Saturday, November 5, 2011

An Influence Silenced

“A writer’s job is to tell the truth”

I was sitting here on a Saturday morning doing the enjoyable slow wake-up that a weekend morning affords. No job to rush to, no clock telling me where I am supposed to be or when. Cuppa coffee, check emails, get updated on the internet news.
And there it was –

Andy Rooney passed away.

92 years old, and only a month after his last installment of life inside his brain at his usual place at the end of the weekly 60 Minutes program. At that goodbye segment, Andy said he wanted to work until he died. Well darned if he didn’t. A career that began as a World War II correspondent ended over 60 years later, and then only a month after that, gone.

Awesome. What a life.

When I started my little free-lance writing gig for my personal pleasure that has manifested itself in this blog and a published book, I tried to tap into my own ‘style’ of writing. While I had/have numerous thoughts rattling around my brain, I had to find a style that expressed such thoughts in an entertaining, cogent style. Like many undertaking such a task, I fell back on my influences, and I developed one that was an amalgam of them – Hunter S. Thompson’s edgy first-person method of expression, Terry Pluto’s conversational style that feels more like a chat than a read…and Andy Rooney’s method of saying what everyone thought.

That quote at the top of this story is Andy’s. And while many would argue – rightfully so – that Andy did not always tell the truth but instead told his opinion, understand - he told the truth as he believed it. And he did it in such a way that, even if you disagreed with it, you still had to either ponder it or laugh at it, but never ignore it. He had a folksy style of looking straight into the camera and talking to you, and then would deliver his opinion in a style that would sometimes make people gasp. But it commanded your attention. It made you think. And it forced people decide, is Andy’s truth my truth?

Reporters state facts. My ex-wife was a reporter and she once told me her job was to state the who, what, where, when of a story then end it. But a writer? Writers seek truth. And truth is a moving target that is viewed through whatever prism the writer or the reader sees through. Case in point – last month I wrote a story titled ‘Common Sense’ where I made four declarative statements. These statements were the truth…as I believe it to be. Statements like, if abortions were illegal there would still be abortions, or less guns would mean less gun deaths.

These are statements that can – and are – debated, but the point here is they reflect what I learned from Andy. State your truth, explain it, then let people decide where they fall and let them decide if it is their truth as well. This is why I sometimes hear from people that I am way off-base in my thinking. I’m not. I’m just stating my truth.

And so did Andy. Perhaps better than anyone in our time.

And he did it in such an entertaining way that – ponder this for a moment – he was given three minutes at the end of the highest-rated news show on television for over three decades. His was the last word after everyone else had theirs. There were the stories for the week, and then there was Andy, and then the ticking clock of the 60 Minutes sign-off. That stalwart show that has stood the test of time ended it every week with this disheveled curmudgeon character telling us ‘Didja ever wonder…?’

For a writer seeking the truth, it does not get any better than that.

Goodbye Andy. And thank you.

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