An open letter to Benjamin Judge (the man who never even knew he inspired me.)

Dear Ben,

This is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done – and I’ve eaten sushi in Tijuana. 

It’s ultimately going to go one of two ways…

You’ll either be so metaphorically moved by my flattery you’ll metaphorically beam from ear to ear, or you’ll be so literally terrified you literally issue a restraining order. That last one is the one I’m afraid of, but I’m prepared to take the chance. 

You don’t know me, and I guess if we’re being picky I don’t really know you either. But I feel like I you know you. You’ve actually been influencing me for a few years now – and you’ve never even known it. Weird, right? 

So shall I tell you how we first met? 

It’s actually quite a boring story. (If you were telling it you’d make it sound funny, but I’m not as talented as you are.) It started with me developing quite an unashamed crush on one of my university teachers. (It’s been 6 years since he made me hate Shakespeare, but if he found out about it I’d still, like, totally just die – so please don’t mention it to him, okay?) That crush led me to read his blog, quite unforgivably. In reading his blog I found you – and I soon transferred my obsession for his written word to yours. 

I believe you first hooked me in when you wrote about running around the house singing, ‘I don’t have cancer’ to the tune of ‘I am evil Homer’. Then you kept me captivated with the story of that crazy cookie monster painting you got because it made you smile, and then solidified a place on my favourites list with your many, many post cards to D.Cam. (Please don’t be scared that I remembered all of that. I mean it only as a compliment.)

I’m sure you’ve been told thousands of times that you’re an amazing writer, but I can’t let that be the reason I don’t say it for myself. 

You are an amazing writer. Honestly, your talent is unprecedented. If I only ever get to be half as talented as you are, I’ll count myself as one of the extremely lucky ones. 

I love what you do, which is why I’ve been silently hanging on every word you’ve written all of these years. You’ve kept me well and truly captivated and I’m usually pretty tough to captivate. I’m ashamed to admit it, but I’m that person who gives up reading after the first three sentences if it’s not completely incredible. 

But you are incredible. And you inspired me. A lot. 

So much that I actually feel scared for you to read my writing now. My words aren’t worthy. 

But everyday l try to make them better by following the advice you wrote down, a number of years ago now. You may not even remember writing it, but it was one of the most important things I’ve ever read. You said that when you write you make sure that every single word on the page is the correct one. 

It stuck with me.

As did some of your other techniques. For example, I haven’t really eaten sushi in Tijuana. I was trying to replicate the narrative trick you pulled when you didn’t drink coffee in the most expensive cafe in Manchester. I did it so you could see how much your writing matters to me. 

(By the way, that particular piece you wrote was probably, and seriously, one of the most outstanding things I have ever read. It honestly stunned me. I have it saved on my iPhone reading list, and I re-read it often.)

I’m excited to continue following you, although I hope to be slightly more vocal from now on. Looking back now I never should have hesitated to tell you how much I admire what you do. You deserve to be told how much of a wonderful impact your words have on me. It feels good to finally have that out in the open. 

Please carry on doing what you’re doing. It means a lot to me. A lot more than you ever even knew

Love from,

Claire