Monday, December 08, 2008

Anybody Can Write...Or Can They?

In need of a bit of inspiration as I sat down tonight to stare at this screen, I had a brief conversation with my Muse, complaining to her that my brain was sans function this evening.

"Hello!!" *helloooo hellooo helloo* I shouted into my brain, as an echo rang in the empty cavern.

My Muse, however, was busy quoting '80s song lyrics (must've been karaoke night), so I knew I was on my own for ideas.

I reached behind me and pulled one of my 6,432,155 books on writing off of my shelves, and paged through it. The title of the book was, "Anybody Can Write: Ideas for the aspiring, the beginning, and the blocked writer. A playful approach."

"I'm aspiring," I thought to myself. "I'm beginning. I'm blocked. And I'm...anybody."

One of the chapters is called, "Persistence and Other Useful Attitudes." I started reading and found the story of a woman who wanted to be a columnist. And the author told the woman how: "It's simple. If you want to be a columnist, you do what columnists do. Columnists write columns."

And she went on to say, "If you write a column every week for twenty-six weeks, I guarantee that at the end of that time, you will be a columnist."

Then she asked the woman what paper she wanted to write for, and the woman named two by which she'd already been rejected when she talked to them in person. But the author told her to find anyone she knew who worked at those newspapers, and mail them a copy of her weekly column every week for twenty-six weeks.

She found someone in advertising, and sent in her columns, and after several weeks that person took a handful of columns over to the editors, and nineteen weeks into her submission process, she was offered a weekly columnist's gig.

I don't know if this story is true, or simply a well-crafted example to illustrate persistence.

Sounds like the Michael J. Fox movie where he gets a job in the mailroom of a big company in New York City, and by the end of the movie, he's buying the place.

I got my column a little more being on the staff of the paper in which it runs. One day I said to my boss, "I think I might like to try writing a column, if that's something you'd be interested in running in your paper."

And he said, "Yeah, we could give it a shot."

About 300 columns later, I've still got my regular slot in the paper. But I've considered the idea more than once: What if I want my column to run in a second paper? Or an eighth paper? Or a one hundred and seventy-first paper?

Maybe that's where the process begins of sending one column a week for twenty-six weeks to a few hundred newspapers , with the hope that maybe fourteen might pick it up. That's a lot of stamps.

I don't know where my column might go in the future, if it'll fade away or become stronger and perhaps even make an appearance in a few, or a few dozen, other newspapers.

But I liked the story of how that woman became a columnist.

Now if you'll excuse me, I've got some columns to send out to the mailroom staff at a few newspapers.

"A politician wouldn't dream of
being allowed to call a columnist
the things a columnist is allowed
to call a politician."
—Max Lerner


  1. The secret of my success. Think that's the name of the movie. If it matters.

  2. That's it. I was too lazy to go and IMDb it. Thanks for filling in the hole, Brad.

    And the secret of his success? Start out in the mailroom.