Mike Royko. Irv Kupcinet. Gene Siskel. Jack Brickhouse. And now, Roger Ebert joins the company of these and many other Chicago media icons who have passed on. For Ebert, most will memorialize him of course for his landmark TV program bantering with Siskel. But my first thought upon hearing of his passing was how this remarkable man, due to devastating cancer that had robbed him of the ability to speak, had found a new voice in his use of social media. Most of us couldn’t even fathom the thought of not being able to speak, yet Ebert channeled his energy into a wonderful new electronic format. There, in true journalistic form, he rendered opinions that carried great weight and credibility, just as he had for so many years before. In fact, unless it was my imagination, he even threw more opinions online that weren’t necessarily confined to cinema either.
Think about this – there are countless people who don’t have the focus or energy to do online writing. And they’re perfectly healthy.
Which made me consider something:
If you literally lost your voice and had 5 years to live, what would you “say”?
Sure, you’d probably go through a wave of emotions, experience bouts of depression and question why this happened. But at some point, you might emerge from that, look at the hand you’ve been dealt and say to yourself that you still have time to communicate with the world through what you write.
What would you write about? Where would you say it? If you needed help, who would you turn to?
To make this easier, think about this in terms of your personal passions, not your business. We all have various topics that we love discussing: Food. Fashion. Cars. Sports. Travel. Politics. Technology. Religion. Beer. Anything. These are the other things outside of what we do for a living that also nourish the soul. They don’t go away even when our physical limitations prevent us from speaking them.
Knowing you could be blogging about that particular topic and that your time is limited, you’d reach a point where you’d plunge into it without restraint, without even thinking about it. You’d worry less about what this or that person thinks. You’d attack the day needing that blog. You’d just have to get the words out. There’d be something to say about our world today and something they’d remember you by later in the process. You’d worry less about financial gains from it first and foremost and instead, write for the pure joy of sharing and connecting to others.
But here’s the thing: Do we have to wait until we’re in a state like that to begin?
You and I both know the answer to that. We don’t. We can consider how our own personal brands are sides of us that need nurturing too. There’s a story there worth telling that may or may not have anything to do with what we’re about professionally. And that’s OK. We just have to give some serious consideration to the purpose of our writing and choose the kinds of things that never feel like they’re a chore to say. There’s nothing to hold us back. It’s a remarkable feeling of freedom and self-fulfillment. And by the way, we have the technology to do it easier than ever, so that excuse is out the window too.
So…what’s stopping us?
Desire to share the story is the missing ingredient. You have it or you don’t. Thankfully for the rest of us, Roger Ebert didn’t fade away in these last years of his life. Even more powerful than the message was his inner strength to want to keep sharing, keep telling, keep communicating in other ways. And in the process, he showed many of us, healthy and disadvantaged, that when you have the passion to be heard, your final scenes can be as memorable as any that came before them.