Ford column: It’s all about me

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 5, 2008

You never know what will set readers off.
A recent column, a fairly innocuous one I thought, about my son becoming a teenager and my own journey through those tumultuous years prompted one reader to call me a self-absorbed “globe head” who needs an ego check.
I loved it.
First, this comment meant someone was reading my stuff. Second, it meant my stuff fired someone up enough to actually go online and leave an opinion.And finally, it meant I have more fans than detractors, at least of that particular column. That one criticism sparked five compliments, a pretty good ratio.
The comment made me go back and review my work from the past six years. While my LifeStyle columns are inherently about the style of life, namely my life, I certainly don’t want to write exclusively about my crazy children, wacky sisters, unusual parents and our various adventures and tribulations.
Although I could. Believe me.
Guess what I found?
Recycling, neighborhood stop signs, field day at Koontz Elementary. Chained dogs, unusual Rowan County names, Baggus.
Weight loss, an Internet hoax, Southern dialect.
Boys (not mine) eating worms, glue and boogers.
Funny thing is, after I wrote each of these pieces, someone without fail said, “I enjoyed your column. But I really like to read about your family. When are you going to write about your kids/sisters/parents again?”
I connect with readers รณ ah, make that some readers, by writing about life experiences. And whose life do I know better than my own?
A personal story can make a universal point.
My sleepless nights. My inability to put away Christmas decorations before Valentine’s Day. My nervousness about attending a high school reunion.
My pride as we loaded the van with donated coats and dog food. My bewilderment, and occasional success, at parenting. My sorrow when my dog died.
People can relate.
We’ve all felt love, fear and pride. By writing about the events in my life that stir these emotions and the lessons I learn from them, readers can see themselves in my stories and recall similar experiences of their own.
Being self-aware is sometimes mistaken for being self-absorbed.
Critics of columnists might confuse the different modes of journalism. A column is first-person opinion, often accompanied by a photograph of the writer. Columns appear in all sections of the paper: news, lifestyles, sports and op-ed.
An article, however, is a third-person account of an event or subject that should not include the writer’s opinion.Many people don’t read article bylines, probably because they lack a picture of the writer. So they may not realize that columnists, at least locally, write about much more than just driving a beat-up Subaru, doing yoga in 104-degree heat and loathing the time change.
I’ve had someone praise my column and then deride a front-page article, not realizing that I wrote both.
People who don’t like my lifestyles columns should try my articles on the N.C. Research Campus. My kids don’t appear once.
Emily Ford covers the N.C. Research Campus.