Monday, November 17, 2008

A Ghost Writer's Frustration

Back in 2005 when we were still married, my ex was going through medical school. I wasn't taking college classes anymore, but had done well in them, particularly with writing assignments. Since he was working part time and taking a full load of classes, I’d help him out whenever possible.

I saw getting him through medical school as both our responsibility since it would benefit us both, and any time I freed up from his studies would grant him more time for ‘us’ and him to play with our three children.

This ‘assistance’ frequently included writing most or all of his writing assignments. I greatly missed going to school, but with three small children and a full time job it wasn’t really an option at this point for me, so the chance to have assignments with deadlines and topics you had to research or use sources for was a welcome diversion

It was a bit of a two edged sword though. While I enjoyed crafting the assignments and liked having something structured to do and the satisfaction of turning it in anticipating how it would be received, it was sometimes hard knowing I would never get credit for it. Any praise and accolade would be given to my ex. Still, when my ex would bring the returned assignments home I would greet him at the door demanding to see them, eagerly wondering what commentary the professor would have added to a grade. According to my teachers and professors starting in high school, my being published was an inevitability. It was gratifying to see words like that written on the top page of the ‘collaborations’ we turned in for my ex.

I also struggled with the fact that because the assignment was not mine, my ex would go over it and sometimes annihilate my beautiful prose or chop away at whole paragraphs since I had (okay, have) a tendency for verbiage and to tailor it more to his style. For assignments that were more creative and less accademic, or that I'd pressed more energy into, I found this particularly distressing.


(excerpt from my 2005 Journal)

Andrew had roughly the first two paragraphs formed, and after reading it, I was immediately able to generate enough ideas and enthusiasm to turn it into a 3 ½ double spaced paper. It was close to four in the morning when I finally showered and went to bed, and in the morning Andrew made some modifications. I wish I'd saved a copy of my original work (before he chopped up a bunch of my prose and changed some of the language and sentence structure) but I've highlighted the areas I believe he made modifications to.

Battle of the Elements

At every corner of every continent a battle has been raging since the dawn of the globe. This eternal battle continues at every moment; morning and night, twenty-four hours a day. The warriors do not tire or disengage from fear or pain; nor do they feel sorry for themselves. All they know is battle. Their entire consciousness is one of struggle. They comprehend nothing outside the confines of war. 'Attack and defend' is their endless mantra; over and over and nothing more. Anything beyond this paradigm would seem foreign and incomprehensible.

At any given beach a battle is raging between the ocean and the shore. Each is a military superpower boasting armies of infinite and unquantifiable magnitude. The ocean's armies of soldiering waves relentlessly attack the shore's brigade of sand. The waves try to displace sand, robbing the shore of its strong hold. The shore however, defends itself by sending the sand to stoically fight, and defend its home in an often losing battle.

The two face off, stubbornly raging a tireless trade of territory. Their generals watch in glowering solitude from afar. From one the spittle of the ocean's violent temper demonstrates a foul and deadly enemy. From the other, a hot irritation of grit and resistance represents stoicism. It sucks the life sustaining moisture from it's adversary to reinforce its own obstinate stand.

The water's tactics are one of demanding persistence. It can be an alternating offense of consistent slow wearing. Or a harrowing tirade determined to break down its opponent's resistance, and sometimes lull the beach into a less defensive position.

The beach has a strategy of placement. It is the allocation of resources and the shifting sands of brilliantly numerous footmen. It absorbs what it can of it's foe on the front lines. It pits the arsenal of plant lives that weave a hold onto the dirt and build natural reef barriers between the shoreline and the full fury of a thwarted ocean.

The wind occasionally allies with the waves in a champion effort of tsunami force. Clouds, wisps of the ocean's camouflaged cavalry ride in gaining momentum to form an angry billowing mob. Aided by the growl of thunder and biting retorts of lightning to smite the beach, together they unleash a downpour of 'Take that'.

The sand is devastated and helpless. Its callously brought to it's knees; overpowered by united might of torrent liquid and atmospheric velocity. It endures the cruelty of defacement. Along with a compromised value, it's abandoned by all co-habitants. It then must submit to a submerged torturous existence, held captive by an arrogant flood.

Eventually the water loses the grace of wind and rain and slowly, left to its own sources retreats abashedly. Finally, the sand regains its dry glory, shunning a temporary defeat and cheering a subsequent victory. Salty tears of defeat weep away, surrendering the ground it temporarily and horrifically gained; a sullen and pouting child. The beach sighs in relief. It then gradually collects its scattered militia while licking its wounds and regretfully accounting for casualties.

The wind is no loyal comrade though. It is truly a ruthless fair-weather friend. It teases both sides, taunting them with a changeable whim. The wind dares either to protest the unfair advantage of its fanciful contributions to either side. A flick of its wrist casts countless invaluable grains into the devouring tongue of water. A billow of its breath allows the land to gulp up another greedy scrap of terrain.

When the sun smiles on earth it leaches potency and saps the strength of the mighty water; sometimes for years. Its overwhelming magnitude muscles the water into vapors, leaving behind a dry bed; a cracked and bleached wasteland of infertility. The Dead Sea is one of the best examples of this dominated collaboration. Here, the merciless sun smugly scorches the ground by means of compensation for its trouble.

The water has the advantage of alternating its front men. By a consistent trading out of the battle weary with fresh reinforcements from distant brother oceans and sister seas. It vacillates with the seasons of cold revenge and sweltering retribution. The warriors are restless and thirsty for the freedom to constantly test new shores. Confident fellow armies will tackle the ones they've left behind.

The beach boasts its perseverance and rigid hold on a location for millennia. In some areas rooted to large masses of itself, it eases its way across the globe in an indiscernible displacement of the mighty oceans. It also has a secret ally all its own. An unpredictable surrogate mother irregularly pays tax to the surface that shields and houses her. The ground groans and protests with the labor of birthing new soil and vomits its contribution with reluctant inconsistency. The crust is grateful for the smoldering reinforcements of lava despite the fickleness of its natural source of replacements. The beach is a ready handmaiden. It is a coastline a watchful guard.

The typical battle though, between the water and the land is a graceful dance of taking turns. One waits impatiently for the other to end it's performance, shoving the other aside to feel the virile surge of progressive grandeur. Neither can share the lime-light, nor can they hold it with any exclusivity. Rivaling siblings of similar origins yet opposite form, they en-guard in a winless war for world domination.

Bubbling under the veil of manifest destiny, each army moves in one motion to reveal a single entity. At times the sea and land are entwined lovers. The waves lap at the lascivious bosom of mother earth They delight her in their harmony of give and take. During these moments of tender armistice the sea offers up bounteous gifts of marine life, baubles and imported novelties. The gritty sand softens; demurely accepting a latent truce.

All too familiar though with the unexpected slap of the sudden and strategic offensive stance, they hold one another in but a temporary embrace. Relinquishing anger,(missing two words) they engage in the hum and rhythm of an age-old lovemaking. They constantly rezone (comma missing) advance, retreat and plan recon missions. Through blatant attacks and subtle cooperation each tries to steadfastly devour other.

(final ending- left out)
The sandy pillow, the blanket of water; a vicious substratum tyrant, an unyielding watery conqueror; a battle; a coupling; all creation's Yin and Yang.

I know many writers are possessive about their work and take corrections personally, but most of the ones Andrew made were not improvements, in some cases changing the very nature of the intended thought! I recognize that like many published and un published writers, I'm prone to run-on sentences. And had I had the chance to go over it again, and not just write the whole thing in one night of 4 hours, I would have fixed it. I think the fact that Andrew presumed to correct my punctuation- when typically his is outrageous, was the fact that I found the least pleasing.

I do recognize though that it's Andrew's assignment and if it were found out that I wrote 90% of it for him while he was asleep, he not only would get in trouble, he might get kicked out of the program altogether. I also recognize that he's a good writer too, and has a hard time turning in an assignment that he didn't wholly or even mostly write and made no modifications to. And, honestly, he made far fewer changes to this paper than ones I've helped him with over the years.

But after he made the changes and tried to deny a couple of them, I told him that I know the paper, my writing and choice of word, flow of prose, so well…I can pick out the changes after having written it one very sleepy night, and even after not having seen the paper for a day!

No comments: