Mar 25, 2006

"i" before "e", as in "thief", one decrees...

The blogs have been abuzz with the hiring, and quick firing, of Ben Domenech, former conservative blogger for the Washington Post and now accused plagarist. While the controversy points to issues such as so-called media "balance", there's another fairly obvious point that struck me.

Simply put, young Ben does not respect writing as an art or a craft.

When I was Ben's age, ten years ago, I was working my first job out of college and by then I had been writing about two years. My goal was to work the regular job until I could make it as a fiction writer. There was one slight flaw in my plan.

I sucked.

Not that I was the worst in the world; people enjoyed what I had wrote, and I had certainly enjoyed writing it. But they weren't publishable, and those rejection slips piled up. After five years of attempts, I eventually lost interest and stopped. I still dabble from time to time, but haven't submitted anything for publication since 1997 or so.

And no matter how badly I wrote, how frustrated I became, or how many times I had to start again with an idea, plagiarism was never an option. And to professional writers, aspiring professional writers, or noodling doodlers like myself, it's not even something that appears in the thought process. Why? Because it's something that real writers simply don't do. And anyone who's ever tried writing for fun or a living would immediately realize it.

Now perhaps Ben's being wrongly accused (although the circumstancial evidence is pretty compelling), but if he ever tries to make it professionally again, I would hope he'd understand that writing is work, and to cheat the process is to do a lot more than merely be lazy.

I've always thought of writing as brain-translating; turning thoughts into words. Sometimes, it's a little mechanical. Other times, it's intimate. I've smiled and laughed out loud at what I've wrote. I've also cried, and learned unpleasant truths about myself. Every writer can talk about what the process of writing has done to him/herself.

To steal that is to steal someone else's soul. And to make money off that theft just means that you couldn't hack it in used car sales.