Princess: Preserving a lost art | AspenTimes.com

Princess: Preserving a lost art

Ali Margo
The Aspen Princess

At the end of the day, I’m just a writer.

Sure, I can play the role of content-provider, copywriter and blogger, even though I absolutely despise the word “blog.” It’s such an unpleasant-sounding word, a four-letter word with clunky vowels that has no grace or dignity whatsoever. I know it originated as “web log” and just morphed into this yucky abbreviation because, like the act itself, no one wants to take the time to read the whole thing.

For 20 years, I’ve worn the cap of journalist, something I always felt lent some real credibility to my efforts as a writer and was, in some small way, a communication art. As a journalist, you learn how to gather and synthesize information. Your job is to go out and experience the world and then come back and explain it to people in a didactic way. I actually learned the definition of the word “didactic” from some fancy-pants New York City editor who was concerned that my lack of experience, having only written for “vertical” magazines in the action-sports sector, might limit my ability to write for the mainstream media. I wonder where that guy is now. He’s probably a blogger.

So that was fine; even though I never got a degree in English literature from an Ivy League school (which seems to be the credential for most of the novelists I most admire), I had a useful degree from a school I loved, a degree that adequately prepared me to enter the workforce and be employable immediately following graduation.

I’m good with having been a journalist for so long, even if the subject matter I devoted myself to was not the stuff that makes a Pulitzer Prize winner. I was basically a snowboarder who forged a living doing something she loved. I’m actually really lucky I got away with that for as long as I did.

But these days I feel like that guy sitting on a hilltop with a quill pen behind his ear and a pretty little glass thimble of ink, the actual writing of the words an art in and of itself: the feel of the pen tip against paper, the smell of the ink, the crispness of the empty page and the way the ink bleeds into it, so easily translating everything I’m feeling in my heart. Maybe I should take a calligraphy class. They probably have them online.

While I am old enough to have learned proper cursive, the only things I ever wrote by hand were the dozens of diaries that now occupy the bottom shelf in my bedroom and contain no wisdom whatsoever but a record of boyfriends, crushes, best friends, ex-best friends, ex-boyfriends and whatever other drama filled my brain from age 10 until yesterday.

Romantic idealism aside, I live on my laptop, the keys so worn you can’t even see the letters anymore.

But I love the written word, and as technology continues to snuff out its beauty like a humid day does to a good blowout, I love it even more. I love magazines so much I still buy them off the newsstand. Like books, I read my magazines in the bathtub so that each page I touch becomes puckered and warped, the unread pages remaining flat and smooth. When I find a passage I like, I put a little tear in the top of the page so I can go back later with a pen and underline it.

I have this urge to build a library with walls of books. I want to build a tree house or a small cabin with shelves from floor to ceiling and fill them with all kinds of books. Then I’d get a really good espresso machine, a deep couch with super-plush cushions and maybe a vintage chaise. I’d for sure build a window seat with tons of pillows that looks out over the river, and there would have to be French doors just because I’m obsessed with them. Maybe I’d even get one of those old pipe racks like my dad used to have and fill them with cherry tobacco, just for the smell. There would have to be a big, old, super-worn oriental rug. And I’d make a desk out of something else, like an old door.

I’d do all that just to make sure to preserve what I see as an art form, just in case it gets lost. I know there could potentially be more opportunity now than ever for writers to self-publish and that publishing online means you get a much bigger cut of the profit than with traditional publishing. I know that I can harness the power and reach of social media to do my own marketing, build an email list, send out monthly newsletters and sell my writing myself. I can provide content and write advertising taglines and even blog (hair standing up on back of neck). I can accept shorter and shorter writing assignments from magazines that have all but cut their freelance-writing budgets entirely. I might even be willing to work for a magazine that has decided to eliminate the need for an editor entirely, because it’s the advertisers who matter the most, and everyone knows an editor just gets in the way of that.

Maybe all those novels and short stories and bursts of inspiration I’ve dreamed about for so long will stay in my head. Maybe I’ll continue to cry every time I read another great book, wishing I had the strength to do something with the manuscript that’s sitting on my hard drive, like a literal ghost in the machine. Or maybe I’ll find a way to harness technology to my advantage and figure out how to once again make a living doing what I love.

But first and foremost I am, and always will be, just a writer.

The Princess is acting like she’s 105 years old. Email your love to alisonmargo@gmail.com.


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