July 30, 2014

The Blessing of Writing Local


The successful thing is to go big and wide, right? To become a writer known to many, from east to west, north and south. Now that's the end-all.

I might have thought that way once, but then things changed. Doors I thought were opening seemed to close, and I realized I would need a Plan B.

Though I couldn't predict the future, one thing did seem certain: that one of my greatest callings in life was that of writing; that I'd been given certain gifts and sensibilities, even a certain temperament, that lent itself to a lifelong dance with the written word.

Now, I didn't say that I'm a great writer, but rather that it is one of my greatest callings. Great because it falls in the top three of those things I'm supposed to do in this life before leaving it -- something that will have made a difference when I'm no more than dust once again.

Plan B turned out to be focusing on writing for more local audiences. It was a fallback position, but nonetheless, it provided a new challenge, and I dove in eagerly.


Writing local has helped me find a grounding point, to be rightly intentional about another primary calling of mine -- that of motherhood. It's kept me closer to home and tethered more certainly to the place and people around me.

And it has been a blessing, more so than I ever could have imagined when I first set out with it seeming like Plan B.

Take for example Sunday morning. I'd just finished my monthly-or-so stint as a cantor at our church. And as I gathered my folder and prepared to leave the sanctuary, I realized someone was near me, and seemed to be coming nearer.

"Say, you...are you the one who writes? In the newspaper?" he asked. This wasn't going to be a parishioner telling me thanks for the music. No, it was about something else entirely.

"I just wanted to tell you that I love your work," he said. "I hadn't made the connection until just now but as I was watching you sing I realized, that's her. That's the one who writes the column. I just wanted to say, keep up the great work!"

Granted, I shouldn't need accolades such as this. The work in itself should be enough of a blessing -- and it is. But there's nothing more satisfying to a writer than to know she's made a connection with her readers.

Because quite frankly, I can't keep all my readers in mind as I'm in my office, or some corner of my house or a coffee shop, writing away. I try to focus on one or two people and write to them. Sometimes I write to and for myself and just hope it will reach others too.

So to realize those efforts have touched someone -- it's a pretty crazy, cool feeling. If it's happened to you, you know what I'm talking about.

I've had similar experiences before -- at the park, the grocery store, always when I least expect it, and often when I'm not prepared. It can be happily jarring because when I'm not in my writing hole I am in a different mode. And when these two world collides: wow!

I know that with the world as it is now I might have still experienced this, even if I wrote exclusively for a national or international audience, through digital means. But I don't think there's anything as thrilling as experiencing it in person, right in the little world of my city.

In the years since I've been writing local, I've slowly come to realize that it isn't the Plan B after all. It's just the Plan A I wasn't expecting, and cherish all the more for having discovered it at all.

Q4U: Have you had one of these "worlds colliding" moments as a writer? What was it like?

1 comment:

Mary Aalgaard said...

Yes, writing for local pubs is very rewarding. I love getting to know my neighbors better, and yes, the connections we make with them is affirming. And, you (and I) are also global in this world of communication, our words go beyond the borders of our communities.