Writing a weekly column about inspiring people taps into joy.
When I first thought about doing a column, I met with old chum David Crumm. (“Colleague” would be the more accurate term, but I can’t resist the rhyme.) David ran an online website, Read the Spirit, focused on matters involving spirituality and health care. With my interest in both, David encouraged me to publish with him. I’ve been doing so for five years now. Happily.
Only once has David turned down a column I wrote. It was political in nature, he said, and if he ran my point of view, he’d have to run the opposing view. Other than that, David gives me the freedom to write what I want, when and how I want. His few edits are (mostly!) appreciated. Writers may come off as confident, but down deep we’re as insecure as anyone else. When I turn in a column, David, a writer himself, always has something nice to say.
I seek out people and stories that inspire me. When my heart beats a little faster, I know I’m on to something. I’ll wait patiently in a conversation for that nugget, that angle that stirs me. The stories are out there. It’s my job to find them.
I’m reading a memoir by Alan Zweibel, an original writer for Saturday Night Live, a BFF of Gilda Radner, humorist author and playwright. (He collaborated with Billy Crystal on the Tony Award-winning play 700 Sundays.)
In Laugh Lines, Zweibel recalls working with Eric Clapton (“Layla,” etc.) to score a movie Zweibel co-wrote. In the recording studio, Clapton sat watching a scene play and replay, each time plucking a few more notes on his guitar. After several repetitions, Clapton’s song was complete.
“WTF was that?” Zweibel asked Clapton.
“Was what?” he said, laughing.
“You just wrote a song right in front of me.”
“No, I didn’t.”
“But I saw you…”
“Those songs are out there,” he said, gesturing skyward. “The tunes, the melodies. All I do is channel them.”
That’s how I feel about the columns I write. I just need to tune in. The stories are out there.
Having finished my pandemic project, writing a book about the Detroit’s first avant garde art movement, I was happy to be back with my first column in about a year, on classic race car driver David Porter. I got a special kick out of David Crumm’s welcome back message.
Several years ago, Burton and I attended a Cowboy Poetry Gathering in Elko, Nevada. Before Burton’s recent health challenge, he was a fine photographer. In Elko, we attended a workshop with a renowned Western photographer. A young man in the audience raised his hand. He was starting out as a professional photographer, he said, and wanted some advice.
The response was profound. The well-known photographer said, “You have to fall in love with your subject.”
Sometime later, I realized that advice applies to me. I fall a little bit in love with every subject about whom I write. My capacity for love is as boundless as my curiosity.
So I was delighted with David Crumm’s Welcome Back message in which he described my columns as “stories of wonderment and hope.” David observes I’ve published 273 stories for 1,000s of readers and says, “An All-time Favorite Returns.”
Stories of wonderment and hope. I never thought to describe my columns that way. But that’s just what I seek to convey.
With bad news dominating the media these days, Read the Spirit consistently offers a more optimistic, humane, connected point of view. I’m honored to be part of that, to share a weekly jolt of joy. Thanks, David and Co. at RTS. And thanks to my subjects and readers for the opportunity.