Organically Speaking

There’s a great story about the writer John Steinbeck my friend Jed likes to tell, especially to me when I begin slandering my own prose.

Seems Mr. Steinbeck sent some freshly written pages over to his publisher. After the man read them he said to his secretary,”How peculiar…this doesn’t even sound like John.”

The secretary said, “I corrected all of his grammar and cleaned up his sentences before I gave them to you.” And her boss said, “Well, you just took the Steinbeck right out of Steinbeck.”

How I love that story.

It reminds me to respect my own voice regardless of outside opinions.

We all have our own unique way of expressing even if we’re influenced by others and I like to view that as raw admiration urging us onward.

Every writer I love has a distinct dash I can automatically identify: David Sedaris, Paul Rudnick, Sarah Vowell, Anne Lamott, Nick Hornsby. They talk to me from the page in voices that I know.

If someone decided to tidy up Me Talk Pretty One Day or Assassination Vacation you’d have some pretty boring prose on your hands. The humor, the quirkiness, the way it’s told so differently from anyone else is where the treasure lies.

I know I don’t write like other people. Sometimes it distresses me since I feel I’m just too light and ridiculous and why don’t I get serious for heaven’s sake.

I’ve been reading essays by Slate writer Katie Roiphe that have me on my knees. They’re profound, they’re provocative, they scare the shit out of me. When I told this to my friend Bill he said, “But you don’t write like that, nor do you want to.” This was like dousing me with cold water. He’s right, I don’t want to be that intense…I’m more after the wry and silly. Not that she can’t be equally as funny at will…I’m convinced she can rule the world that Katie…but she’s so smart and dead on that there’s no wiggle room for anything but perfection. She reminds me of guitar strings that are strung just a tad too tight.

Perfection, the dreaded P word, something I couldn’t achieve even if I wanted to since I simply do not possess the gene. Whatever I’m writing comes out like it was put through a spin cycle first. It’s creased with lots of static cling, but with a fresh scent that lets you know it’s me.

I never went to college…when people start boasting of their various degrees this is usually the time I flag down a waiter for another cocktail. I can’t say I went to Smith or Yale or took class with John Updike. I was too busy globetrotting high in high heels. Rather than a degree I got a coke habit which let’s face it, is a lot funnier.

Who said tragic? Only if your nose fell off.

But I can tell you this, one can always learn technique and punctuation, but what you can’t glean from a scroll on the wall is how you see things and in what way you can make me see them… and so what if you wrote who instead of whom…

who cares?

David Sedaris is the only writer that ever made me laugh out loud on the subway.

Sarah Vowell, after reading her tour of assassination sites across the U.S. made me want to pack and trace her steps.

When Paul Rudnick goes off on something in The New Yorker, I text all my friends to go read it now…don’t wait for it to come in the mail…there’s laughter at stake for goodness sake.

I hope one day someone will text their friends and say, “Did you read that piece Susannah Bianchi wrote on unsolicited criticism?

Don’t walk to the newsstand, run…because nobody, and I mean nobody sounds quite like her.”

But that’s the point, isn’t it?

SB

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About Susannah Bianchi

I'm just a girl who likes to write slightly on slant. I've had a career in fashion, dabbled in film and to be honest, I don't like talking about myself. Now my posts are another matter so I will let them speak for themselves. My eBooks, A New York Diary, Model Behavior: Friends For Life and Notes From A Working Cat can be found on Amazon.com. Thanks.
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27 Responses to Organically Speaking

  1. wimpywriter says:

    Enjoyed reading this Susannah – and recognised a lot too! That feeling when you lose your nerve and wonder why you cannot write like Joyce Carol Oates, John Lanchester, Martin Amis… just about anyone I’m reading at the moment. But it’s reading the variety and the endless talent that gives me confidence (when my brain is in the right place instead of beating me up). Like your friend says, ‘why would you want to write like them anyway’?

    Like

    • Thanks for this. Yes, I’m always on the fence over how I should be really writing, then it dawns on me like a pie in the face that I really can only write one way. I remember I wrote this little serious, DULL piece about Walt Whitman that ran in the Brooklyn Eagle. I was so proud of it because it was serious journalism I thought, but it also sucked. Some of us are just born to be silly. By the way…go to fillingspaces.com and read what she wrote. You’ll appreciate it. Thanks again.

      Like

  2. Oh please do not stop being you. When you write I feel like I’m walking through Central Park next to you and that’s what I love. You can’t help it if your observant of your surroundings and neither can I and neither can David Sedaris. One time I was walking down the street with my daughter and I gasped. She of course asked “what’s wrong?” and with all seriousness I relied “O my god that woman looked exactly like a bumble bee.” Not because of what she was wearing, but her face. My daughter said “Only you would see that.” Now, we both know that’s not true Susannah. Keep telling it like it is, the world already has more than enough politically correctness.

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    • Thanks Top…I appreciate that and I am so jealous that you saw a bee in woman’s clothing. You too have that silly streak that I am so drawn to. It’s not that I don’t like serious writers, I do…I read them all the time…I just can’t write like that. I’ve tried and it’s so sad. I think I’m going to read a little Holidays on Ice…I can use a shot of Sedaris this morning.

      Like

  3. Rob says:

    I have told you many times: I love what you write. It brightens my day. I look forward to my Monday morning dose of Susannah, after the weekend hiatus. I am greedy for more.

    Like

  4. Alva Chinn says:

    Keep on keepin’ on…

    Like

  5. jimmie chew says:

    I love the way you write!!!!!

    Like

    • Ah Jimmie…you were my very first follower…you win the washer dryer…where can I send it…you’re sweet…thanks…miss your posts by the way. Since you moved to Hollywood no one ever hears from you. How bout a little press conference 🙂

      Like

  6. skinnyuz2b says:

    Oh please, don’t ever change. I look forward to your posts each morning and absolutely love your take on the world and life in general. And especially enjoy the way you tell it.

    Like

    • Hey Skinny…how are things? You’re kind to write that…I say that with such sincerity, you have no idea. My prose isn’t for everyone so I’m touched that you feel that way. My graces to you!

      Like

  7. katecrimmins says:

    The proof is always in the pudding. You have readers, right? They love you or they wouldn’t subscribe and come back, right? I can relate though. Some days I want to right like Dave Barry or Erma Bombeck. Then again, some days I want to write like Janet Evanovich (whose super silly stories makes me spit out through my nose!). John Steinbeck is not so much on my list. In the end I can only write like me and the same is true of you! I love your stuff and your view of NYC is priceless. I want to visit Bremelman’s!

    Like

    • Well you better hurry before they turn it into a theme park the rate it’s going. I always say, loving to write is where the meat is…everything is is a side. If I couldn’t write…oh dear…I would have gone mad or madder, long ago. Thanks for saying sweet things to me. I need-em at the moment.

      Like

  8. D. D. Syrdal says:

    I love that, “there’s laughter at stake”. Truly, words to live by. What can enrich life more than a good laugh? If only more people saw the world the way you do!

    Like

  9. backonmyown says:

    I enjoyed the opening story about John Steinbeck. He’s one of my favorites, and the moral in that story is profound. It could apply to any of us even if we haven’t achieved greatness. If we keep reading, we will probably keep writing, and it’s in the reading that we discover our own writing style. Your writing is you and it entertains me always and often gives me food for thought. Keep writing.

    Like

    • You are one of the smartest, well read women I don’t know…meaning we are cyber alliances never formerly introduced so I take that as a great compliment. Yes reading is the key…a guy I know who used be a teacher, like you, told me that Stephen King came to the school where he taught to address the students on writing and the first thing he said was…”If you want to write you have to read,” and he pulled out some dog-eared paperback from his back pocket and said,”I’m never without a book…ever.” I just loved that.

      Like

  10. storyofalice says:

    I love your voice and perspective so much and in every one of your posts there’s a gem like the ones below that I remember throughout the day and giggle:

    ‘Whatever I’m writing comes out like it was put through a spin cycle first. It’s creased with lots of static cling, but with a fresh scent that lets you know it’s me.’

    and, in the previous one:

    ‘I watch the little, fat girl pull out her American Girl Doll from its luscious packaging placing her in the middle of the table like an oracle.’

    Love it, Susannah!

    Like

    • What nice words Alice…thank you. I think we all have a distinctive voice that we love to express on the page…this I know. Blogging is merely a venue to display our art…when you think about it, it’s really quite a gift…like affording prime real estate at a good price 🙂

      Like

  11. Vasca says:

    Susannah, you write ‘like you’ and no one else! I love writing and my readers love reading because…they say it puts them in the words, the thoughts, the experiences. They feel the realness that is ‘me’…all me. You write that way; individually you as it should be…and at your best. Feeling natural in ones writings is ‘top o’ the line’ in my book…I think it’s the same w/you. Don’t change!

    Like

  12. Jed says:

    On the money once again.

    Like

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