November 13, 2009

Writer Writing

I've been working for days on my essay for the January issue of Today's Woman Magazine. The theme for that month is money, which, if you ask me, beats out sex, religion, and chaos theory when it comes to complexity.

I've spent a fair amount of time this morning reading up on Cornelia, who, I'm sure you recall, was the daughter of Scipio, who conquered Hannibal in the Second Punic War. She married Tiberius, who died in 154 B. C. E. When King Ptolemy wanted to marry her, she turned him down, leaving her penurious (here I'm using the third definition in Webster's II New Riverside University Dictionary), which is to say destitute. Plutarch says that a wealthy woman was showing off her baubles to Cornelia, who in return pulled her children near and said, "These are my jewels."

I had to look it up because I remembered the statement but not the speaker. The only name that came to mind was Caligula, and I knew that was wrong, wrong, wrong. (Caligula, for those who've forgotten, was the Roman emperor from 37 to 41.)

All thoroughly interesting but not as helpful to the task at hand as you might think.

Another aspect of writing this essay is song lyrics. "Don't Bet Money, Honey" has wandered through my head a number of times (Lesley Gore, was it?). So has a song the chorus of which is "money, money, money, money." I think it's from "Cabaret," which I saw live 3 or 4 times in 2001 - 2002. But that's another story.

The love of money is the root of all evil. (No, I don't think that's true. Consider people who torture animals.)

I took a course in graduate school with illustrious theologian Frederick B. Herzog, in which the focus was money. One of the books on the syllabus was Jacob Needleman's Money and the Meaning of Life, but if I start from there I immediately descend into conversations with myself about America's role in international poverty; which is worth pursuing but not for the purposes of this essay. Or I could pursue the stupidity of people thinking they can buy their way into heaven; or that wealth proves God loves them; but once again that has nothing to do with my over-arching topic for these essays, which is wellness . . .

. . . which immediately leads me to think about the health crisis in America and the legislation that might offer surcease of worry, pain, and even death to people without health coverage. But that's not the direction to go, either.

What does this tell us about writing? That in any given piece of writing a consideration of what doesn't belong is often the precursor to figuring out what does.

Let's hope that part comes soon, because not only am I past deadline but I'm also working on a mentoring project that involves a lovely book-length manuscript; and I'd rather sit with the authors' words (yes, there are two of them) than my own.

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