Point of View: Don’t Type, Listen

Then I met Mary

Fifty-one years ago this column began to be written. No, no need to genuflect. No, no, please. . . .

(I had thought it was 50 years ago, and was telling everyone I would have my party now, minus the gold watch, of course, when I realized that the time for hosannas and raised glasses had passed!)

The first 20 years or so were on me (I know it’s supposed to take 10 years to hit one’s stride, but my essays were half the normal length). And I remember during that time being overly serious when it came to what it was I wanted to say, and, as a result, not quite getting it right. Then I met Mary, and things began to come to me rather than me coming to them. 

She has been my muse ever since. And often, though more serious and compassionate than I, she’s been my amusing muse. I think if this connection were ever to be broken or frayed I would give it up. Isn’t 2,500 — I’m sorry, 2,600 . . . no, make that 2,599 because Helen Rattray wrote one of them early on — enough anyway? No, don’t, don’t speak.

I may not be very intelligent, but I know that when it comes to column writing if you don’t let the censorious mind go a bit, it won’t happen — at least as well as it would were you simply to let some of what’s down there in the unconscious rise to the surface. “Don’t write, type,” Robert Gottlieb said. 

Don’t even type! Listen. And it will get written. 

Along that line, whenever a co-worker says on being assigned a “Relay” column that he or she can’t think of anything to say, I say, “That’s wonderful! You’ll write something good then.” They look at me askance, but it’s true.

I was assigned this column on arriving here on Oct. 15, 1967, and inherited the name, “Point of View.” Left to my own, I would probably have called it something else, something more clever, but anyway, “Point of View” it has been and is, even though most of what I write is beside the point.

I thank the Rattrays for having given me more than enough rope. There is something joyous about being afforded intellectual freedom, about being afforded the freedom to say whatever it is you want to say even though you have nothing to say. 

And, yes, as I said, it can be daunting, I suppose, if you think about it — Ev Rattray once likened column writing to an indeterminate sentence. I’m embarking on my 51st year and the parole board remains resolute, somehow deaf to my annual insistence that I’ve turned my life around, and, as always, immune to my native charm. 

I’m making no claims (no clams either) for my writing, but when I began not to take it so seriously (around the time Mary enlightened my life) was when it began to go right — as right as it was ever to go.