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If you have a book inside you, get it out and down on paper

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You can taste a written word. — Pearl Bailey

Writing is a wonderful avocation. It is a creative endeavor, an outlet for emotion and a sounding board. And it is fun. I am in the newspaper business and also would love to write a book. Competition in both fields is fierce and I have had my share of bad moments.

In the newspaper and book business, you can be forgotten once you have left your desk to go to the bathroom. When you return, it is a comeback.

To illustrate that last remark, I remember a bad hair day when I worked for another newspaper. A politician was hospitalized. My editor, a grumpy chap, was looking for a scoop, so he sent me out to get the story. Before I left, however, I had to impersonate a doctor. I did and was able to sneak into the hospital without anyone the wiser. "Did you get the story?" Mr. Grump inquired. "No," I replied, "I got thrown out by the chief surgeon from another newspaper."

Two authors were at a wedding reception and one said to another, "Your wife's gown is like a poem." "A poem?" the other answered. "That gown is two short stories and a novel."

Writing does have difficult moments. Still, I encourage everyone to try to write something — an unusual incident, a poignant remembrance or even a novel. Anything, but write.

A first time book writer received this review: "The book packs a wallop. As soon as I started it, I fell asleep."

Not everyone shares my fondness for the written word (or my book), however. A while back, I came across an article written by Joseph Epstein, a Northwestern University author and professor, entitled, "Think You Have a Book in You? Think Again."

He quoted a survey noting that 81 percent of Americans feel they have a book in them and should write one. Epstein disagreed. In addition to the difficulty of writing, he said, a writer will usually fall into "a state of confusion, doubt and mental imprisonment which can be quite stressful, physically and mentally." He further stated that upwards of 80,000 books a year are published in America and most of them are not needed, wanted or necessary.

A second critical review of the book: "The book has a happy ending. I was so glad when it was over."

"So many people think they can write a book," continued Epstein, "because they believe they can write a better version than the one they just finished, and most likely they can." But why add to the discard heap? Misjudging an individual's ability to knock out a book can only be a grave and time-wasting error.

One author boasted that his book sold 500,000 copies. "If you can't get a copy," he said, "call me. I have 500,000 copies."

He urged potential book-writers not to waste their time writing original manuscripts. They should think of the trees they would save by pulling the plug on their computers. Their desire to write will disappear once they walk the dog around the block three times and take a cold shower. Epstein concluded by stating, "Keep the book inside you where it belongs."

Mr. E., nobody has the right to dash the dreams of children and young adults who yearn to be writers. For that matter, even old-timers like me who may one day wish to write their memoirs deserve that opportunity. Don't you realize that when a senior citizen dies, a library closes? Many benefits are derived by writing if a person wishes to devote the time, patience and discipline to it.

So what if discarded manuscripts are mounting up? Why should only a few people have the chance to make use of the exquisite gift of language endowed in every human being? Is it a crime if what they write will or should not make it into Barnes & Noble? It is still a marvelous experience for would-be writers to reach full expression via the written word.

Mr. E., should your opinion be carried over to every person whoever thought he or she could paint, sculpt, sing, compose, write poetry, direct a film or act? Should someone have told Shakespeare, Twain and da Vinci to simply forget it? It would be a sad world if people do not feel they have a book inside them. They must be encouraged to write.

By the way, Mr. E., why did you become a writer?

Suddenly, I feel a book — "Love Letters to Hillary Clinton" — inside my body bursting to be written. So please excuse me while I release it.

Readers, if you also feel pangs of a book kicking inside you, perform a creative Caesarian on yourself. Just push!

Contact Alex Berger at news@timesledger.com.

Posted 6:38 pm, October 10, 2011
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