A long time ago when asked in an interview why I want to be a writer I voiced grand and noble ideals about the power of the written word to impact society. “If the words I write,” my answer continued, “can make just one person laugh or cry, think or question, then I will have accomplished something significant.”
Well, I must admit the basic dishonesty of that answer. Yes indeed, I’ve always wanted to stir emotions and challenge minds. But of just one person? Let’s be real here, Will Rogers did not attain national prominence with an audience of one.
I’ve always liked Will Rogers, and coming from a long line of homespun philosophers myself, I’ve felt a kinship with his ability to bring a a down-home, simplistic approach to complex issues. When I first started writing a personal column for a Dallas newspaper I thought if I really tried I could develop that same style and speak out as a modern-day version of that great sage.
Pretty nervy of me, huh?
Now in my more mature years, I can chuckle at the brashness and idealism of that youthful vision. Maybe I had more nerve than good sense back then, and sometimes I wonder if I still have that disparity.
While I never gained national prominence with that column, I did touch a few minds and hearts, and that was a source of great satisfaction. Not too long ago I ran across a letter I received from a reader. The letter started “This is a fan letter,” and was signed. “Your friend, Charlie.” I never got to meet Charlie, even though he continued to send me letters over a period of several years, but his gesture early in my writing career meant a lot.
It still does, these many years later. It was my very first fan letter.