Wednesday, June 30, 2004

Some Notes to Self

Rereading yesterday's post -- to which I made slight changes throughout the day -- I'm thinking I should have cut the second graf and the first line of the third graf. Probably the more direct the sexual reference from a person of a certain age -- particularly if the sexual reference is a joke that lands with a bit of thud -- the creepier it gets for anyone who isn't of a certain age. I could unpack this idea further, but you get what I'm saying. What questions for real columnists does this "second thinking" suggest, given the fact I've come to this conclusion a jour late and 5.3 francs short?

(Toujours means "always" means "all days," I suddenly understand! The Age of Discovery is not dead. And I know the franc is an obsolete currency.)

I think it's a gestation question leading to a birthing question. Are most ideas hurried onto the page, or is it more common to get an idea and "write in the head" for a while before going to the keyboard? How long the interval between getting the idea and actually touching the keys? (Ray Bradbury is irritating me with his carping about Michael Moore "hijacking" the title of his book and his movie. But he was the first writer I heard say that he didn't know what he thought about anything until he sat down and began to write. )

How many columns are partially worked out in the computer and then returned to, gradually polished, expanded and cut back? How many columns are in the bank against the day the well is dry or the waters are poisoned? Are these columns like the stories we banked in my magazine days, a kind of security blanket that was almost never used? Even when the columnist goes directly from idea to keyboard, how much time is spent editing? Is it always the same amount of time? Does the columnist, knowing so well how many column inches will fill the space allotted, instinctively aim at that length, the idea being that we compress as we write rather than engaging in the rather more frustrating process of writing too much and then trimming? Maybe, this process is not frustrating for some columnists! There is a satisfaction, isn't there, in knowing that whatever the quality of the column, it's better than it would have been if the columnist had not conducted his/her own little Judgment of Paris, choosing among great beauty and selecting only the very best -- or the very pretty goodest.

What outstanding questions. And the basic one is: How often do you rise on a bright morning and look at your work sprawled out in print and go, "Uh-oh."

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