I’ve had the writing bug for the past 20 years. And ever since my first book was published in 2007, I haven’t stopped. I have now written 21 books – you’ll only find 20 on Amazon because one was written under a nom de plume – and currently write weekly columns for several newspapers in Georgia, the Albany Herald being one of them.
I don’t write because it pays well. Truth be known, I write newspaper columns for free and have probably given away more copies of my books than I’ve sold. But that’s all well and good, because the reason I write isn’t for the money; rather, it’s because I enjoy it. In fact, it wouldn’t be a stretch to call it a passion. (My other passion is running, which I’ve done every day for the past 43-plus years, accumulating more than 161,000 miles during that time. I only mention it so you have an idea of how passionate I can be about the things I enjoy. And writing is certainly one of them.)
I’ve been influenced by a handful of writers, most notably Rick Reilly, Dave Barry, and most of all, the late and great Lewis Grizzard. There are a few other writers from the same genre as well: Bill Bryson and Andy Rooney, and a couple of cartoonists whose collections I treasure: Berkeley Breathed (Bloom County) and Bill Watterson (Calvin and Hobbes).
That being said, I normally have one of three objectives in mind for the reader when I write: to put a smile on their face, warm their heart, or bring a tear to their eye – or any combination of the three. There are rare occurrences, of course, when I don’t have any of those objectives in mind, and I’m simply writing because something got me riled up, lit a fire inside of me, or simply caused me to lose my (stuff). This column is one of them.
Fortunately, those occurrences are rare and are few and far between. However, as a writer, I realize I’m always opening myself up to a good amount of commentary and criticism – most of it good, some of it constructive, and every once in a while, some just not very nice. (I also realize if more of my books were sold and my columns were more widely read, the number would probably be higher – so I guess I should be content where I am.)
People are entitled to their opinions, and I’m always willing to accept criticism – as long as it’s constructive. If nothing else, it will help me to become a better writer. However, when the criticism is negative just for the sake of being negative, that’s a different story. Sometimes I have to bite my tongue and remember that opinions are like ---holes: everybody has one. And, in a country where free speech allows everyone to speak their minds, criticism is something I’ve gotten used to.
Most of the time, anyway.
Last week, I wrote a column for this fine publication titled “Giving Thanks.” It was a compilation of the things I am thankful for – the list is long – but most of all, it was a tribute to being thankful for being alive … something I only wish my late son was here to say as well. I mentioned that the column was inspired by the late Furman Bisher, who used to write a column every Thanksgiving for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in which he listed everything he was grateful for. I’ve never forgotten how much his columns meant to me – and that I should always be grateful for what I have in life.
I would like to think that “Giving Thanks” accomplished all three of those writing objectives I mentioned earlier. That was my intention, anyway.
This year, two days after Thanksgiving, I will be attending the funeral of a very good friend of ours. It will be the third funeral I’ve attended this year – for three people who, like my son, are no longer with us to offer their thanks on the fourth Thursday in November.
Getting back to that negative comment …
Two days after “Giving Thanks” was published, I saw my name mentioned in the Herald’s Squawkbox feature. If you’re unfamiliar, the Squawkbox is the “sounding board” for readers of The Albany Herald to express their opinions. Hopefully, you remember what I wrote about opinions earlier, because with respect to this particular reader’s comment it definitely applies:
Sorry, Ludwig, Furman Bisher you are not.
Well, dear reader, I never said I was. I was only trying to say that I’m thankful to be alive.
Typically, when I receive a negative comment about something I write, I simply reply with “thanks for reading!” This particular comment, however, hit me the wrong way. I can’t explain it; it just did.
I thought it needed something more than a simple “thanks for reading!” It needed … this column.
On that note, I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving.
Well, almost everyone.