Number 500
July 27, 2015
by Ivan Raconteur

This column is the 500th installment of the Curmudgeon’s Corner, and I view its publication as a cause for celebration.

To be honest, I view most things as a cause for celebration, but there’s no denying this is a sort of milestone.

Although writing a weekly column is a solo undertaking, it would not happen without other people.

Most important among these are my readers. I’m sometimes surprised at the level of support I receive from readers. It is extremely gratifying to hear from people who take the time to let me know how my column has affected them.

Many people have shared their stories about connections they have found in my column. Others have said they look forward to getting the paper each week to see what I have written. I have even heard from people who, when confronted with some quirk of human nature, wonder “What would the curmudgeon say?”

The generosity of readers is humbling.

Writing of any kind can be a lonely undertaking. This is, perhaps, especially true for columnists. The only columns that are any damn good are the ones in which the writer drops a veil or two and bares his soul in front of the readers.

Tricks and gimmicks don’t get it done.

It would be awkward to do all that soul-baring each week if one didn’t occasionally get some feedback to let us know someone out there is reading the stuff.

On the other hand, it can be disconcerting when I meet someone and they greet me like an old friend, and seem to know all about me, even though I don’t remember them. I have often had that experience, only to learn that we have never met, but the person is a regular reader of my column, and feels he or she knows me. I suppose, in a way, they do.

Hemingway was one of the early influences on my writing. He said when one writes, one should begin with one true thing. I have always found this to be good advice.

When I began writing this column back in 2005, I was committed to starting each column with a kernel of truth, and building upon that. It is this honesty that makes my column real, and, I believe it helps to build connections with readers.

Despite what we read in the national news, I still believe we humans are more similar than we are different from one another, and it is this essential humanity, this frank examination of our shared experiences, that is at the core of good writing.

I look at my column not as an individual enterprise, but as a journey the readers and I are taking together.

For the past 500 weeks, I have shared my observations on life, human nature, and many other things. Most days, I see the funny side of life, and I have tried to share that perspective along the way.

Regardless of the subject, I have tried to make it entertaining. It has certainly been entertaining for me.

I have been fortunate to meet some strange and fascinating characters along the road of life, and many of them have found their way into my columns. Their antics, and the predicaments into which they got themselves, make good copy. I could not make this stuff up.

My reminiscences about my youth and the people I have met are among my most popular columns. I often hear from readers that they knew someone like a character about whom I have written. Writing about real people makes the column universal.

People sometimes ask where I find the subjects for my columns. I’ll let you in on a little secret – that is the easy part. As long as one keeps one’s eyes open, and does more listening than talking, this crazy old world provides a wealth of subjects upon which one may comment.

This column would not be possible without the trust Herald Journal owners Dale Kovar and Chris Schultz have placed in me. At no time have they tried to censor my column, despite the fact there are plenty of things about which we disagree. The value of this trust is not lost on me. I appreciate the freedom I have been given.

Another person who is an essential part of this undertaking is Associate Editor Starrla Cray. She edits my column each week, and her contributions are invaluable. Not only is she an extremely talented writer; she is also a gifted editor. Her crystal clear vision and insightful evaluation have done much to improve the quality of each column.

If my descriptions or construction become too convoluted, as they sometimes do, Starrla cuts through the underbrush to reveal the path to clarity. If something I have written doesn’t make sense, she tells me, and offers suggestions for improvement, always staying true to what I was trying to express. Editors like her are worth their weight in gold, and I am grateful for her support.

Because of the input from other people, writing this column has always been more fun than work.

The good news, for those who enjoy this column, is that I still have a long list of ideas for future columns, and at least a few good stories left to tell.

I look forward to sharing the next 500 columns with you as we continue this journey together.

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