Have you ever asked yourself, why do writers write?
If you’re writing for business, it’s to get the job done, to convey information clearly, concisely and accurately. If you’re writing for fun, it’s to express yourself, to explore your thoughts and maybe to play around with language. If you’re writing to create literature, it’s to make a statement, and if you’re lucky, to create something of beauty and enduring value. The wonderful thing about all types of writing — from technical reports to poetry — is that creativity, discipline and beauty can be brought into play.
I have enjoyed writing this column for many reasons, but what has given me greatest pleasure has been connecting with you, a community of readers and writers committed not only to clear, correct use of language, but also to artful expression. For that opportunity, I am profoundly grateful to the Star Tribune, a fine newspaper if there ever was one, and to the skilled editors who have put up with me for the past 23 years, from Randy Salas, Scott Gillespie and Larry Werner to Susan Peterson, Neal Gendler, Susan Wolkerstorfer, John Oslund, Todd Stone and Casey Common.
This isn’t the first time I’ve said goodbye. Over the years, the number of newspapers carrying my column has steadily declined, and over the years I’ve written a number of farewell columns. The Star Tribune first dropped me in 2004 (and then mercifully reinstated me one month later). When the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (delightfully nicknamed “the Startlegram”) dropped me in 2007, I found solace in this thought:
“One of the wonderful things about the written word is that it creates a record — in this case, in the form of a folder for each state in which my column appears, and each folder holds my favorite notes and letters. Those folders are mine. No one can take them from me.”
And now the time has come, once again, to say goodbye. I feel privileged to have heard your questions and stories. I’ll miss our conversation.
Michael writes: “Something I saw that I wanted to share with you. A car wash in Hopkins on Excelsior Blvd. had a sandwich board sign to be used during bad weather. Your column came to mind as soon as I saw the sign: ‘Car Wash Closed Do to Bad Weather.’ ”
John writes: “I discovered your column when it was a regular feature in the Orange County Register newspaper. One of my favorites closed with the toast you gave at your daughter’s wedding. It was a toast to ‘Romance.’ I’m getting old and can’t remember it exactly, but I do recall that it broke down the meaning beautifully. Not as an event or moment to enjoy, but more as a life full of moments, good and not so good. More about what a full life has to offer and enjoy. I’ve lost my clipping of your article from the paper and would very much like to have it back.”
Here’s my toast, John: “We wish you romance, not with the idea of marriage but romance with one another, romance with life and romance with the things that truly matter — friends, family and the people you love.”
But I’m not done yet. I’ll be with you until the end of the year, which means two more every-other-week Monday columns. I’ll try to make them funny.
Stephen Wilbers offers training seminars in effective business writing. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. His website is www.wilbers.com.