I hope you have a Catherine Clinch in your life.
To be clear, it doesn’t have to be the Catherine Clinch –that would help if it was, and in a perfect world that would be best – but someone close would be fine. A Catherine Clinch-like person would work.
I refer to Catherine Clinch as Mother Earth. She’s that kind of person, not just nurturing, but someone who wasn’t to be nurturing to all. A force of nature person who tends to give the world a hug. Catherine’s philosophy of life is that if there’s a person you don’t like and you see them on the ground, don’t rejoice in it, offer to help them up. It’s not only the right thing to do, but they will appreciate it more than you can imagine.
To be clear, not everyone who knows Catherine sees her this same way. It’s that whole “force of nature” thing. She has been known to occasionally come across like a hurricane. (“Occasionally” will be defined here as “most of the time.”) But keep in mind, I said “Mother Earth,” not Mother Teresa. Mother Earth brings out flowers and forests and puffy clouds and sheep and meadows. But also earthquakes, volcanoes, and stampeding elephants.
With Catherine Clinch, you get the whole package. But in the end, when the torrential rain clears, the grass is greener, the air sweeter, and the corn grows higher. That’s the bounty of the land.
She’s had a fascinatingly rounded life. She’s written for numerous TV series, served on the Writers Guild Board of Directors, was associate publisher of Creative Screenwriting magazine, taught at Cal State University, served on the California Community Advisory Committee for Special Education, and the National Advisory Committee for PBS Adult Learning, is a consultant and adviser for corporations and tech companies, and…well, you get the idea.
Above all, as should be clear from the above, Catherine loves giving advice. That’s because of the whole nurturing thing. She loves helping people, mentoring people, seeing people succeed beyond their own expectations. She throws out suggestions like blizzards throw out snow. “You know what you should do…” is the way many conversations with Catherine begin. (Actually, that’s not quite accurate. It’s more, “Here’s what you should do…”)
Catherine will come at you and come at you and come at you, relentlessly, like a pit bull. Not releasing her teeth until you acknowledge her suggestions And if you acknowledge it, but don’t like it, that’s okay, she’s got more for you, unending.
I have learned that it is the foolish man who hears this barrage and blocks it out. Not all the suggestions might be right for you – but most is. She does her research and studies markets and trends and is able to assimilate it into a perspective that few others see. The advice is pretty much all good, the trick is knowing what’s right for you and grabbing it.
I’ve had the barrage wash over me. But I’ve paid attention.
Once, I offhandedly mentioned a novel I’d worked on years ago, but put aside. Catherine leaped at it, almost grabbed me by the lapels and said, “You must go back and finish it.” When I balked, it was something from the past, she repeated her onslaught, and then went on and on explaining why. Why I had to finish it, had it. The end result was my first book, A Christmas Carol 2: The Return of Scrooge, which became the #2 Best Seller in Amazon’s Hot List for Humor Parody.
Last year at a movie screening, she and her husband Bernie (a quiet fellow, who has learned the art of listening, and knows he can have a night’s entertainment by saying, “So, Catherine, what do you think?”) were sitting behind me. Before the film began, Catherine started insisting I join LinkedIn. I had no interest, but she wouldn’t let up, “…and here’s why.” And she went on and on, until the house lights dimmed. I knew to listen to Catherine. So, I signed up. I still haven’t figured out the joys of LinkedIn – but by signing up, it got me into a joyous email exchange with Morton Shapiro, the president of Northwestern University, who offered the most gracious invitation to my 92-year-old father and me, and if I never do anything else on LinkIn, Catherine’s advice was worth it.
Several months back, we were having lunch. As is her way, she began asking, “So, what are you doing next?” I mentioned a few book ideas, but “No,” Catherine said, “the one you should write is your idea that’s like The Three Musketeers, but with three women. And here’s the reason why.” Much as I wanted to start my entrée, I knew it was best to listen. And I listen to her creative reasons, her business reasons, her market reasons, her artistic reasons, her personal reasons (my personal), and everything interweaving and overlapping. I was out of breath, and I was only doing the listening. But everything she said made perfect sense. And eventually time passes, and the result is -- well, if you read these pages with only half an eye open (which I suspect many do...), then you know what the result is.
There are more and more examples I could give, but three should suffice. You do yourself a disservice not listening to Catherine Clinch. Too often, I’ve listened, and my world is far better for it. Too often others have listened, and their worlds are better for it. Too often businesses and corporations have listened to her consultation, and they’ve become better off for it.
I am so lucky to not only have a Catherine Clinch in my life, but the Catherine Clinch. But there are a lot of Catherine Clinch type of people in the world, and you have to be open to listening.
I hope you have a Catherine Clinch in your life.
Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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