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A voice in writing — Sweet Al is a winner

Writing was dropped in my lap after a 40-year painting career.

I am still in the “play” stage of writing. I was given one stipulation when I began writing for The PREVIEW: sustainability. Can you write a weekly column and keep it going?

Of course, I told them,I have a lot to write about. The editor threw the reins of imagination on my back, gave me a soft slap on the behind and a go ahead.

I galloped away and began to write.

I started with my passion, “a voice for the artist.” I soon learned writing about Sweet Al had a greater appeal to the reader. I am still wondering why? Who in the world would have believed that Sweet Al has become, “my writing voice?”

Writing about Al, there is humor, a principle, and hardly ever a solution. A 500-word article is about all I have to say on the subject. The ideas come in the moment and I write in the moment. Two weeks later, you read about it on Thursday morning. Sometimes it is humorous, serious, pointed and ridiculous. It is about my drama, pain and frustration.

This writing job is made in heaven. I am loving it, and as long as you love it, I’ll keep writing. It has given me a voice.

A broker for the writers approached me. He liked my “humorous voice,” and I received a writing assignment for a pet’s health magazine. Have content, solution, be humorous, and all in 300 words. Meet a deadline.

No problem, of course I can do it. How hard could that be? I don’t have a problem with deadlines, I write weekly about Sweet Al and his dog, or whatever. I can write humorous and ridiculous things about the owner, not about their animal. I had a track to run on and I went to the starting gate.

It’s not the animal’s fault they jump on the couch, eat from the owner’s fork between the owner’s bites or lick honey off the spoons in the dishwasher. I have wacky friends who let their dogs do that. They dress their dogs, humanize them and spend their life savings keeping their pets well. I have plenty to write about.

I was going to the winner’s circle on this one.

I sent in the first article. It came back,’“Not enough content.”

I wrote another one, it came back, “No solution.”

I gave it another stab. It came back, “No humor.”

I decided to change the name of the owner and pet, really get down and write some great humor, nailing the owner to the wall.

It came back, “People are very sensitive about their animals; they will see your insincerity.” He added, “But you can do it. I believe in you.”

Never say die. I changed it, sent it in, and I received another e-mail.

“You are getting close, all you are missing here is the directive for the reader. Give them a couple of tips about the danger in dressing pets, or 2-3 bullet points on how much to spend on their animal’s health.”

Well, duh! Its common sense, isn’t it? Are animal lovers too invested emotionally to use good sense?

I can’t seem to find “my voice” when writing about pet health issues. I’ve gone to Cesar Millan’s website, the dog whisperer. I’m on the right track. He says it is usually the owner who needs to be reformed, not the dog.

I’ve questioned my pet lover friends. My friend says I need to have my own dog. When I feed it and take care of it, then I will understand how people love their animals and have compassion. I told her not to pray for me to acquire an animal to feed and take care of. Al’s dog is enough.

She said, “Do you hear yourself say, ‘It’s Al’s dog?’ That’s your problem.”

I have spent a lot of time on this pet assignment. I need to write an article for my fun job, The PREVIEW. I bolted my neck, felt my oats and turned my attention to the PREVIEW readers. They understand me. They don’t care if I have a solution or 2-3 bullet points about why animals shouldn’t wear clothes, or whether I own an animal.

I’m not giving up on this pet assignment. You might be reading more about pet owners and their pets in the weeks to come, unless, of course, they rein in this horse too tightly and break her creative bent and take her off the track.

Final brushstroke: Every writer has a writing voice. I don’t know how to get there. I have a feeling it is writing about what one cares about deeply and finds great humor in. I guess I should stick to writing about Sweet Al. He’s always a winner.

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