The one reason why I came into the line of work that I do now is because I love telling stories. I love to share someone’s story and interest other people enought to read it. Hell, I love it when people read my stuff. It’s part of the rush.
But here I am, long removed from the days that I wrote almost daily, about a variety of things and often sports commentary as well. The best non-sports work I did was when I was encouraged to write a column a month for the metro section of the paper. It could be any subject, even sports, but they wanted to encourage a different sort of voice.
So I did. The idea lasted all of one month because the editor who spawned the idea stopped keeping up with it, lost interest, or just gave up altogether. I received plenty of compliments, and the subject I chose to write a column about was ridiculous: Fearing vomiting over death every day of my life.
I received all sorts of emails and telephone calls. I don’t remember if anyone commented online. Our paper was a bit behind the times at that particular point (the sports department wasn’t, of course, because we were always with the current or down river on this stuff.)
Here’s how one conversation went (at least the Cliff’s Notes version):
Caller: “That was the dumbest column I ever read.”
Me (thinking): “Somehow I don’t think you can read, dude.”
Me (aloud): “Sorry to hear that. What bothered you by it?”
Caller: “It’s just ridiculous. You’re afraid of puking instead of dying? Who thinks like that?”
Me (thinking): “Uh, I do dimple dick.”
Me (aloud): “I agree, and that was all the reason for me to write that. It was ridiculous.”
Caller: “The whole thing was just stupid.”
Me (thinking): “But you dumb ass read it, didn’t you?”
Me (aloud): “Thank you for reading though. I’ll try to pick better subjects so you don’t have to read that while you’re eating your Cheerios.”
But not everyone was so appaled. One older lady, whom I was certain with give me the, “What’s wrong with you, sonny?” line actually was the kindest. She said she enjoyed reading it and could tell I was very talented (she should have read my “Nacho” column from years earlier), and that I have a marevous voice in my writing.
(Hey, is down river a term? Just thought of that.)
A great compliment for sure. I enjoyed that conversation and wish I had the chance to continue delighting her with my prose for years to come. I never had the chance.
I was in management then, but I didn’t stop writing. I wrote game stories, I wrote features, columns, briefs, notebooks… anything I could. But it’s been many moons since this has been routine, and as such, I find I have lost my voice.
I thought I was poetic when I had to (on publisher said so without using the word “poetic” so that’s how I know), witty, serious and everything in between. I actually had fans/readers like Grantland Rice did in his day, only my audience was a little more, er, less populous.
I stopped writing, and that has really hurt my voice. I’ve tried to write, and so far words are typed onto the screen, but they’re just words that tell a story. I can’t find that knack to paint the picture. Show, not tell, as my college professor used to say. From one column talking of punting a kid the length of the football field where I was covering a game (another “Nacho” column reference), to the soles of football cleats making a thunderous sound with each step as we made our way from the cold concrete floor of the field house on a Friday night, and onto the football field. We sounded like Clydesdales.
I’m paraphrasing because I can’t find that column (I suspect it was around the late summer/early fall of 2003), but one reader called me to tell me he got goose bumps reading that as he sit on the porcelain for his daily expulsion.
I’m just going to write. Hopefully I’ll find that voice again. I miss hearing it, and I miss making those sounds on paper that people loved to read.
For now I just wrote these 800-plus words without editing because I want to think some more before I come back and refine it. Hopefully that will rehabilitate my writer’s throat enough to start writing full-time again. But this time for myself and those who want to read the lunacy that runs through my head.
You have to have a little wickedness between the ears to have a shot at a good living in this business. I’ve definitely lost some screws along the way, and my voice.
I hope it comes back real soon.