When my name is on an article, I feel responsible for it.
It’s the same when my name is on a greeting card. I usually write a simple message, and I marvel at some of the more creative and thoughtful notes that other people come up with. But at least my simple messages are my own.
So it caught me off guard a few months ago when I called to make a memorial donation, and wasn’t given a choice about how to sign the card that the organization would send. I raised the subject after I had provided all the information that the woman on the other end of the phone asked for. She told me they had several ways of signing a card, but she didn’t have them in front of her, and that she would pick a nice one.
Um… no. I wanted her to add a line that I thought was nice.
It turned out not to be an issue. I told her what I had in mind, and she said she would include it. Just a line of condolence – something that I knew I was comfortable with, and something that I think the recipient would feel comfortable with too, even if it was likely a bit generic.
Maybe the woman I spoke to would have chosen the same line, but it didn’t feel right to leave the choice to her.
I’m finicky about the words I write. That’s one of the reasons I like writing – it gives me the opportunity to fine-tune what I’m saying, and pick the best words I can before I hit send or submit an article. When you’re talking, on the other hand, you can’t unsay things.
Knowing what to write on a card can be difficult. Maybe some people would have appreciated letting the woman on the phone choose their words.
I like to think the reason I gave her a hard time is one of the things that makes me a writer.