Thank you. Thank you to the people who have stopped me this week to say they read this blog. Thank you to the people who have sent me emails and Facebook messages saying something I’ve written has touched them or resonated with an experience they have had. Thank you for the pharmacist and friend taking time to tell me she subscribed; to the co-worker who, completely out of character, sat down next to me to tell me that he’s read every post. Thank you to the people who have inspired posts and shared with their friends. Every day this week, I’ve been stopped by at least one person who took the time to say something about what I’ve written. It was humbling. It was uncomfortable – I’m not a person who is terribly comfortable with that kind of recognition – and it was, surprisingly, empowering.
I wanted to make this blog a priority in my life, not because I was trying to build a big audience or because I thought I had some secret wisdom to impart upon the world. I did it because the act of writing makes me a better thinker, a better writer and, hopefully, a better person. That it has reached anyone is beyond my comprehension (and, no, that’s not false humility, but genuine appreciation).
I have had an impulse to write for almost as long as I can remember. I remember, one summer in elementary school, sitting down to typewriter in my parents’ basement and writing a first person story in which I imagined what it would be like to be a 13 year-old prodigy stepping onto Centre Court at Wimbledon to play the final match of the tournament. I remember writing bad song lyrics and poetry in junior high and high school. I remember walking around the mall with my family as a kid and imagining it was a movie in which I was a character – a child usually on the brink of kidnap who must use his wits to survive.
When I began writing for my hometown newspaper, I struggled at first with the reporting of an item, but looked forward to the moment when I would sit down to write. I used to write a weekly column, The Heimbuch Maneuver, in which I would give my take, usually a bit odd or off-beat, on topics ranging from the adoption of my brother from Russia to the Civil Rights of paper clips. After a few weeks, I began receiving letters at the office — people challenging me to write 500 words on topics. It became a game of, to steal a feature from a popular podcast, “What Can’t Craig Write About?”
The writing was the joy. The act of punching the keys. The process of formulating an initial thought and running with it. And, early in my career, writing was the thing that defined my day. But somewhere along the way, that was lost. Writing became a tool used less and less frequently. I still did it, but it was a job.
I’ve been trying to regain that joy of writing, trying to write for the love of writing more. And you know what? I still love it. I still love sitting hunched over this screen and figuring out what comes next.
This last Tuesday, I was asked to give a talk on the art of storytelling to a company here in Cincinnati. At first, I was flattered but overwhelmed. What do I know about telling stories? How am I an expert? But then I realized that story telling is what I’ve done my whole life. I realized that there is not secret to story telling, to writing. It’s a function of curiosity and imagination, of acting on behalf of your audience and of doing what has always come so naturally to me – sitting down and punching the keys.
The talk went well. At least I think it did. If no other benefit was derived than a renewed appreciation for doing what I’ve always loved to do, then the stress of putting together a presentation and standing in front of strangers was completely worthwhile.
I was asked time and again, in subtly different ways, how I come up with the topics I write, where my ideas come from. The honest truth is, I’m not sure. They just sort of come to me, sometimes after I begin writing. That coworker I mentioned earlier asked something similar and suggested I reclaim a bit of the spirit of The Heimbuch Maneuver by taking requests. At first, I bristled at the idea, but then I got to thinking about the responses I’ve been getting from this blog – the way people have told me that I’ve put into writing what they’ve felt themselves – and it suddenly didn’t seem like such a bad idea.
So that’s what I’m doing. I’m asking you what you’d like me to write about. I can’t guarantee that I’ll nail it or that I’ll share your exact sentiment, but I’ll give it a try. Writing, to me, is a service industry. I said as much in my presentation this week. A writer serves as a proxy for his or her audience. We put into words the questions or thoughts our audience might have. We go and explore, gain extraordinary access, ask questions and share back what we learn. We do it in service to the audience. It’s a service I’d like to extend to you.
Once a week, I’ll dive into the e-mails I get from the form below and take on a subject of your choosing. It can be anything. I’ll keep it anonymous, unless you ask me not to, and do my best to write what I think your hoping I will write about. Just let me know what it is you’d like me to write. It’s an experiment. It’s worth giving it a try. I’m game if you are. Just contact me below and we’ll see what comes out of it.
Either way, thank you for reading and sharing, thank you for contacting me and reaching out. It’s been a heck of week and that’s because of you.