The number 100 holds significance in our world. We have big celebrations for 100th birthdays and centennials. For TV shows, the 100th episode is often marked by a “greatest hits” or “behind the scenes” and the 100th issue of a comic book is usually super-sized and has a major event.
This is my 100th column. Yes, for those of you who have been here since August 29, 2012, thank you. For those of you who haven’t read all 100, thank you for tuning in to this one. (And you can always go online and read those you missed!)
This column-writing endeavor actually started long before I typed the first one. Years back, Betty McShane occupied this space. I ran into her one day and told her how much I enjoyed her columns; she responded that maybe I should consider writing one. “Nah,” I responded, “what would I write about?” Still, that simple encounter got my wheels spinning.
When Jim said he needed a new columnist, I thought about it for about five minutes. I’m glad I stopped in at the Star-Eagle office that day, though I’m not sure I honestly thought I could come up with 100 columns, with plenty of ideas still on deck!
I did make a list of ideas when I started, and some of those ideas are still on the constantly-changing page of random thoughts. Many times, when I think I might have to go to one of those original ideas, something pops up in life that spurs me to a different topic.
I usually sit down on Wednesday or Thursday to write my first draft. That’s right, I don’t just preach it in my classroom, I practice it as well! I often tell my students that the best revision is done after letting your work sit for a day or two, so I then wait until Saturday or Sunday for that step. Depending on how I feel about it after that, I’ll usually send it in, though sometimes I’ve come back to it a day later for some fine-tuning.
When I began, Jim said he needed 400-500 words per column. These days, I generally sit between 700-800 words. I’ve had first drafts come in at over 1000 words! In general, my first draft takes me about half an hour to write. Once I get going, it’s tough to stop me! While I mostly know where I’m going when I start, sometimes I’ll surprise myself with where I end up. Plus, I have to pick out a word for the Word of the Week (which I probably receive the most comments about), and I’ve really tried to pick one that fits the theme of the column. Overall, I’ve written about 74,000 words over all these columns!
What I enjoy most about this (as Anton has also discovered after his debut) is knowing that people actually read my column! Any feedback is welcomed, and I treasure each of my readers and knowing what they think. I’ve met so many people who tell me they read (and even sometimes enjoy) my ramblings every week. Thank you for taking the time to introduce yourselves!
I’ve gotten emails, Facebook feedback, and even snail mail regarding specific columns or just in general. I try to respond quickly when these arrive. Email is easy and usually gets a quick response from me. (Thanks to another former occupant of this area, Jody Wynnemer, for his frequent thoughts and encouragement!)
I have a number of former students who catch up online, as well as some that subscribe to get it current, and their remarks are great. They may not always agree with what I say, but we’ve had good discussions, always done in a respectful manner.
Jim has printed a few letters to the editor regarding my column, not all of which like what I write. I’ve endeavored to touch base with those folks, and I do appreciate constructive criticism. I keep copies of the negative feedback along with my clippings to remind myself never to get too big a head.
And then there are the anonymous letters and even phone calls! Paul Cyr took a call after a column about parenting that demanded I be fired from my teaching position; Jim took a similar one at the newspaper offices that week. I happened to be home with a sick child that day, and even my sub had to listen to someone rant about me.
I recently received a letter without a name (and without courage by leaving that out) railing about a column. I was called a liberal (true, at times), an egotist (I’ll go with that – who doesn’t like their ego boosted?), arrogant (I guess I can come off that way when I feel strongly about something), and godless (tough to be when I believe in God). It’s actually fairly entertaining, once I get past the numerous grammatical errors (oops, there I am being arrogant again).
Margaret Wheatley, an American author, said, “Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.” Hopefully, I’ve done that at least a few times. Lastly, and if I haven’t said it enough, thank you so much for reading! I hope I can continue to meet your expectations week in and week out and come up with enough ideas so we can celebrate my 200th column on June 23, 2016!
Word of the Week: This week’s word is facetious, which means comical or flippant, as in, “The columnist’s facetious tone humored some and torked off others.” Impress your friends and confuse your enemies!