Guest Post: Thank You For Reading

Guest Post: Thank You For Reading


The man across from me is wanted by Interpol. He has employed Ickx, Scheckter, Hunt. Gian Paolo Dallara hand-built him three separate, customized Countachs, for which he browbeat Pirelli into developing an unheard-of 315-series P7 tire. In an off-handed, self-deprecating manner, he tells me of the time he won a Ferrari 512bb over a bet with Enzo Ferrari on the outcome of the 1976 Monaco Grand Prix, based simply on a handshake.


If you’ve got a nose for a story, this sort of thing is like getting a whiff of pure Sex Panther – it stings the nostrils. And yes, it was a good story, two of them in fact. But how to evaluate their worth? Neither tale, as far as I can make out, rated above a few hundred facebook shares, this in the same time frame that your average list article – of something, anything – will fetch thousands, if not millions of views. Perhaps the story didn’t blow your mind, or melt your face, or failed to include “100% true” in the headline.

Around the same time that I had my just-by-chance interview with Mr. Wolf, one of those viral slogans was making its rounds through the web. “Being a writer,” it said, “is like having homework every night for the rest of your life.” At first, I accepted this at face value, thinking of the massive stack of deadlines coming due (Douglas Adams: “I love deadlines. I like the whooshing sound they make as they fly by.”), and that general feeling of never being finished.

But then I thought a little more about the idea, and realized it was one of the more flawed, and indeed poisonous things I’d heard. The quote was meant to be funny and quippy and playful, but it very accurately illustrated the process of content generation. Homework is something you produce that gets read, graded, and disposed of: that’s content. Writing is something else.

The quote I have on my wall, and one I could probably afford to pay a little more attention to, is more blunt. It says, “Nobody has to read this crap,” and it’s from a lecture a science writer gave his students on the importance of reaching your audience. Nobody has to read this crap. That’s powerful stuff, if you think about it. If you sit down, pour your thoughts, ideas, prose, whatever, out onto the page, nobody has any particular obligation to read it. You are sitting at a table at the largest dinner party in the world, but nobody has to sit next to you and hear your anecdotes or listen to your opinions. If they do, then that’s a gift.

An audience is a gift. Being a writer is nothing like having a Sisyphean amount of homework to do, it’s more like having a recurring series of gigs as a musician. Depending on the reach of whatever your outlet is, you have the chance to catch somebody by the ear (or rather the eyeball) and tell them something. That they’re going to hear what you have to say is their gift to you, the sacrifice of their time to your words. The average internet user is basically drinking from Stanley Spudowski’s firehose, so for them to break away and plunk a few coins in your proverbial open guitar case is not something that should be glossed over.

I don’t have a lot of time these days, what with a kid and an old house and that pile of work that never goes away. However, I’ll happily keep coming back here because I know that while I won’t always agree with Jack, he will never knowingly waste my time. It’s the same reason I will happily read anything with a byline from Bowman, or Smith, or Johnson, or Cantle, or Rong – they don’t phone it in.

I’ve certainly phoned in a time or two or, um, more.

However, I do try at least to remain somewhat wary of generating content when there’s the opportunity to write something. Content is something that goes in a bucket, writing is something that you could pull out of a stack of sheets five years from now and say, “Man, was I wrong about that. Good piece though.”

More important is the idea that the audience is as important as the performer. That whole “never read the comments” thing – I always read the comments. Sometimes (often) they’re frustrating, but it makes you ask the questions: did I not explain myself clearly? Did I gloss over that? Most important of all: how can I do better? Trolls are more persistent than hecklers, but you can’t let them colour the way you view your audience – and you can take fuel from them to hone your pen too.

You can’t really sit down to write anything good if you don’t have a little piece of love in your heart for your reader, and a sense of the opportunity it is to have an listening ear. The feedback I get is anything from universally positive, but I do try to answer each response the same way: thank you for reading. We disagree, but thank you for reading. Your definition is incorrect, but thank you for reading. Here’s the research to support my claim which you dispute, but thank you for reading. I’m sorry, I did get that one wrong, but thank you for reading. And, if you’ve read this far, then thank you for reading.



  1. The second best part of the job is getting to do way cool car guy stuff and having access to interesting people and fabulous cars. I look at my writing as sharing those experiences and it’s always fun to share good things. Think about how a friend (or even a stranger) acts when you give them some not-available-to-the-general-public swag or get them into an event. In general I want to share stuff that I find interesting in an informative and entertaining manner. The other day JB said he was a storyteller. Over the last year or so I’ve consciously tried to focus more on the people rather than the machines. People read stories about people, not machines and I’ve found that if I pay attention to the people, the stories will almost write themselves.

    As for homework every day, school is something that I’m good at. In grade school I learned how to rewrite the World Book Encyclopedia and in junior high I learned how to compose a three paragraph essay. Everything that I write is an expanded three paragraph essay.

  2. Glad to see you are here. I always stop and read anything by JB, otherwise I wouldn’t be here. You were one of the other few that I ALWAYS stopped to see what you had to say.

  3. ah, very thoughtful post

    I don’t know if I could write…you put something out there you think is profound & meaningful, and open yourself up to attack & criticism. maybe it’s not so profound & meaningful?

    kudos to you, Jack, and anyone else that does.

    now, about that Walter Wolf article, got a link? 😉 I would love to read it.

    I was witness to the final moments of the Wolf Dallara WD-1 at Mosport a few years ago, what a fantastic beast of a car

    RIP Dino Crescentini

  4. Very kind, all of you. The links to both Wolf articles (his Countachs and the win at Monaco) are embedded in the lead paragraph as clickable links.

    Here’s the postscript to the story:
    Some time after the article on the Lambos was published, I got an email from Japan. “Hello Sir,” it said, or something to that effect, “We own Wolf Countach 3. We are coming to Vancouver.”
    Subsequently, I met the previous owners of the first car (the red one), and the current owner of the dark blue car (number 3), which is now fully restored. I facilitated a meet between them and Walter, and a few of them turned out to be these guys:
    Gent with the 3rd car has quite a collection, F40, Vector, just bought an Enxo FXX and a MC-12 for street use.

    I sort of disagree with JB’s “Milshake” post, in that the stories about the people associated with the cars keep echoing and re-echoing down the ages to be told again and again. Yeah, the story of the air-cooled 911 has been done to death, but then Baruth can tell you the story of the forever car, and add in both a personal touch and a universal truth.

    It’s not like mining for gold or oil, where there’s only so much out there, and you’re forcing it out of the ground. I like to think of it as opal-mining – you work alone, following a promising seam, and sometimes it dead ends, and sometimes you get lucky and there’s a whole host of stuff to talk about. Also, and this is a nice trick that the BBC forces on you by eliminating the personal pronoun, sometimes you can tell a great story simply by getting out of its way.

    The automobile is, no pun intended, just a vehicle for conveying the human experience. There’s so many ways to come at this stuff, you just have to hope the outlets for it remain.

  5. ah, the first link has a typo in it, I was getting “page not found”. I thought it was an old link

    it should be:

    great read, thanks!

    ps I also stumbled onto this article, most excellent!

    I remember when the yellow “bird” made it’s debut. glad there are more of them out there

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