Wednesday, November 17, 2004

Finley Has Big Lesson to Learn

Originally printed in The Baytown Sun on Nov. 17, 2004.

I discovered something disturbing last week. Jim Finley, one of my fellow Sun columnists, is not well.

I’ll get to that in a minute. First I want to talk about the excursion Jim and I took through the hallowed halls of Travis Elementary last Tuesday.

Our mission was to talk to the fourth-grade classes, which are led by the fearless foursome of Mrs. Pohr, Mrs. Bennett, Mrs. Russell and Mrs. Abonza, about careers in writing. Our visit was the idea of fifth-grader Isaiah Hinojosa, an avid reader of The Baytown Sun. Isaiah is also a prolific (there’s your word for the week, fourth-graders!) writer, having penned stories and poems. I expect to see his name in a byline in the not-too-distant future.

Jim and I were both honored to have this opportunity. Writing has always been one of my favorite things to do and talk about — since I was younger than these fourth-graders. I told the kids, who were exceptional listeners, by the way, about the power of words. You can use words to make pictures, make people laugh, and even to make history.

“If you can write well, you can do anything well,” I said, passing on the words of one of my college professors.

Then it was Jim’s turn. He intrigued the class with stories about his lengthy newspaper career as a sportswriter, managing editor and columnist.

It was during Jim’s talk that he made the startling revelation that led me to doubt the state of his well being.

“I’m 15 columns ahead,” he told the kids.

Excuse me? As I sat with my jaw on the carpet, I thought about all the Tuesday mornings I’ve sat at my computer, bargaining with God about what I would do for him if he would just please give me a column idea. For the next day’s paper.

And the Big Guy has always come through. Just not without some stress on my part. It’s not that I tend to procrastinate. (Although anyone who knew me in college knows I have a history of that. I’ll tell you about it sometime. Maybe tomorrow.)

In fact, I have been as many as two columns ahead before, but that was the pre-childbirth Deana, also known as The Deana That Was. Ever since Aug. 26, finding more than a few seconds to park myself in front of the computer is a rare accomplishment. Babies who take seven-minute naps tend to cause a plethora (there’s another one, fourth-graders!) of unfinished projects around the house.

Now I know Jim is retired and his children have been out of diapers for quite some time. So he has more time to write. But writing 15 columns ahead just isn’t healthy. It’s a cry for help.

The solution to Jim’s problem is clear. He needs to learn how to goof off. He needs to sit on the couch and watch nothing but soaps and court shows for an entire day. He needs to spend several hours sitting in the food court at San Jacinto Mall, eating Superman ice cream from Kaleidoscoops while staring off into space. He needs to take ridiculously long naps.

If he follows my plan, I’m sure he will see the utter lunacy of having 15 unpublished columns and learn to chill out. Then he’ll be on the road to recovery.

And keep an eye out for these Travis fourth-graders. I predict they’ll have Jim and me out of a job one day.

Deana Nall’s column appears every Wednesday. Her email address is


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