The morning dawned sharp and cool in San Francisco. Yesterday’s rains left behind a crystal clear dawn and crisp scent of fall in the air. Knowing I was heading for overcast skies and showers in LA made it a bittersweet trip to the airport, but one thing gave me a sense of joy about the whole thing.
It meant I would have time to read my entire Sunday New York Times.
Navigating Sunday AM traffic was a breeze, and the parking situation was simple. I even got to security only to find a few people in front of me.
I knew the morning would go well.
Grabbing coffee at the overpriced Peet’s Coffee stand by my gate, I slipped eagerly into a chair in the gate area and slipped the bright blue plastic from my paper.
And that’s when the glistening sunshine slipped behind a cloud.
Staring at me from the front page was the news of Norman Mailer’s death.
Now of course he was 84 years old and lived a rather full life by many standards, but just knowing that this powerful and prolific voice was now silent gave me pause.
The Times tribute (far more than an obituary, as you can read here), was definitely one of those that I learned about in Journalism school and even participated in writing as a cub reporter – the canned obituary.
It’s common practice for media organizations to prepare lengthy tomes and tributes to famous people who are getting up there in age. That’s how it’s so easy to slam them out into print as soon as the news hits.
This particular item, I must say, wasn’t very well written. It was meandering and seemed poorly organized, but there was one point that caught my attention.
Very early in his writing career Norman Mailer made a commitment to write 3,000 words every day. Paraphrasing the article (which paraphrased Mailer) this was his way to get out “all the bad writing”.
I’d say that he did a good job.
While I don’t know that I have the literary fortitude (or the discipline, frankly) to make such a commitment, I am going to promise to post at least a few words every day … I know. I know. I’ve said that here before, but in the last week I’ve been really good about posting some multimedia content here, and intend to continue that trend. And so in the interest of making sure that this site stays balanced, I will be tossing some words up too.
Considering his start came with writing that highlighted World War II, it seems somehow fitting that he should pass on the eve of Veteran’s Day.
And so on the occasion of this great writer’s death, I take a moment and think about his commitment to language, his commitment to telling truth and in turn renew my commitment to try and uphold the standard that writers like he so graciously and powerfully held aloft.