The Word Maker
“Blessed are the authors for their words are the bread of life.”
from The Book of Tasian 16:3
It is back breaking work. 5,000 words a day everyday. And not just any words, not just random words, it has to be words that make sense, a miniature story with a beginning, a middle and an end. A story with characters and a plot. Something satisfying, something that leaves the reader satisfied yet hungry for more. Writing nourishingly is a gift some of us have and we ply our trade to the benefit of the community. It is a calling. It is what I do.
The work is harder than people realize. We write our lives away. Until we can no longer hold the pen because our hands have become arthritic; or our eye sight has failed; or our spines have given up from sitting on these unyielding benches twelve hours a day. 5,000 words can feed ten people for a day. Our monastery’s scriptorium sits 334 authors. Our efforts keep the city of Hamlin fed but just barely; like the rest of Albion, no one really thrives. No one is “well fed” except those lucky few who can afford to hire a personal author. And only the higher ups in the clergy can afford to do that. Everyone else receives their ration of 500 words, maybe two pages, per day.
The stylus feels light, lighter than usual. It is the result of new font. When times get hard the fonts get thinner and lose all ornamentation. Serifs are the last to go. This new font is supposed to be more nutritious and maybe it is. It is definitely leaner and lighter, almost italic. I don’t care for the taste of it.
For most of my working life I wrote in Garamond 14 point. Now that was a good solid font, its words made a hearty fare. Once in a while, mostly on special occasions like the installation of a new Bishop, they let us write in Garamond Bold 16 pt. What a treat that was—so fat, so meaty. We were drunk from feasting. Occasions like those are increasingly rare of late due, I suppose, to the shortage of authors. Not everyone who can write can write something edible. Only fresh ideas neatly packaged can feed a man, and there aren’t many authors with fresh ideas.
Garamond has been around for a century and has served us well. Now it will be replaced by the anemic Helvetica — a soulless, scrawny font in my opinion. But they say it is more efficient and more nutritious. Perhaps being lighter is not a bad thing. Maybe at the end of the day I might not be so tired but, still, there is little joy in using it. My unwillingness to change fonts is, I suppose, yet another manifestation of cranky old age. I notice the younger authors do not seem to care. To them one font is as good as another.
The Abbot comes around periodically with a list of topics. I have seen them all before. They are meant to inspire us to write something fresh. The list includes things like: A fairy tale about a crow; a fable about a fisherman; a love story between a princess and a monkey. There are 26 of them. I have no idea who thinks up these topics. Sometimes they actually help. I am blessed with a good imagination. I pick a topic at random and begin to write. A science fiction story about a place where food is grown from the earth. Now that’s a novel idea. I begin to write.The