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Column for 9.28.11
John Steinbeck was a great writer. His “Travels With Charley: In Search of America” is one my favorites. Stephen King is a great writer. His memoir “On Writing” is also one of my favorites. A lot about writing can be learned from both books.
I can quote from both books without even having to look it up. I remember the quotes so well because I believe them to be so true.
“In writing,” Steinbeck wrote, “habit seems to be a much stronger force than either willpower or inspiration.”
In other words, writers must write, and frequently. You’d think that would be obvious, but if I had a dollar for everyone who has told me they were going to one day write a book, I wouldn’t be writing this because I’d be wealthy and retired.
The Stephen King quote is this: “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.”
I was speaking to a club the other day. My topic was writing. Talking about writing is much easier than actually writing. During the question and answer period, a club member asked: “Just how many newspaper columns have you written?”
I didn’t have an answer because I haven’t kept track.
Maybe I should have done what H. Paul Draheim did. Paul, who was a columnist for the long gone Utica Daily Press, numbered his history columns. The number was into four figures, I’m sure.
Or maybe I should have clipped out and saved my columns. That’s what Frank Tomaino, once the city editor at the Observer-Dispatch, who continues to write a history column, has done for all these years. If anyone asked Frank the question that was posed to me the other day, all he’d have to do is count his clippings. He’d be counting for a long time, though.
Although I can’t determine how many columns I wrote for the Observer-Dispatch, I can confidently say that my number, whatever it is, isn’t even in the same ballpark as the number written by Paul or Frank.
I was there for 20 years but I was a reporter for several of those years. And I started out writing just one column a week until I eventually became a daily columnist. Figuring out the number is too complicated.
Figuring out the number of Boonville Herald columns I’ve written so far is easier. I write a column a week. I started writing them at the end of 2001. If I take the number of weeks in a year and subtract vacation weeks when I didn’t write a column, my best estimate is that you are now reading Boonville Herald column number 500. If you were expecting something monumental in number 500, I’m sorry to have disappointed you.
Which reminds me of what a famous newspaper columnist - so famous that I’ve forgotten his name - once said. “If you write enough columns, now and then you are bound to have a good one.”
We can only live in hope.