How I write
It’s summertime, and with a long week of events having come and gone, I find myself staring at a computer screen and wondering “Well, Kevin, what are we going to write about in the paper this week?”
It’s a common conundrum for your newspaper editor. Having now been on the job long enough now, I should have known better to not run out of good column ideas so fast.
So I do what comes naturally for someone of my age who has grown up with the internet. I went surfing to see if I could find some good ideas.
Initially I was tempted to write about the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, but I doubt honestly if my opinion will matter much in a sea of “Yes they did the right thing” or “no, it was a horrible decision” commentary that is flooding airwaves already.
Eventually, the internet waves washed me up on a blog, reading an interview of a friend of mine named Cliff Brooks.
Brooks is an unnaturally talented poet and professor at Chattahoochee Technical College. I secretly sometimes wonder if maybe he turns into a warewolf on nights with full moons with no one else around, and takes up the pen howling into the darkness as he scribbles on the page.
Anyway I was reading the interview, about his work and a group he’s gotten me involved in, the Southern Collective Experience, and he said something about his writing process that got me interested in something to write about.
Before I delve too deeply into today’s column topic, let me explain the group. The Southern Collective Experience is a collection of artists, poets, musicians and writers Brooks found and have brought together. We all have, collaboratively or separately, worked on artistic projects revolving around Southern themes and ideas, or with a particular Southern sound or voice behind them.
Its a great group with great things coming, and to find out more about it I’ll point you to the group’s Facebook page at www.facebook.com/TheSouthernCollectiveExperience.
Anyway, back to Brooks’ comment. He was talking about the writing process in this interview with a writer named Chris Rice Cooper (chrisricecooper. blogspot.com), which struck me as interesting. In this particular comment, he’s talking about how he starts working on a new piece.
“I’ll charge into the study, sit down, and hit it with a smile on my face. This is when the second form of composition rises from the ghost of an old relationship, the undying affection for a family member, or the joy from my current state of affairs breaks loose and spills out over several pages,” he said.
Fiction, to say the least, is an interesting beast. Like in the movies, it requires the reader to suspend belief in reality for a while and slip into something entertaining, dramatic, tragic or just beautiful.
I’ve found more often than not the two complement each other well. I draw great plot ideas from real life, and great stylistic ideas from what I’ve been working through for years in fiction.
Now, Brooks’ writing process differs from my own, and my own from everyone else’s. For the most part as a profession, writing is a individual’s game.
This is typically what happens when I write a short story. A flash of connected ideas hits me all at once from somewhere deep in my brain, and then I spend a few hours laboring to find the right words with legal pads, scribbling and scratching away until I get it just right. More often than not, it never sees the light of day.
Journalism differs from all that, because facts can change in the middle of covering a story, or new information puts a different light on a subject. Some stories require only a small amount of time, while others take months, sometimes years to get through it all to present a clear, intelligent idea to the public.
I get asked sometimes what my job is like, or how work is going from friends and family or people interested in learning what a newspaper editor does for a living. My typical answer is “always busy.”
That isn’t exactly fair. I do eat and sleep like everyone else, enjoy a couple hours of television before falling asleep with my girlfriend’s head nestled in her favorite spot above my heart.
I experience the same heartbreak, the same frustrations and the same excitement as everyone else when on the job. Sometimes a situation can turn serious in a real hurry, which makes covering events an interesting proposition at times.
It’s easy to forget too why I do this when its deadline and I just need an hour more to make everything perfect but I don’t have it. I cherish and feel lucky for every moment I get to be an editor, earning a living doing what I love doing the most: writing.