Saturday, February 16, 2008

How to Write a Column

I write newspaper and magazine columns, so today I thought I'd give you a simple overview of the process of writing a column, just in case you aspire to be a part of this exciting and unintentionally nonprofit occupation.

First you sit at your beloved keyboard. It is, of course, best if this keyboard is actually attached to something – a computer, a typewriter, a calculator – although that last one tends to make the column a little confusing.

You stare at the blank screen. At this point, your pets will wander into the room to see what the stiff-looking person is doing. Within minutes, you have an animal shedding on your lap, insisting on being fed, or trying to mark you as his territory.

Once you have fed them and employed a lint brush, you are back at that nice keyboard. Now you’ve actually realized that you need a subject. You begin to think.

Thinking is tiring business, so you head to the kitchen for a cup of coffee. On the way back to your keyboard you realize that the mail has arrived. The next twenty minutes is spent looking through the sales flyers and your bills. Your bills encourage you to ignore the sales flyers. You leave all of these to review later.

Look at that. Your coffee must have evaporated, because every bit of it is gone. You head back to the kitchen.

At this point you realize that your kitchen is a mess, so you take the time to hide the dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Now it looks so nice it invites you to make a small snack for yourself. After this three course meal you’re back on your way to write.

Uh oh. A dust bunny is on the loose. You consider vacuuming. Laughing very hard, you continue back to that waiting keyboard.

Your pets are back. One is doing figure eights around your chair. The other is doing his Snoopy imitation, pretending to be a vulture on the back of your chair. After that drop-kicking exercise that always encourages them to find other entertainment, you are back at that darn keyboard.

Outside, you hear kids drag racing down your street. You walk out and stand in your yard, glaring at them as they pass. This does no good whatsoever, but you feel vindicated and turn to go back into the house.

Aha! There is a patch of weeds threatening to choke your rose bush. You feverishly tear the weeds up, talk to the plant, which seems to wilt a little from the garlic in your earlier snack, and finally return to the house.

As you wash your hands, you notice in the mirror that you look terrible. The next half hour is spent trying to “fix your face”, a term which means adding spackle to hide the signs of wisdom.

And now you are back at that damn keyboard.

You’re no closer to coming up with a subject than before. You think for three minutes, then realize that it’s starting to get dark. Time for supper.

After supper, you’re back at that $%^&*# keyboard, ready to write your column. Seeing that it’s now primetime on television, you realize it’s much too late to start writing a column today. Tomorrow you’ll have to get an earlier start.

And that’s all there is to it.


Shauna Roberts said...

Accurate except you left out the part where, just as a wonderful idea starts to sprout, the phone rings and by the time you've gotten rid of the telephone solicitor or friend who doesn't believe working at home is a job or dentist office receptionist calling to remind you of your tooth cleaning tomorrow, you've clean forgotten what your idea was.

Unknown said...