2017-10-12 / Viewpoint

The VIEW from here

Everything is copy


Alex Petrie Staff Writer Alex Petrie Staff Writer It’s a fine line, a balancing act, turning my experiences into stories without divulging too much about myself or my shortcomings.

Without forsaking the privacy of my friends or loved ones. Addressing issues that are important to me in a way that doesn’t alienate readers. And all without using any swears.

But I do my best to remain frank while translating my life into words, portioning it out, approximately 500 words at a time. And in the last few years, I’ve doled it all out. The good, the bad and the ugly. I’ve talked about my family and their qualities, both flattering and otherwise. I’ve talked about my inadequacies and late bloomings, about the awful things that have happened to me, as well as the delights.

However, no matter how much I’ve shared, I’ve held back just as much. Part of it is because of my platform and its constraints. Part of it is due to the fear of causing a stink among those that may disagree with my stance on certain matters. But most of it is a fear of judgment.

However, I’m feeling a substantial tug to maybe share a little more after watching a documentary about one of my favorite writers, Nora Ephron.

The documentary, entitled Everything is Copy, details Ephron’s career at length. She talks about the advice she received from her mother: “When you slip on a banana peel, people laugh at you. But when you tell people you slipped on a banana peel, it’s your laugh, so you become a hero rather than the victim of the joke.” In other words, as the title implies, everything is copy. Everything is material. You use your experiences to your advantage. You make them your own. You turn them into art. Or at least entertainment.

It was a revelation. And it immediately made me think about the columns I’ve written that have resonated most with readers, the ones that have elicited heartfelt feedback from people around town. It’s no coincidence that those are always the columns where I lay myself bare, or find a way to appropriate my humiliation, blending honesty with humor. As long as I remain earnest and truthful, I’m able to gain the trust and empathy of readers. It’s always the columns where I share the most, remain exposed and sincere, take a gluttonous bite into the heart of the matter.

It brought to mind a recent column, wherein I wrote about a friend’s accident that had a profound effect on the lives of a number of people. I debated whether I should write about it or how it would be received, particularly by the subject. I did get some good feedback and some kind words, but none of it compared to the feeling I got when I heard from him, from his parents and his sisters. Their words meant more to me than any reaction I’ve ever gotten in regards to my writing.

It made me realize the true importance of being earnest, of being guileless and unaffected. Made me realize how fortunate I am to have this platform, to have you guys as an audience, to be able to entertain you and share the good, bad and the ugly.

So, Lapeer, thank you very much for reading.

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