Author: Cornish, Rick

Why the I?

Today's column from Rick Cornish (
Saturday May 19, 2007

When was launched in October of 2001 the Welcome column contained no “I’s”. In fact, it didn’t contain much, and the only thing that changed from day to day in the Welcome was the date. The message read simply….

Welcome to the web site of the California Bluegrass Association. The CBA hopes that you come to its site often to check out bluegrass events, interact with the Northern California bluegrass community on the Message Board and learn more about the Association.

Maybe a week into the new web site, there was actually some information that needed passing along to the visitors, and so instead of the generic welcome message, I wrote something about the upcoming fall campout. This generated a couple questions on the Message Board and so the next day the Welcome answered the queries and gave a little more information about the event. And that, in turn, generated more Message Board activity. We began to see a little more traffic on the site following days that the Welcome message changed.

This was, by the way, not a shocking revelation; in 2001 I’d already been in the Internet business for about four years and I new that the more dynamic a web site was, (that is, the fresher the content), the more people would visit it. So we made a decision: to get our members to keep coming back to to learn about our events, to renew their memberships, to generally become more knowledgeable of and involved in our Association, we would initiate a daily Welcome column….a message that would change every single day. How hard could that be? Each morning I’d write a little third person narrative about some aspect or other of the CBA, people would get used to visiting each day to see what was new on the site and we’d gradually grow a readership. The ‘third person’ voice in the narrative was crucial—no way could I speak in the first person, that is, use the “I” word. I’d come off as egocentric, out to promote my own agenda and, besides, who cared what I thought.

This worked just fine for the first month, but by December I was finding it a little challenging to scratch out a new ‘this is the CBA’ theme everyday. I remember New Years Day, 2002, Lynn and I were walking to our neighbor’s house for a pot luck/picking party and I shared my dilemma.

“I’m running out of stuff to write,” I told her.

“Then just stop.”

“I can’t. I’m convinced that if I do, traffic will slow down.”

“Then don’t stop.”

“But it’s hard, coming up with something different everyday.”

My wife looked over at me and smiled. The January air was frigid and as she spoke steam came from her mouth.

“You? At a loss for words? Come on.”

“But you don’t understand. I….me….Rick….no, I’ve always got plenty to say. But that’s not me in the Welcome column. That’s a body-less, nameless writer. It’s not me. It can’t be me. I have to write in the third person.”

She stopped on the trail and turned to face me.

“Why,” Lynn asked, “why can’t it be you who’s writing? I don’t get it.”

“Because if I wrote in the first person, if I wrote my own thoughts and expressed my opinions, you know, spoke as Rick Cornish, people would think I had a gigantic ego. Like I was completely full of myself”

“You honestly think they don’t already know that?” she said without a trace of a smile.

“Well,” I stammered, “not everybody.”

“Okay, well you’re deluding yourself and it’s cold out here and I’m hungry and you’ll do what you want to do anyway. So let’s go.”

On the morning of January 2, 2002, I wrote a Welcome column and signed it Rick Cornish. It was definitely about bluegrass and the CBA, but I used the personal pronoun “I” seven times. I remember it was seven because later that morning my wife, who’s always been completely, unqualifiedly supportive of me, counted the number of “I’s” and said . “Atta boy, I knew you had it in you. Now EVERYBODY knows you got an ego the size the Goodyear Blimp.”

Here’s what I realized on the trail to our neighbors that chilly January afternoon. No…..actually, here’s what I remembered from a creative writing teacher back at Chabot Junior College in 1967—you’ve got to write about what you know. Sure, I know bluegrass. And I know the CBA, and that got me through October and November and December. But what I really know is me, and Lynn, and Whiskey Creek and the dogs and the pasture animals and the stupid bird.

So, to the fellow who counted the number of “I’s” I used in a recent Welcome message, I can only say you might want to come back on a Monday or Wednesday.
Posted:  5/19/2007

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