Abby's Road: End of the 'Road'

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This is my last column for The Forecaster.

I have been writing in these pages for nearly 4 1/2 years, bringing my tally to over 100 columns. The time has come. Some might say it came a while ago.

Writing here has been a complete experience. It has introduced me to The Forecaster’s wonderful executive editor, Mo Mehlsak, and its dynamo publisher, Karen Wood. They each took me under their wing and made me feel like I knew what I was doing, even though we all knew I didn’t.

Working with them, and wanting to deliver for them every two weeks, taught me to be a better writer, a better thinker, and a better night owl on Sunday nights as I stared into my Monday deadline. I learned the power of a short sentence. I realized not all verbs need a modifier. I discovered editors don’t like bullet points.

When I started this gig, I considered myself a “hopefully funny mom writer.” Over time, I extended beyond parenting stories. I dabbled in current events, politics, sports and my favorite art form – book reviews. I tried to write with a broader emotional range.

And you listened. Or rather, you read. You indulged me. You were generous, and patient, and supportive. Only some of you reminded me that I am a complete, total idiot.

It is a humbling experience to sit by yourself at a computer screen, typing words to launch at an indeterminate audience. You worry about the relevance of your point, and sometimes whether you have any point at all. You wonder if you’re effectively communicating that point. You balance how you intend it to be received against its possible misinterpretations.

When I was young, I took tennis lessons. Even as someone with no athletic ability, I do remember the resounding satisfaction of thwacking the ball over the net from the sweet spot of the racket. Sometimes – maybe not as often as I liked – I had that same feeling with a column.

That was because of you. You let me know that something had resonated with you. You extended yourself – electronically or even in person – to share a nice comment. I am incredibly gratified by your kindness.

And sometimes, I kicked the wrong hornet’s nest, or just simply missed the mark. I heard about that, too. Somewhere, there are two commenters who think I represent the worst of maybe everything. While those comments stung at first, they quickly became a helpful mirror. They forced me to confront my own ego, and to reconsider how thoughtfully I was spewing my opinions.

My audience closer to home deserves recognition, too. I knew a column was particularly good if my father had it out on his desk. My mother always told me about the laminated copies that the nice ladies at the UPS Store kept on the counter. My Spanish-speaking mother-in-law read every one. My sisters and sisters-in-law loyally shared my articles on social media and texted me positive reinforcements whenever someone publicly took issue with my posts.

No one has cheered for me more than my husband and two children. He has encouraged me at every turn, and regularly reminded me that, when all else fails, I could write about how fascinating he is. My kids have always been proud to think their mom writes for The New York Times (which is how I liked to explain it to them).

The biggest lesson I have learned from this experience is that the readers make the writer. Not in that the writer compromises herself to suit them, but in that she is shouting into a black hole until her audience shines in a light.

Now someone else gets to come in from the dark.

I hope my writing has improved since January 2013, but I know that it has not reached a level adequate to express my thanks to all of you. Even the people who think I am a complete, total idiot.

Abby Diaz grew up in Falmouth and lives there again, because that’s how life works. She blogs at whatsleftover.com. Follow Abby on Twitter: @AbbyDiaz1.

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