Six important words

How The Spectrum helped me evolve

Writing for The Spectrum was a privilege and an honor, and I feel very unworthy of the support of its staff and readers. In my family’s home, we have a plaque on the wall. On it is written “the six most important words” following down chronologically to the “least most important word.” Writing for The Spectrum made me fully realize how each of those important statements mattered.

The six most important words are, “I admit I made a mistake.” In my three years of writing for The Spectrum, I have made plenty of mistakes. I have written many articles I am not proud of. I covered subjects I believed were important at the time, but my clumsy and bull-headed handling doomed them to gross personal bias. I learned through writing that I need to respect those I disagree with, not only despite our differences but because of our differences. I learned the most in maturing as a writer from people I fundamentally disagreed with.

If my work made anyone feel worse about themselves, I consider it a failure. My initial goal was to inspire, not to exclude.

The five most important words are, “You did a good job.” Us writers aren’t mind-readers, and the only reason we know we did a good job is if someone tells us we did. We starve for positive recognition, which makes it more satisfying when we receive it. I received many positive remarks and encouragement from my captive audience, my editors. I almost resigned much earlier because of my evolving shyness and dissatisfaction with my work, but the kind words and constructive criticism of my editors kept me going. I hope they know they did a good job too.

The four most important words are, “What is your opinion?” Oh boy does that one strike home. I enjoyed writing Variety articles because I felt the more information I gave in an Opinion article, the more vulnerable I was making myself. I have a recurring nightmare that if I ever go to court for any crime, my more unprofessional articles will be the first thing I’ll be confronted with. In an opinion article, you need to be honest not only about yourself but with yourself. The questions your editors ask once are ones you ask yourself a hundred times after. One of mine is, ‘What did you consume?’ Now that is a question that resounds with me daily, am I filling my head with important content that will better me as a person, or the opposite? Self-evaluation is not easy for me, but it has helped me make resolutions to become physically and emotionally healthier, and it began with being encouraged to voice my opinion.

I took for granted how much my opinions mattered to others. Photo Credit | Patrick Ullmer

The three most important words are “If you please.” Part of the responsibilities of a writer is knowing what to not express and project, One of my articles was refused publication because of its extremely pessimistic expressions and lack of solic facts to the subject I covered. At least twice, I personally asked the editor to scrap my submitted article because I found it to be possibly offensive to readers. As I said earlier, I didn’t seek to hurt people with my words, and thankfully The Spectrum staff realized that. If my work made anyone feel worse about themselves, I consider it a failure. My initial goal was to inspire, not to exclude.

The two most important words are “Thank you.” Thank you, everyone, for reading this. I have recognized through my ongoing writings that I was not the masterpiece-maestro I wanted to think I was when I started. My earlier work in Variety is self-evident that it was written by what I now consider to be a brash, obnoxious young man with a way with words. It was fun, and I have learned much since then, and I certainly hope it shows.

The first most important word is “We.” I could never have accomplished this alone, and often I took my supporters for granted. I was given a free hand to cover whatever topics most interested me, and I did so. I now come away with a desire to keep my preferences in media and life to myself, as the more private it is, the more important I feel it is. Everyone has their daily routines, hobbies, vices, virtues and so forth, but they do not need to be broadcast. Privacy matters to me now more than it did then because I know anyone can do what I do, but instead keep what they prefer to themselves. I would like to do more of that from now on, because not everyone needs to know everything about me. We all have our likes and dislikes, let’s leave it at that.

The least important word is “I.” The biggest difference between an Opinion article and a Variety article is the word usage of “I.” In writing for Opinion, I have slowly realized there are more important things in my life than me. I was once proud of my more expressive work, but now I’m humbled by all of it. If any times were tough or challenging, that was mainly because of me. I am indeed the least important part of my Spectrum writing, and I leave hoping I have inspired others in a positive way or at least entertained them.

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