She writes because she can’t not write

Only a writer would come up with that kind of sentence for a headline. It makes you pause and think. That’s what writers do, at least the good ones. And that’s what I strive to be, a good writer. I have wanted to be a writer ever since winning the prize for “most original story” in second grade.

Don’t be fooled because I went to college for something else. I am foremost a writer.

After graduating with a degree in human resources, I was hired by The Daily Reporter in Coldwater. I wrote business and sports, covered meetings, reviewed the arts, edited the outdoors section, and photographed everything.

Terrific opportunity, but as much as I loved the work, I soon discovered my reporter’s life was in direct conflict with something I loved equally: paying the bills. Within six months, I started working for the hospital as a prevention educator, but spent six more years as a correspondent. It was the start of my dual (duel?) career as business professional and writer.

I write because I can’t not write. Wherever I go, whatever I do, I emerge writing.

When I moved to Kalamazoo to work for Michigan Department of Corrections, I began writing on the side for Business Review and the Kalamazoo Gazette’s marketing department. Writing has been the world’s best moonlighting job because it’s paid exposure to new information and interesting people. An invaluable education.

I’ve been paid not only monetarily, but with residual knowledge. You’d be surprised at how many business issues arise that I understand because I once covered a meeting or interviewed someone on the subject. That’s how I learned about topics as diverse as brownfield redevelopment, fly tying, solid waste management, furniture restoration, and parliamentary procedure.

Being curiosity-driven leads me to ask the kind of interview questions everyone else wonders about. I am the girl next door who earnestly wants to know. That’s hard for people to resist. So they talk to me.

I believe every person and situation has a story to tell, whether or not they know it. The challenge lies in telling that story in a way that best reflects the subject. The best compliments I’ve received as a writer have been that I accurately captured who someone is or what they represent, whether through feature article or by reconstruction of their resume. Good writing is as much about listening as it is about writing.

There’s a thought process behind writing that requires strong powers of observation and analysis. You have to be able to put two and two together without math symbols as guides; seeing the invisible and hearing the unspoken. It’s great when you succeed and embarrassingly clunky when you don’t.

Even my most flippant humor requires theme and thought. Really. I use my words to capture the undercurrents of life, regularly mocking my own petty struggles so others can safely acknowledge their shortcomings.

Sometimes I hammer issues directly. Other times I use a rubber mallet. Last week’s

column on the “marrying” of ketchup bottles may have been funny, but it also captured the frustration of employees who have their energy wasted performing senseless tasks.

I could have come out and said, “It stinks to have your energy wasted at work,” but that would have been a very short column and far less entertaining. It was more memorable to exaggerate one of those situations and show that at the end of the day, the ketchup marrying tasks of life don’t matter.

It’s my job as writer to take you the long way home so you can enjoy the scenery. A chef friend once told me love was the most important ingredient to include in your cooking. I bring similar affection to my column. I hope it shows.

Do I ever suffer from writer’s block?  The answer is a resounding “no!” But I languish from the reverse condition: Writer’s flood, too many ideas splashing around in my brain.

While I prefer humor writing to straight journalism, I’ll throw in an occasional serious concept or deep thought, mainly to prove I do have them. That said, I promise to be funny here most weeks.

It’s not me you laugh at, anyway, but yourself.


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