Hollywood writers have right idea

By Helena Rodriguez: Local columnist

Didn’t think the Writer’s Guild of America strike in Hollywood would affect you? Well, in support of my fellow writers, who I’m sure are likewise grossly underpaid and underappreciated for their sarcasm and — occasionally intellectually profound words of wisdom — this local columnist is joining them on the picket line.

Consequently, or perhaps fortunately, you readers in Newspaper Land will have to read column reprints until my editors and I work out an agreement for higher pay, royalties for Internet postings and a cut of the revenue, which I’m sure they make having my columns recycled into compost, mulch, fire-starters, packing material and piñatas.

Yeah right! My strike wouldn’t carry any weight. They’ll just fill this space with more Grant McGee or something. If you knew what I was getting paid to write this column, however, maybe, just maybe, you’d feel sorry for me and bring me some Krispy Kreme donuts like Jay Leno reportedly did to the striking writers in L.A.

It’s in Jay’s best interest to get the writers back to work because his late-night TV show is now stuck in rerun limbo. Leno may do a great job telling jokes, but the real credit goes to the clever writers behind the punch-lines.

Now I get to the real substance of this column, you know, about how writing is a seriously underrated, highly skilled art, which requires a great deal of expertise. After all, not just anyone has the gift that we writers possess, being able to articulate ourselves with such fluidity, emotion, passion, inspiration, ethos, pathos, logos, yada yada yada.

You should thank us, because professional writers of my rank are sensitive. We know how precious time is to you and we know how grueling and painful it is for you to read our work because people don’t like to read anymore, (or maybe it’s because you think our work sucks and wonder when the newspaper is going to hire “real columnists”).

And so we break the rules of writing by starting sentences with “and” (we are professionals; we can break the rules). And we get straight to the point. We write concisely, and with no apologies, unless, of course, we’re getting paid by the word.

My friend, fellow graduate student and fellow writer Mike Jimenez, says, “Not everyone can write,” although as future composition teachers, we will tell our students they can, in fact, write, at least good enough to get through college, and sometimes maybe even good enough to become the next T.S. Eliot or Dave Barry.

But if writing, I mean real writing, was really that easy, then we’d all be published, best-selling writers. The criteria for selecting Pulitzer Prize winners would be as easy as pulling a prize out of a Cracker Jacks box.

In truth, writing is a somewhat complicated process that sends some people running and screaming in fear. After all, writing requires rough drafts, outlines, and, oh yes, it requires writing, even rewriting, editing, polishing, slamming your head against a wall, gallons of Jack Daniels (just kidding) and knowing and understanding your audience (because they may bring you Krispy Kremes).

Some of us have learned to master writing. We make A’s in our writing classes, and sometimes, God forbid, we even expect to get paid for our writing. Sometimes we’re even driven to selfish acts and do flamish (hey, we even make up our own words, free-of-charge.
Flamish means “like totally flaming hot,” not to be confused with famish, which we writers also suffer from) things like ask to be paid enough money to provide ourselves and our families with food, shelter, clothing and a widescreen HDTV.

Part of the cause of this writers’ strike is reality TV shows. How hard is it to write a simulated reality TV show? If you’re like me and are wondering why there aren’t any good shows on TV anymore (Am I the only one who misses “Touched by An Angel” and “Get Smart?”) maybe it’s because there are not any good writers. Or maybe it’s because they’re not paying the good writers enough money.

So support the Writer’s Guild of America strike. Turn off your TV and buy Krispy Kremes for your local newspaper columnist.

Helena Rodriguez is a freelance columnist. She can be reached at: