Thursday, February 26, 2009

What Makes the Macho Guy Cry?

Six months ago I sat down and banged out an essay about my grandmother. It came easily in an hour or two, the fluid culmination of thoughts I’d had since her death nine years ago. Horizon Air picked it up and ran it in their January issue. I could not have predicted the response.

Total strangers have googled and emailed me. My writing has been called “exquisite” and “simply beautiful”. One admirer said he used a line from my essay as his personal quote of the day. A young woman revealed that she’d found guidance for her struggles and dreams following the death of her father in my words.

My favorite comment was from a self-professed “macho guy” who recalled his experience while reading the essay on the airplane: “I'm sure the lady sitting next to me was wondering, "What is this 6' 4" guy doing with tears running down his cheeks?””

This sort of thing has only happened to me once before, with an essay I wrote about the Vietnam War. In neither instance did I premeditate a surefire ticket to readers’ hearts. In a way, I suppose, I always hope to do so, but what I mean is that with these two pieces there was no particular point at which I thought, oh yeah, this will get them.

I am trying to allow this experience to remind me that writing is a mysterious beast, and that you never know what will make the macho guy cry or give the young woman insight into her own soul. The fact that you don’t know is precisely why you should simply keep putting words out there; honestly, experimentally, fearlessly.

(PS The essay in question can be read on my website under Chef's Special)

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