Posts Tagged Columnists
Posted by Keith Spillett in Articles I Probably Shouldn't Have Bothered Writing on January 10, 2011
I’ve been doing this for three months and I decided, since the point of this blog for me is to better understand the mess in between my ears, to do a quick inventory of what I have learned in doing this. Personally, I’m not a big fan of this sort of exercise, but I figure I can indulge my narcissistic tendencies for a few lines. If you are not one for eavesdropping on the self-reflections of a stranger, this is probably the column to skip. In fact, this column is probably of no practical purpose to anyone except me. I’m sure I could think of something to say where it could make it seem like I’m trying to present something of value to the human race and how we’re all the same in some ways and all of that, but it would be highly disingenuous and I haven’t the time or interest to bother. If you can find something worthwhile in the next 900 or so words, more power to you. Away we go:
1. I really enjoy talking to strangers. I get a genuine buzz out of the reply part of the column. I am really excited to see what people think of what I wrote and I like trying to synthesize their ideas with mine. I’m like a 17 year old waiting for the limo to show up on prom night every time I see one of those “Please Moderate Comment” messages in my email inbox. Getting a reply never fails to make my day.
2. I’m a heck of a lot meaner than I thought. For a good number of years, I have functioned under the assumption that I was over the whole “being evil to people” thing. I spent a good portion of my teen years and some of my twenties being downright cruel to others because I liked how the words I was saying sounded. I had a notion that this was gone, but I have had a few moments where I felt bad blood boiling up to the surface again. Sometimes, I get hooked into the rhythm of how things sound and forget that I am talking about another human being. There are moments where I think I would probably throw my grandmother off a speeding train just to see if she’d bounce. I’m not particularly proud of this aspect of my character, but it’s real.
3. Sarcasm reads different than it sounds. I check in with a few of my friends who know me off of here to get a sense of how things came across on the page. What is astonishing is that points I make that I think are obviously sarcastic do not always translate how I think they do. How it sounds in my head is not always how it sounds in other people’s minds.
4. I have no idea what the reader is thinking. This could really be 3B, but I felt like it deserved its own number. There is a weird calculus that must be considered when writing to an audience. You aren’t just thinking of the idea, but also what people will think when they read the idea. Throw in the fact that I don’t really know a lot of the people who are reading my stuff and I get a sense that I am never really going to understand how things are going to be perceived, but I can’t help but to try to figure out what the reader is going to see in my words. The stuff I’ve written that I liked the best is usually way different than the stuff other people have said they liked. It’s a heck of a mystery. What makes it somewhat frustrating for me is that in person, I’m halfway decent at reading a persons response and flowing off of that. In writing, I really am not sure how to do that yet and I’m not sure I’ll ever know or if it is even possible.
5. I am terrified of repeating myself or writing a boring column. There are several things of written that I read and thought, “Wow! This is horrendously bad.” Mercifully, I have not included most of them on the blog (but there have been a few that made it). The worst thing I feel like I could ever do to a reader is bore them. I also worry that I am going forget that I used a line and repeat it in another column. The second one is an odd thing to be worried about, but it wakes me up sometimes in a sweat.
6. Speaking of blinding fear and panic…I am frightened I will run out of ideas. I don’t even want to write about this one because I’m afraid that the god of ideas will decide that to punish me for some earlier, unnamed transgression and the part of my brain that produces creative ideas will seize up like the engine in most any Ford that gets over 125,000 miles. I now have even more respect for people who do this for a living on deadline. I try to imagine doing this and attempting to be interesting for 300 or so days during the year. The thought terrifies me. I think I would sleep about 20 minutes a night and would probably end up in a padded cell scrawling the lyrics from some Beach Boys song in mustard on the wall. Grantland Rice wrote constantly for over 50 years and barely ever wasted anyone’s time. Isaac Asimov managed to knock out over 400 books. I’m only three months in and I’m already doing the hackneyed “talk about myself and what I’ve learned” column.
7. Commas are infuriating. I never know when to use them and they always seem like they are in the wrong place.
8. Spell check will not catch sentences that are just plain awful. It only manages to catch spelling and grammar mistakes. I have snuck some genuine garbage past its watchful eye without a hint of a squiggly green line.
9. I am even more obsessive about this than I thought I’d be. I stayed away from doing this for a while because I have the type of personality where I get very, very into things. I knew this would be an issue going in, but wow. If my wife has to endure another dinner table discussion about potential blog ideas, I’ll shoot me for her.
Enough of this already. I’ll try to get back to something interesting next time. Maybe I can write about what I did on my summer vacation or an exciting tell-all piece about my favorite flavor of ice cream.