How I write

The Standard Journal - - Commentary - KEVIN MYRICK Edi­tor

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.

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