We are in the RV, curbside at a suburb in Chicago. Jan Buckner Walker is a former lawyer who authors crossword puzzles.
Interview: How To Become a Crossword Puzzle Writer
My name is Jan Buckner Walker. At one point I was a lawyer, but I now create crossword puzzles for my company, Kids Across, Parents Down. The puzzles feature across clues for kids, and down clues for parents. We’re nationally syndicated in newspapers and are in restaurants like Crack N’ Barrel. We’re looking to go international right now. There’s so many options.
Did people think you were crazy for going and doing crossword puzzles after being a lawyer?
I spend about 75% of my time doing crossword puzzles.
Failure is a hot stove. Once you touch it, you never forget how it felt or where it is. So you always walk around it. And you really just want to avoid that experience once more. True entrepreneurs see ‘getting burned’ as the true, early level course. It’s Entrepreneurship 101- ‘Getting burned.’
For me, this is not my first entrepreneurial pursuit. I had a previous pursuit that involved wireless advertising. I would build mini games for your cell phone. If you won the game, you’d win a low value item from a McDonald’s. It was a great idea. And, it now would be huge. Unfortunately, I came up with it before 9/11. At that time, the only thing that people did with a cell phone was make phone calls.
What would you say to the 22 year old Jan?
I would say that ‘no’ is not a possibility. No is a present tense, momentary answer. No is what a moment might give you. ‘Well, no, not now.’ I hear the word ‘no’ everyday.
‘No I don’t have space. No this is not the right time. No I don’t have a budget. No, no, no.’ But no is a moment. No is not an answer. For me, that’s how it works. When someone tells me no it doesn’t even make me sad. Because it’s just a moment. It’s watching a rerun of a movie that you know how it ends. Do really get sad when the protagonist is down out and out for a minute? No, because you know he’s Indiana Jones and he’s going to win.
It’s been a blessing to be the captain of something that is on a successful journey. It doesn’t mean it’s a straight line between A and B. It’s up and down and up and down. Kind of like a crossword puzzle. You might not know the answer to 12 down, but you know the answer to 6 across and 8 across. By working on the across answers, eventually you get to answer 12 down with the insight you’ve gathered in solving the puzzle.