Fantastic Format Part 1

“Cruel to be kind.” Esteemed songwriter, record producer, and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Nick Lowe sang these words many years ago, “in the right measure.”

That describes some of the most memorable advice I received about my own writing.

When I was in grad school, I asked a professor for his feedback about my dissertation, that little research paper that would determine if I could, you know, achieve my dream career.

I sat down in this professor’s office, filled with excitement and dread, awaiting his reaction.

 “Dave,” he began, “I have a few questions about this.”

“Okay, I’m ready.”

“My first question is ‘Why are you doing this?’”

Well, that’s an easy one. It’s my dissertation! But before I could answer, he continued.  

“My second question is ‘So what?’”

What? “So what?”

I was not ready for that.

No matter. He continued.

“Are you ready for my next question?”


“My next question is ‘Who cares?’”

My jaw might have hit the floor at this point, mouth wide open. I hope it bounced back up to a more socially and professionally appropriate close-mouthed position.

I mustered a reply. “What’s next?”

“That,” said the professor, “is my last question.”

Cruel to be kind.

And a crucial lesson in basic storytelling.

More on this tomorrow. See you then.