It was exciting to be coming upon the fifty thousand mark on my blog, The Village Smith. I hit that mark today around 1:15 p.m. Alabama time. All you visitors have helped me through the most trying time in my life — the days and weeks and months following the death of my mother. It has now been two years. You have read when I poured out my heart. You have read my deepest thoughts. You have read when I shared poetry, books I love, and movies, and TV shows. It has been like having friends and family in the room with me, who have listened, and in some cases responded. I have made some actual friends who get back with me occasionally.
I have found you across America. I have found you in about 140 different countries. You have read through translations from your language to mine. You don’t know how much I appreciate it. Writing has always been my way of reaching out because I can say exactly what I want to say. Though I love talking person to person, it’s hard to edit. And I often think back and wonder, did I say the right thing? Sometimes it’s hard to put my brain in gear before cranking up the mouth. Know what I mean?
But I will say to any aspiring writers/bloggers/etc: don’t depend on a “way with words”. Any craft must be worked at and honed. Writing is hard work. If you don’t believe me, try it sometime.
Before I landed my first job as a reporter, the editor was very suitably impressed with what he read. But newspaper writing is a whole “nuther” ballgame from just dreaming things up, as I was to find out in my first month. I had no educational background in journalism. This was 1981. I had to produce copy on a learn-by-rage method. I learned or the man raged. I didn’t even know what a font was. I had to learn an entirely new language as well as the “m” word. Math. I had to size pictures so they would fit in a certain space and so the layout people would know how much space was available for what. And speaking of pictures, I had to learn how to use a sophisticated camera with all the bells and whistles, and how to frame shots. It was the most rigorous training I’ve ever encountered and all within a few weeks. And believe me. I’m not that smart. My head hurt.
I started out learning how to do headlines, copy, and a million and one other things on a typewriter. One month later, we ditched all that and went to computers. Very early computers. All I can say is, brains must be resilient, else mine would have exploded. As it was, I not only went through that crucible during the day, I got re-runs at night by way of nightmares, as visions of Helvetica and deadlines danced in my head.
That was all separate from the actual writing for which I was hired. But writing and putting together a true sequence of events in a rational manner, as in journalism, is something else that has to be learned. Not to mention getting the facts straight. I don’t think I’ve ever gone into a job knowing what to do, so I just fake it. I’d go out on interviews and fake being confident and in control.
I’ll never forget one of my first assignments. I was to do a piece on a police officer who was retiring. What I wasn’t prepared for was that the officer had a speech impediment and I had to ask him to repeat himself quite often. Even then I wasn’t sure.
One of my questions touched on the most dangerous thing that had ever happened to him while on duty. My ears heard that someone shot through a screen door and his partner was killed. I tried very hard to get it straight. But, apparently, what my ears heard and what the officer said were two different things. The partner who was killed came into the newspaper office grinning a mile wide and said, “I ain’t dead.” I have never trusted anyone with a speech impediment again.:)
The thing with writing fast and furiously for public consumption is like always kneeling with your head stuck in a chopping block. No matter how many good and perfect stories you write, no matter how many names you spell correctly, no matter how many glowing words arrive on a gold platter, you make one little mistake and thousands of people know it immediately. And that’s all they see. We at the newspaper office used the term “heads will roll” often. And for good reason.
Take for instance the headline I wrote while doing a story on working men who helped their wives with household chores and children. The blaring banner read in part: Men in Duel Roles. Okay . . . wait for it. I was completely oblivious to the fact that I had misplaced my homophone. No. It’s not a new Apple invention. Instead of writing about men in two different roles (dual), my headline screamed about men who were fighting with guns or swords (duel). Big difference, huh?
And then, after writing for a while and townspeople began to know my name, I had to deal with well-intentioned but backhanded compliments. I was once introduced to the manager of a shoe store who apparently read my stuff. She was duly impressed with meeting me and said, “You don’t look a thing like you write. You write so intelligently.”
And the woman I met on a bus who asked me what I did for a living. Modestly I told her I worked for the newspaper. “Oh,” she sympathized, “That must be really tough having to get up so early to deliver all those papers.”
But be that as it may, I am still learning and I want to say how much I appreciate those who follow and read and respond to The Village Smith. The map at the bottom was added late — less than a year ago — so it only reflects a small portion of my actual readership.
Among my American readers, I want to acknowledge the top ten states on my readership list beginning with number one: California, Alabama, Texas, New York, Washington, Virginia, Florida, Missouri, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
I also want to acknowledge the top ten countries who read and follow, beginning with number one: Canada, Great Britain, Australia, Philippines, India, Netherlands, Germany, Pakistan, France, and New Zealand.
And, of course to my early readers, whom I count as supportive friends I’ve never met: Jo Ann, Dave, Jane, Susan, and Chandler. And not to forget family: Tammy, Julia, BJ, Frances, and Cindy, who are ever encouraging.
It is a great feeling that, with the written word, I can reach down inside and sculpt an emotion, or paint a scene of life. And I love sharing it. It is a gift from God. And now, here I am, still learning. I hope we may enjoy many more pleasant words together.
Thank you all,
Your friend, Linda