Writer’s Diary: Phone Nerves and Stealing John Clegg’s Time

Photo from the story at Competition Plus. Click here to read it.

It really doesn’t matter how many stories I’ve written or what kind of positive feedback I get – I am always ridiculously nervous to pick up the phone and call someone for an interview. No matter how much experience I have in this business, I still wonder, “Am I doing this right?” The honest answer is: sometimes yes, sometimes no.

I think the most important thing about telling stories is that you get it right. There is a time and a place for stretching truths (it’s called fiction), but those aren’t the kind of stories I aim to write. I write real-life stories about super-cool humans doing crazy-awesome things like it’s no big deal. I write about what propels these extraordinary individuals, how they maintain an effective mindset in such an intense world, what more they want to accomplish. I write about history and families and milestone moments. It is monumentally important to me that I get it right. That’s kind of a lot of pressure, and that is where the nerves are rooted.

That being said, I am well-studied by the time I pick up the phone. I still have to take several deep breaths before I send the call through, but I know who I’m calling, and I know what I intend to ask.

And I never lose sight of the fact that having a direct line to these folks is a privilege. Their time is valuable, and what they give to me is a gift. Speaking with John Clegg just before Christmas was an absolute gift. I could tell he was busy when I called, and not even fully knowing who I was or what I was planning to write, he stopped and chatted with me for a good long while.

I will admit that my heart resides in Pro Stock and Sportsman racing, but Comp – the category that bridges the gap between the two – has not been something I’ve actively written about. It should totally be my jam, but I’ve had this mental block about really diving in because, to be honest, Comp is complicated. And I want to get it right.

Comp racer and longtime Pontiac campaigner Clegg made it easy. He told me fun stories about how he first became interested in drag racing and the lengths he went to in order to get to the track as a kid (ummmm… is that legal, sir?). He spoke frankly about owning and operating a dragstrip (it’s not all fun and games, kids), and we talked about a very cool plan for this year’s U.S. Nationals, on the 50th anniversary of winning his very first class trophy.

Clegg is notoriously fast, well-respected, and just in general a peach of a fella. My thanks to this fine gentleman for being so kind and willing to stop and chat in the middle of his workday. Calls like that make picking up the phone the next time a little bit easier.


Thanks for reading! See you out there.

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