A passion for great column writing
Have you ever had one of those weeks where nothing seems to fall into place?
It happens more than I care to admit, at least when it comes to writing a weekly column. It may not seem like a terrible task, but let me tell you it can quickly become daunting at times.
It becomes difficult every so often in the midst of the chaotic world of newspaper publishing to churn out yet another column. I get envious when I think of people at large daily newspapers who only write columns and nothing more. I wonder quietly to myself how difficult can that really be.
Most of my columns fall into the 500-650 word category. That may sound easy enough, but when you’re faced with that week after week, well, it’s not all that it’s cracked up to be.
I treat each and every column like a self-contained gem. I try to provide it with the same time and attention that I’d give my best short story. I’ve won some awards for my columns in the past so I have that dancing around in the back of my mind as well.
“Make it award-winning, Rick,” the inner voice shouts out at me.
And then about at the same time I hear, “Hurry up, you don’t have all day to write your column.”
It also inspires me when I hear comments—both good and bad—about something I’ve written. I feel I have a responsibility to our readers to provide something interesting and exciting where they can learn from or at least be entertained in the moment.
It’s gratifying to hear when readers share with me that the first thing they do when picking up the newspaper is flip to this page and read my column. Now you really know the real truth behind why I feel the pressure to produce.
I am always on the lookout for column topics. Whether I’m attending a community function or just going about my daily life, I’m always thinking about how I can turn that experience into a column. I’m constantly looking for new ideas, new angles, new causes, new connections that spark not only my imagination, but hopefully the reader’s imagination as well.
Some of my criteria include making it short, making it simple, making it sound and making it sing. Oh don’t worry I’m not about to start singing my columns. But seriously, I have to use my voice through my writing and make it a work or art.
One of my golden rules with column writing is to localize and personalize it. I’m always trying to find a local angle. Instead of the national drunk driving issue, I make it the drunk driving issue in our area or hometown.
I also try like everything to convey my passion. I believe columnists must be passionate. Nobody wants to hear a vanilla opinion piece. Columns give me the opportunity to shout it out and sell my point of view. With that, I also try to excite the reader. And that can't be done unless your passion shines through.
Writer’s block—and associated panic—has set in from time to time as I go about getting another Hot Pursuit ready for readers. I can’t recall how many times I’ve stared at a blank computer screen wondering how I’m going to pull it off once again. Pounding out a good column takes skill. I know what you’re thinking: the jury is still out on whether I have that skill or not.
Writing a weekly column is worth the hassle and headaches I sometimes induce upon myself. It allows me creativity and having a unique voice where I can make a unique contribution to the community and public discourse.
If you haven’t been able to tell yet, I’m passionate about writing a great column. My commitment to you is that I will go in hot pursuit of sharing that passion each week.