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Perspective: Your Story To Write

Kelly Sikkema

Let me share a fantasy.

I'm standing in front of a group of people — in a classroom — who expect me to teach them how to write.

I'm nervous. Because writing feels more like a "why" thing than a "how" thing. But, here's how I would start:

I'd give each student a small index card. No lines, just blank, white space. I'd ask them to write their full name on the card. Not printed. I want to see their signature.

They'd quickly scratch out their names. Then I'd say this:

"Your signatures are distinctive. No two are alike. They are part of who you are.

"Your signature could stand as a literary fingerprint. What you have on that card is your mark. Call it a brand. You will burn it into stuff that belongs to you.

"Your signature stands for you even if you are not in the room.

"Every time you scribble out your name you are telling your story. And it is your story to write. Many others will be part of your story, but you have to write it.

"So, here's my point. This is important. Look again now at what you wrote on that card. Look hard and know this: No one ever — ever — can tell you that you have not written anything important. Or worthwhile. Or significant. Because you're looking at it now.

"What's ahead is what you started with on that card. Blank white space. Lots of it. And it belongs to you."

So, I shared this fantasy with you today because everyone has stories to tell.

So... find yourself a blank index card. You know what to do next. Tell the world who you are.

I’m Lonny Cain, and that’s my Perspective.

Lonny Cain, a graduate of the journalism program at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, has been in the newspaper business for more than 45 years. He and his wife have three sons. They live in Ottawa, where he was managing editor of the local daily newspaper for 30 years, retiring in December 2014. He continues to be a columnist for The Times in Ottawa and is pursuing other writing projects.