsess and linger over the precise meaning of words, Oates makes her experience sound oh so different from the rest of us who have experienced sudden stress.  Her use of language carries over into the more central story of the book, her coping with the death of her husband of 46 years from an illness.  I hear her descriptions and somehow the grief from loss seems so much more palpable and the mundane events such as bad parking jobs and decisions to go to the emergency room much more dramatic.

Writing is simultaneously an act of precise use of words and the use of smoke and mirrors to create an impression. I would love to be able to give up my Catholic school girl need to be pristine and submerge myself in the mud bath of elegant, if not always accurate, expression. Readers, are you listening? It's me, Margaret.

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