Thursday, August 29, 2013

Nothen’ but a Family Thing.

As a teenager I had a neighbor who had flown on Naval reconnaissance missions during the Korean war. He was a very nice man who encouraged me to read Tom Clancy (bless his heart) and I read a lot of that type of thing when I was a teenager. In defense of Tom Clancy, The Hunt for Red October is a legit book and you would do yourself a favor if you read it (though the movie is better, it is better in a movie sort of way).

From all of this techno-military-porn I was reading, I learned - and was surprised to learn - that pilots (military aviators we’re supposed to call them) have their own little rivalries. I remember being struck by it because it was something I had never thought about before (and I grew up ten minutes from the largest inland Naval air base on the West coast). It struck me as odd that fighter pilots didn’t get along with bomber and/or attack pilots, or even pilots of other fighter planes. Like I said, I was young.

These are just basic and understandable rivalries, but it surprised me back then.

Tonight I was in class, the first meeting of a workshop class I’m taking, and I was similarly struck by the manner in which people described themselves; pigeonholing themselves essentially. I’m sure that when a class full of civil engineers and structural engineers get together, they divide into camps. There is a similar sort of thing that happens when writers get together. This is nothing new and I have seen it a lot before; science fiction and horror writers always - and I mean ALWAYS - identify themselves immediately. Poets tend to as well, especially in a non-poetry environment (as if to shout, “Don’t shoot me! I’m a stranger here.”) Oddly - on maybe obviously - I haven’t met many playwrights here in Southern California so I’m not sure how they identify themselves. Narrative fiction writers usually don’t have to say anything at all because the assumption is that all fiction is narrative and “narrative fiction” means both short stories and novels and all narrative fiction writers assume that anybody who isn’t a narrative fiction writer wants to be.

Interestingly, all of the screenwriters I’ve met also assume that every writer actually wants to be a screenwriter. The difference being that all of those other writers look down on screenwriters. The professor running the workshop I was in tonight offhandedly commented once that, “screenwriting isn’t writing” and I understand why she would say that, though I don’t entirely agree. Screenwriting is intensely structured and is actually much more like poetry in terms of the technical and mechanical issues; consciousness of the form has to always be forefront when the actual writing is taking place.

Oh! Also, in my class tonight there was a guy who writes (or aspires to write) “creative non-fiction” which is a term I love and something I would like to play with one day expect I’m exceptionally lazy. When you hear “creative non-fiction” think Mary Roach or Malcolm Gladwell. Anyway, this was the first time I’ve heard someone self-identify that way and I got all giddy about it.

By now - assuming you’re still reading this - you’re wondering what the point of all this is. Spoiler alert: there isn’t much point to it. This is more of an observational post. Families have little rivalries. That’s what struck me tonight in class and that’s what struck me so very long ago reading books about fighter pilots.

I read once that the people who annoy you the most are the people who are most like you. I think about that a lot when I’m around other writers and my spidey senses start to tingle in an unpleasant way and I have to ask myself, “Why am I annoyed by this person right now?” I have found that it helps me understand things better when I remember that most of the rivalries we deal with on the day-to-day are with people who are close enough that we encounter them on the day-to-day. I know that the biggest fights I’ve ever had have been with the people I chose to be around the most. We need to remember that. We need to keep that idea a little closer to our hearts.


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