Where do I get my column ideas?
Published March 1, 2006
"Where do you get your column ideas?"
People ask me this quite often, and I usually come back with something like, “Well, with two kids, I’ve always got something to write about.”
But this is not entirely true.
Some weeks I sit down to write and my column just flows effortlessly onto my Word document. Then I hit “Send” on my email and move on with my life.
Then there are days like today. Ideas may be floating around out there somewhere, but they’re just not coming to me.
So I thought I would let you, the reader, into my “office” (I don’t have an entire “bat cave” like Jim Finley, just a corner of my living room) to take you through my column-writing process. This is called “How to Write a Column When Inspiration Has Slipped Out the Back Door Without Leaving a Forwarding Address.”
Sunday: Hmm. Wednesday’s coming up in a few days. Might be time to think of a column idea.
Monday: Wow. Wednesday’s even closer now.
Monday, 9 p.m.: Now it’s really, really time to write the column. Surf the Internet looking for celebrities to make fun of.
Monday, 9:18 p.m.: Nothing. Go see what’s on sale at www.target.com.
Monday, 9: 43 p.m.: Eat an entire sleeve of “Thin Mints” Girl Scout Cookies.
Monday, 10:11 p.m.: Write 250 words on the smoking ban.
Monday, 10:39 p.m.: Decide you don’t want to go there and delete the whole thing.
Monday, 10:51 p.m.: Go check on your children in their beds. Aren’t they so sweet and cute? Get sentimental and teary-eyed.
Monday, 11:07 p.m.: Realize you are too tired to be witty. Go to bed. Surely you’ll come up with something tomorrow.
Tuesday, 6:45 a.m.: Get up, get two kids dressed, make their breakfast and lunches and get them out the door to their respective schools.
Tuesday, 8:55 a.m.: On the way home, stop at Target. Get a grande Caffe Mocha from Starbucks. Wander the aisles in a stress-induced daze.
Tuesday, 9:24 a.m.: Back home. Buy some time by emailing the managing editor to tell him you are giving your column one last read-through.
Tuesday, 9:37 a.m.: Stare at your blank screen. Fight back tears.
Tuesday, 9:56 a.m.: Eat the other sleeve of Thin Mints.
Tuesday, 10:03 a.m.: Think of how Jim Finley writes his columns several months ahead. Seethe with jealousy.
Tuesday, 10:23 a.m.: In sheer desperation, get up from your computer and bang your head against the wall.
Tuesday, 10:26 a.m.: When you come to, in the midst of your delirium, you find it. A column idea! Write 520 words lickety-split.
Tuesday, 10:49 a.m.: Email your masterpiece to the managing editor. Congratulate yourself.
Wednesday, 7:12 a.m.: Read your column in the newspaper. Be relieved that most of it makes sense. You don’t have to write another one for a whole week. That’s good, because your head still hurts.
There you go. I don’t usually allow the general public into the deep complexities of my creative process. So consider this as my gift to you.
Now, to get ahead, I’m going to start working on next week’s column. And I need to find a Girl Scout. I’m out of Thin Mints.
Deana Nall lives in Baytown with her family.