Sunday, September 11, 2011

Columns come from reading, thinking, and, well, more reading

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Every Friday, right after I read my column in the Finger Lakes Times (Geneva, NY), I experience a sense of satisfaction for a few hours, while I glow over the words that my editor Mike Cutillo chose to print.

Then I start to sweat: What the hell will I write about for next week?

It's not that there is a lack of topics, of course. There's an entire world for me to write about. But exactly what? And for me, exactly how?

My aim is not to write a news column. It would be easy to grab a screaming headline, do a 600-word riff on whatever noodle-headed thing the federal, state, or local government is up to and call it a column. Slam bam. Good God,  newspapers and the internet are full of items that push my blood pressure into the stratosphere.

But I want to offer something a little more on the upscale side of column writing, something that I had to chew on for awhile before I put it up. Something that has not only research, substance, but a definite element that is uniquely mine.

Last week, I wrote about how a Taylor Swift concert affected me - and my sense of time passing. It's already drawn some good comments. I could have written about the glitter of her concert or her music. But that doesn't add anything to the conversation.

So this week what's up to write about? Well, the column is still very much in the thinking-researchr-reading stage. My tornado outline is a mess and barely readable with scribblings all over a page, in the margins and now on the backside of my legal notepad, too.

I read a half-dozen pieces about my possible theme by noon, though even that shifts the focus from article to article.

But the idea is forming like a hurricane in the south Atlantic. And with luck it will hit me squarely by Tuesday a.m. when I have to start the first draft to make my deadline.