S HORTLY AFTER HE TOOK the reins as editor-in-chief, Chester Moore suggested we start writing this monthly column. His idea was to give readers a peek behind the curtain, to help them know a little more about the people responsible for getting texas fish & game into your hands every thirty days and some of the challenges, technology and strategies involved in accomplishing that monthly mission. “Sure,” we thought. “Sounds like fun.” And so, off we went, merrily sharing, probably over-sharing more often than not, everything we could think of that might help illuminate the process of publishing our magazine.
Since launching the effort, we have used this space to discuss some of our history, the advances that technology has fostered, the retreats that economics and technology have also fostered, some of the organizations that we’ve partered with, some of the people who have earned our respect and a few who have riled our anger. We’ve used it to post alerts about unscrupulous individuals and organizations sending out fraudulent renewal notices (i.e. some of the s.o.b.s mentioned in the previous sentence) and also occasionally to comment on issues that had stirred our interest.
One thing we haven’t really discussed is the writing itself. This tiny corner of each issue represents a miniscule fraction of the words that are composed every month by the contributors who occupy the masthead in the right column of this very page. But every month as deadline approaches, the empty white space sitting here, waiting for us to fill it with something informative and at least readable, can look as big as the Grand Canyon. Ernest Hemingway nailed it—as he almost always did—when he observed that “There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.”
Yet, that is what our contributors do, month in and month out. Together, they produce something like 30,000 words for any given issue. Some best-selling novels are that length. The task that each of them faces starts with an empty screen and a keyboard (every bit as daunting as the blank paper rolled into Hemingway’s typewriter) and the question, “What am I going to write?” Of course, for many of them, there is a story assignment or a recurring column topic such as Freshwater Fishing or Whitetail Hunting. But there is still that blank screen, demanding words. Good words. Words that are plucked from the vocabulary and put down, one after another, in the order required to convey not only readable sentences but sentences that also convey useful information that rewards the reader with some new knowledge or insight, or at least entertains them enough to warrant the investment of their time spent in the reading.
Based on the comments that come in unsolicited by phone, email and other means of communication, it appears that the men and women who contribute their writing to the pages of each issue of texas fish & game are making that reading investment pay off for our readers.
But it is not easy. A fifteen-hundred-word feature on Little Lakes for Big Bass, or a thousand-word article on The Winter Diet of Speckled Trout, or a concise 850-word column must all be crafted. It takes research, a significant degree of accumulated knowledge and skill in wordcraft to produce something that holds attention and delivers a message that meets—hopefully exceeds—the expectations each reader had when attracted to the first paragraph.
Writing comes in almost as many forms as conversation does. Poetry. Academic Text. Fiction. Non-Fiction. Essays on everything from philosophy to politics to science to spiritual introspection. Scripts for stage and screen. Even Advertising. In our world, the writing tends to cross a lot of lines between forms. Our text is instructive, often scientific and sometimes philosophical—even spiritual, and at times political. We don’t do much fiction, aside from Reavis’s larger-than-life Open Season columns. But going through the process of organizing and designing the pages of each issue, we read every word artfully crafted by our contributors. This experience is one of the best parts of being in our busiess. It amazes us, even after almost 35 years of doing this, how interesting and engaging our writers can make the stories they create. The true test of a writer’s skill, again according to Hemingway, is that a story should cause a reader to remember it “not as a story he has read, but something that happened to himself.” Sharing outdoor experiences or knowledge is a perfect venue for such a test of skill, and we think our writers measure up. It takes talent to accomplish this, but it also takes good old fashioned hard work.
Being responsible for filling this small two-column-wide space every month has given us an honest appreciation of the skill and discipline with which every one of our contributors attacks the blank screens that stand between them and the completion of their monthly assignments. We hope that you feel the same sense of appreciation for what they produce.
From the comments we regularly get from many of you, we have to believe that you do.