For inquiring minds ...
a new column about life in the QC, and on life in general through my lens as a woman of a certain age. (See photo: i.e., mix tape.)
Have you ever heard of a “cosmic wink?”
I ask because I wish I could be one of those people who believes that everything happens for a reason. Truly, I do. It surely has to make life easier.
But unfortunately I can’t get myself to believe it. (When certain headlines hit - say, Entire village swept away as island washes into the sea: what’s the comforting “reason” there? I demand an answer. And I won’t accept whichever one you try to give. That’s how my mind works.)
But I do, in certain moods, allow little moments of magical thinking about things happening at maybe the right time.
And on a recent Saturday morning as I was pulling into a parking space at the Freight House Farmers Market, I spotted a guy walking past in a recognizable RAYGUN shirt:
AMERICA NEEDS JOURNALISTS.
I rolled down my window, and, Midwesterner that I am, hollered at him like I knew him. “Hey!’ I said. “Great shirt! I’ve got the same one.”
I expected maybe a smile and a nod, but the guy stopped walking. and responded with a question that threw me for a second: “Are you one?”
“Actually, well, yeah, I am! I mean, I was one. A long time ago.” (Which is actually not true. I’ve been writing for a variety of publications, including my own self-published ones online, for all of my adult life — but have been on a, shall we say, extended hiatus.)
He asked where I’d worked.
“Oh, for a small paper; in Galesburg, Illinois. Doesn’t really exist anymore. I mean, not the way it should.” (And neither does the one I actually started out at, but skipped over when I answered his question: The Macomb Journal.)
And within seconds, this guy (who I soon learned was Douglas Burns, a fourth-generation Iowa journalist) was giving me his contact info and telling me about the Iowa Writers’ Collaborative. Later, after I looked it up and read posts by some of these Iowa columnists, I started thinking that maybe the moment that I noticed this guy’s t-shirt and called out to him about it, was the sign, or the cosmic wink, that I’ve needed to help me get out of my own way. Maybe it was finally time to quit questioning myself about starting a Substack (something I’ve done on and off for years) and just press the damn button and do it. (Which action still took several weeks after this fortuitous encounter to do, btw.)
My inner critic has been reminding me that as soon as I start this project, and especially if I really get into it and get it rolling, some silly technical thing will trip me up. Or the platform itself will become the new “has been” and I should really be spending my time on TikTok.
I know that as I’ve done many times before, I’ll start wondering if I should change the publication’s name (or change MY name, because does, like, my boss need to know my business? Plus: who can spell, let alone pronounce, McGaughey?)
I’ll obsess over not having the right logo (or any logo at all). Or if I should purchase a domain name or not.
Etc etc etc.
And this is to say nothing over the discomfort with asking people to pay to subscribe.
Notice how all of these things are distractions that get in the way of doing any actual writing?
In every moment that I’ve been pondering starting a new (public) writing project, I’ve been reminding myself that in the great internet “archive,” (real or imagined), I’ve got a footprint dating back to 2002, with stops (after what were strong starts) at Diaryland, Blogger, WordPress and Squarespace along the way. Why not add Substack to the pile?
So here I am, for now. And while I’m around, I hope you will be, too, to read my posts about things that pique my interest.
And here’s a bit more about what I might’ve told Douglas Burns if we’d done more than just chatted quickly in a parking lot:
I’m a lifelong Midwesterner who started my career as a reporter for a small-town daily newspaper in 1999. After two years reporting at two different small-Midwestern dailies, I became a columnist, then blogger, and worked as a writer/editor in higher education, including for the University of Iowa.
I grew up on a farm, attending school in a county with one stoplight, and going “away” to college an hour from home. After living all of my life in a region of west-central Illinois once referred to as “Forgottonia,” I moved to the “big city” — scratch that, the “cities", plural! There are more than four of them, despite the name! — and have lived in and around the Quad Cities for the past decade plus.
I often learn about interesting people in the area and think, “If I was still a reporter, I’d want to interview them.”
I often (always) have questions about life in general that I want to dig into.
And I miss the writer part of me that’s been in hiding for the last couple of years. (Not to mention the thoughtful responses from Facebook friends who would read my posts.)
So I’m back to asking questions — about other people that is; I never stop questioning myself, but maybe this time I can do it constructively — and I hope you’ll find something educational, enlightening, or at the very least, entertaining, as I make my way. And here’s how I landed on the name, or at least the one I’ll have for now:
Inquisitive, as defined here: (adjective)
1: given to examination or investigation
2: inclined to ask questions especially : inordinately or improperly curious about the affairs of others.
Boom. That tracks. (Also, perhaps, “improperly curious” about the affairs of the Self.)
Thanks for taking the time, in this overwhelming ADD-causing world, to read what I write.
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