On July 4th (which didn't seem like July 4th at all because it was cold and rainy) we flipped on the TV in the evening and came across Charlie Rose re-running excerpts of interviews with the writer, David McCollough.
Years ago I saw a separate interview with Mr. McCollough on C-Span where he described a turning point in his writing career.
The story stuck with me.
He was young (I believe he said he was in his twenties) and was attending a party with a number of well known and well connected socialites.
He struck up a conversation with a woman who seemed very interested in the fact that he was a writer.
When she asked him what he was working on he told her it was a book about the Brooklyn Bridge.
She responded, "The Brooklyn Bridge? Who would want to read a book about the Brooklyn Bridge?"
McCollough was crest fallen.
He said on his drive home that evening all he could hear was her voice in his head:
"Who would want to read a book about the Brooklyn Bridge?"
Then it occurred to him, "I would. I would want to read a book about the Brooklyn Bridge. That's why I'm writing it! So I can read it."
From that moment on, he said he approached his work that way.
As an artist it's incredibly difficult to not think about what people will like when I'm creating.
When I succeed in setting those thoughts aside, a little magic happens and people respond.
In my case I hear the usual voices that don't really belong to anyone important or even any real person. Just the doubtful side of myself. "Who would want to look at that?" And the answer of course is, I would. That's why I did it.
If someone else likes it, that is icing on the cake. OK, maybe that's not the best analogy because I like icing almost more than cake.
But my intention is to be true to myself and hopefully it will ring true and inspire someone else.
Mr. McCollough spoke about how the writing itself was a voyage of discovery:
"I've never undertaken a subject about which I knew a lot. If I was an expert, I wouldn't want to write the book. It's as if I'm going to another place having an adventure for the first time. And when I begin, I feel....boy, am I going to learn a lot.