2017-10-11 / Editorials

The idea well has run dry

Other Voices
Mitch Clarke

Editor’s Note: This column is repeated from the Oct. 21, 2015 edition of the Early County News.) About two or three times a week, someone invariably will ask me, “How do you come up with the ideas for your column?”

It’s not an easy question to answer.

A lot of things can motivate me. I just write one column a week, and almost anything I see, hear or read can be turned into this little weekly effort. I’m seldom at a loss for ideas.

The most likely source of column fodder comes from spending time and conversing with friends and family. Often something someone says — even if it’s just one sentence — can be enough to spur my creative juices.

Unfortunately, my friends are on to the fact that I may turn something they say or do into a column, and now, without fail, when one of them says something funny or profound, they immediately turn and look in my direction.

“I don’t want to read about this next week,” they’ll say.

“Too bad,” I tell them. “I need 650 words a week, and I’ll take whatever motivates me.”

Another way I get ideas is by reading the news. A story about a new diet fad or about some new scientific study is often just what I need to meet by column obligations.

For instance, a few years ago, I read a story about a group of Norwegian scientists who discovered that older siblings had slightly higher IQs than their younger siblings, and I turned that into a column about how that meant I was smarter than my brother, Marvin.

That column practically wrote itself. It was like the proverbial shooting fish in a barrel.

Other times, I may write about Milly, the liver and white springer spaniel who lives at my house. She’s a good source of column material.

All of that brings us to this week. I got nothing. Not a single, solitary idea. The well is dry. I’ve been writing this column now for more than nine years. That totals almost 475 columns. Some of them have been winners. Some of them, not so much.

Over the years, I’ve had weeks where it was tough coming up with an idea. But I’ve never had a week where I had no idea.

But as I write this, it’s late in the afternoon. Deadline is approaching. That’s fine. Let ‘em wait.

Milly, bless her heart, has done nothing remotely funny or interesting this week. There’s really been nothing in the news that sparked my interest. My football team looks horrible. And my friends, fearing incrimination in the newspaper, essentially have stopped talking to me.

There was the story that most of this year’s college freshmen have never used a phone with a cord. There was real potential in this idea. But the more I wrote, the more I become depressed at how old I must be getting. Not only did I use corded phones, I still remember rotary dial phones.

I’m just happy to say I’m young enough that I never had to use a phone Barney Filestyle.

“Sarah, get me Juanita down at the diner.”

My struggle to come up with an idea this week reminds me of something the late Lewis Grizzard used to say about being a columnist.

“Writing a column,” he used to say, “is like being married to a nymphomaniac. The first two weeks are fun.”

Well, I've managed to fill up this spot. I'll do better next week. In fact, I'm going home right now to talk to Milly.

She needs to deliver next week.

Mitch Clarke, a native of Blakely, is the editor of AccessWDUN.com in Gainesville. He can be contacted at mitch.clarke@ gmail.com. Read previous columns at www.accesswdun.com/ blog/mitch.

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