How do you write your columns? Is that what you call them? I want to do it too. My mom was a writer before she died, and I think I want to be a columnist like you someday.
I don’t know if this is called a “column” or what. What I can tell you is that after being rejected by a handful of newspaper editors there wasn’t really any option for me but to publish stuff online. So call it whatever you want.
Some people call them blogs. But blogs weren’t around when I was young. Besides, I always had a thing for ink columns printed on gray newsprint.
I love the feel of a newspaper in my hands. And the way everyone gives the paper one hard shake to get it into position before they read it.
I used to deliver newspapers when I was younger. My mother and I would toss several million papers each morning before the sun came up. The greatest part came after we finished. I would read my favorite columnists.
What I love about columnists is that they are, by in large, pretty crummy writers. Seriously. Most columnists wouldn’t hold a candle to a Great American Author, English-wise. This is why I love them so much.
Because a Great American Author writes so beautifully that he makes the rest of us petty writers seem like Labradoodles.
It’s sort of like dating a girl who is better looking than you. She knows that she ranks WAY above you, so she sits in your passenger seat giving you the stink eye, saying, “You brought me to Waffle House for a date?”
And even though you remind her that Waffle House has award winning chili, she is disgusted.
So now you know why I call them columns, and you also know why Vanessa Spurton never returned my calls. But anyway, I’ll tell you how I approach writing. It’s pretty straightforward.
First I wake up. Then I make coffee and let my dogs outside to pee. But they never pee when I let them out, they just beg to come back inside. So I let them inside. Then outside again. Then in. Then out. We do this for hours.
After that, I tap a few thoughts onto a keyboard. Once I get about five hundred words, I reread it, then I use my index finger to firmly press the “delete” button because what I’ve just written sucks major toilet water.
Then I let my dogs outside again.
I pour coffee Number Two. I tap out more words. I’m keeping it loose. I’m trying to be conversational, no usage of big words like “loquaciousness” or “feckless.” I’m just letting it happen.
I take a short pause, reread my work, then announce with a big smile, “This is the worst feckless, loquacious piece of horse hockey I have ever read in my entire life.” I delete it.
Then I let the dogs outside.
Coffee Number Three. I have given up writing forever. I’ve decided to move to a South American island and take up interpretive dance as a creative outlet. Also, I watch daytime soap operas, which have all been using the same basic plots since 1958.
That’s when it hits me. I realize that I am not a true columnist, I never WAS a columnist, and I will NEVER BE one.
Next comes the salt in the wound. I get an email from a man who is irate because of something I wrote, a joke I made about Baptists.
These kinds of emails always come from Baptists. Just once, I wish I could get an irate email from an Episcopalian.
The angry message hurts my pride, but I suck it up, I stride manfully to my laptop keyboard, I take a deep breath, and…
I think I’ll go to Waffle House.
There, I order a chili. I read a newspaper to get my juices flowing. But newspapers have really gone downhill. There aren’t many columnists anymore who don’t harp about politics. The whole world has gone crazy for politics. If political headlines were made of candy, all the dentists could retire early.
After lunch, I have a lot of writing to do. So I make a firm decision to go home, sit at my keyboard, grab the literary bull by the horns, and take a four-hour nap.
When I awake, I am groggy. I have wasted the day and realize I have nothing to write about. I am dry. Empty.
Furthermore, who the hell cares what I have to say about the vast experience of life? For crying out loud, I DON’T EVEN CARE WHAT I HAVE TO SAY ABOUT THE VAST EXPERIENCE OF LIFE. So why should anyone else? I’m not a real columnist. I’m not a real anything. I’m godawful. Bury me.
Then I open my mailbox. I’ve received a letter from a kid in Albuquerque, whose late mother was a writer. This kid is kind enough to refer to me as a columnist. Me. Of all people.
I dab my eyes and think to myself, “If only that kid knew how much his letter meant to an ordinary fool like me.”
In other words: I sincerely hope you have Waffle Houses in Albuquerque. If you do, try the chili.
And the rest will take care of itself.