We were enjoying a visit with a friend who moved from our town many years ago. He knew I wrote a column but expressed surprise on hearing it is published beyond our local area. "Why would someone in Eau Claire, Wisconsin be interested in what you have to say?" he asked. That set me aback and for a moment I wondered the same thing.
I felt better when he said he thought I was writing a social column similar to what our hometown paper published years ago. It would report that Olga Hempster spent Tuesday afternoon visiting Wanda Uvelar at her new home or that Dominic Sternhem scored a thousand aces when playing pinochle at Harry's Bar on Wednesday. I did some research on the newspaper published sixty years ago when he lived here. He was right. They did consider what happened at Harry's Bar and the activities of Olga and Wanda to be news.
Maybe his comment made me feel a bit insecure and I began to doubt that personal opinions or stories held interest for anyone outside of our family. The very next week I changed my focus. I ignored inspiration from my usual spots such as old letters from family or conversations with friends. It took a while before I finally settled on writing about one of my gripes - people who mess up our computers by sending out bugs. I didn't like the topic or the column but I submitted it anyway. The very first comment I got about it came from a cousin who said "I hope your next musing is about something more interesting." My opinion on my own column had been confirmed. This same cousin gives me a lot of positive feedback. Now I know for sure that whatever she says is not what she thinks I want to hear but is an honest critique.
I asked the editor of a newspaper that publishes my musings if he received any comments on a column that made light of some local hoodlums and their shenanigans. He said that if people liked it or approved, he would hear nothing. The only time there would be any feedback is if someone did not like it. That comment made me appreciate my honest cousin. She doesn't just wait for the poor ones to tell me what she thinks.
Another person whose opinion I respect is one of my sons. He does not comment every week but occasionally gives me positive feedback or, on the other hand, tells me I jumped around too much, he didn't find it easy to follow or he'll point out that I switched from present to past tense in the same paragraph. The problem with his criticism is it is usually too late to be of any help. The column is already traveling on the internet by the time he reads it. I have to eat that piece of humble pie knowing everyone who reads what I wrote is probably confused or is finding ways to correct it.
I have decided I can handle criticism better than the computer I write it on can. The day after I sent out the dull article with complaints about my computer, it crashed! It has been a tough couple of weeks trying to get all my programs reinstalled and my documents and bookkeeping accounts restored but I hesitate to complain too much. I certainly don't want to offend this new machine. I don't want to know if it is as vicious as its predecessor.
It is obvious that I should go back to my original plan, writing my slice of life experiences, past and present. Never fear, you folks in Eau Claire, there will never be a column that includes the local news from the bar or the social goings on in my community.