Radio made my writing more personal

I was an unapologetic amateur when it came to talking into a microphone, and I wound up learning something that I'm just now beginning to put into my writing.

Recently I came to the conclusion that I found my voice as a writer while talking on the radio.

This is, I suppose, something of a paradox not just because they are so very different, but because I feel so differently about them.

Writing is something I take very seriously. Some times, I take it too seriously, which is to say that I’ve got a fair amount of ego and pride wrapped up in not just the words that I type below my name, but how other people feel about them.

Radio has always been … different. It was something that I was trying out. A chance I was willing to take. I took it seriously, and I worked very hard at it. I listened to feedback. I paid for coaching.

I always viewed myself as an amateur in that particular medium, though, and looking back, that afforded me a freedom to express myself in ways that I had never done as a newspaper reporter.

It was on the radio, that I became comfortable talking about myself in public. Not just my perspective and my opinions, but my life, and over the nine years that I worked at 710 ESPN Seattle, I came to realize that allowed those people who listened to know me as a person in the way that people who just read my stories in the newspaper did not.

I talked about getting sober on the radio. I talked about how I’d lost my father when I was 13 years old, and later, after my mom was diagnosed with cancer and went through three years of treatment, I talked about losing her, too.

This willingness to share isn’t always positive. I have shared things on the radio that people close to me wished I had not, and I have regretted that. But I know that taken on the whole, this willingness to share both the facts and the feelings of my life has opened up a whole new lane of writing for me.

Exthibit A: A personal essay that was published earlier this year about the time that I proposed to my girlfriend of six years, who accepted and then told me she needed some time to think about it.

Now, I suppose I should be embarrassed by this to a certain extent. After all, we’d been together an awful long time and she still wasn’t completely sold on me. But in retrospect I’m really proud of how we navigated this particularly obstacle of societal expectation. I’m glad she was honest about the uncertainty she felt, and while I realize how very beta it was of me to wait for an answer, I’m sufficiently evolved to believe it’s a sign of strength when you can sit with the fear and insecurity of how others might view the situation because you know that’s not what is ultimately most important.

I don’t think I would be able to write about this event in this way if I hadn’t spent those years talking for three hours every day on the radio.

It turns out that I’m more of a ham than I thought, and as such, I wound up sharing more of myself, which resulted in an actual bond with a not-insignificant slice of the people who were listening, which made me more willing to share. Not to be super selfish about this, but that process has wound up making me feel better about myself because discussing my warts and my weaknesses takes some of the sting out of them.

This is, I’ve come to understand, what folks in business school call a “positive feedback loop.”

This week, Mitch Levy needed a bullpen start for his podcast, “Mitch Unfiltered.” His regular co-host, Hot Shot Scott, was out, and so I stepped in.

We spent the second segment talking about Grayson Murray, a 30-year-old golfer who died by suicide last week. It’s unbelievably sad that this happened, and Murray had talked about his struggles with both alcohol as well as depression. Those are two things I have a fair amount of first-hand experience with, and I’m not afraid to talk about that or — as it turns out — write about that, either.

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