Awhile back I wrote that I’m thinking of shuttering the I Swear Crossword and column at year’s end. Most of this essay will be devoted to viewer responses to that notion. The writers shall remain nameless – you know, to protect them, whether they’re guilty or innocent.
“I noticed your note about shutting down your article and crossword. If you do so, I will miss your crossword very much! Your crosswords are very creative and fun to work. I sure hope you will reconsider! I enjoy your crossword weekly in the Nashville Ledger.”
That was a nice note to receive. As was this one: “I would miss either or both of them if they were no longer there. Change is inevitable, however, and I understand the concept of having a life that is a little too full.”
Another wrote, “Deadlines come and go. Things change. But then, so must the aim. … Artists (usually) have a passion to get their work out there, for it to have a chance to … be seen by a wide audience. … Writers [and puzzle-makers] are like artists. … Chances are, you are completely passionate about reading, writing, and creating ... and although these things can take a toll on your time, those of us who read and interact with you enjoy it as much or more so than you do. So ... is it too late to be something more? Never.”
Yeah, I thought when I read through this one a second time, but why can’t we call them “live” lines, rather than “dead” lines? Hmm, there’s probably a column and a crossword in that idea.
“I think you should/must keep writing,” another reader wrote. “But it needn’t be this, with its deadline, its maximum word count and [the] crossword puzzle connection.” This person knows from writing! And there’s that word again – deadline. “Especially if it is taking your precious time, perhaps from something potentially more rewarding. Whatever you decide, I’ll enjoy reading the column as long as it lasts.”
There’s nothing like a flattering conclusion. Just sayin’. But if shoulds and oughts were – How does the rest of that saying go? Or is it a saying at all? Hmm, there’s probably a column in that.
“As for shuttering your column and crossword, I’ve always admired Bill Watterson [for] ending ‘Calvin and Hobbes’ before he ran out of creative juices. But my, how I have missed that wonderful strip.”
I reminded this writer of Dan Quayle’s infamous remark to Lloyd Bentsen: “I’m no Bill Watterson.” And then I wondered if those stains that have been showing up on my white shirts were due to an undetected leak of my creative juices.
Oh, well. There are a few more weeks in the year. Now that I’ve written about this in the column, the publisher won’t be able to claim I didn’t give two weeks’ notice before quitting. Or will she? Stay tuned. I am the decider. And decide I will.
Vic Fleming is a district court judge in Little Rock, Ark., where he also teaches at the William H. Bowen School of Law. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.