Writing a weekly column can be fun. It can also be the worst experience a writer can have.
On the good side, your choice of topics is unlimited. On the minus side, even unlimited choices don’t always mean you have an idea of what to write about.
These days, I don’t have an editor standing behind me, tapping their toe and waiting for deadline, but somehow, that doesn’t make it any easier to write a column. Kind of the reverse, in fact.
Writing a column should be the ultimate freedom for a writer. After all, there’s something to write about no matter where you turn. One of my old mentors used to say that if there are 10 people in a room, there are at least 10 stories as well. He was right, it’s just that his advice doesn’t apply that easily to column writing.
Another of my favourite quotes comes from Ernest Hemingway. He agrees writing with total freedom is easy; ” All you do is sit down at a typewriter and open up a vein.”
So I’ve been sitting here in front of my computer evaluating ideas for columns: humorous observations, personal stories, rants about injustice, you name it. Nothing appealed.
Bad days — everyone has them once in a while, but I think I get more than my normal share. Easy to rule that one out, who wants to read a column about my car problems?
Write about the ones closest to you. Some columnists have made entire careers based on the foibles of their friends and families.
I did try that one once and quickly found out that writing about your loved one’s little peculiarities and quirks is not the path to a peaceful relationship — I came home to a new doghouse, which was strange because we didn’t have a dog and lived in an apartment. Turned out she thought I would create a touching literary portrait.
I’m not going down that road again.
So, being a columnist isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. Sometimes you just have to break down and write about writing a column.
But at least you, my readers, got a chance to see how the process works. I just consider myself lucky that I only have to do this once a week, rather than every day, like some columnists. As they say, the hardest part of any job is making it look easy.
Assistant Regional editor, Black Press
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