Thursday, March 08, 2007

We need everybody's “A” game now

In the heat of our life-and-death newspaper war in Anchorage, we were always on the lookout for things we could do for readers that the competition (also a morning newspaper) couldn’t match. After one of our brainstorming sessions, editorial cartoonist Peter Dunlap-Shohl came to me with an idea: in addition to his normal duties, he offered to launch a daily comic strip based on Alaska themes and set in Anchorage.

The strip, “Muskeg Heights,” started that month and ran six days a week for at least the next 10 years – a popular, unique feature in our paper that readers couldn’t get anywhere else.

I appreciated Pete’s hard work and creativity – but I was even more proud of the fighting spirit he displayed. He had talent that could to help us win, and he didn’t hold back.

We need that kind of effort and initiative from all our stars today. We need your best, most opinionated sports columnist to host a controversial blog; we need the editorial writer who used to work in radio to start an opinion podcast; we need that terrific writer who’s been doing long-term projects to step it up and write more often.

Everybody who wants to help ought to ask themselves the same question Pete did: What can I bring to the party? This is the time to do it; there’s no point in holding back.

One of my favorite writers, Annie Dillard, said something related to this:

One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill in from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.

After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: “Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio—draw, and do not waste time.”

—Annie Dillard
The Writing Life

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