Well, friends, it was bound to happen. I completely forgot my anniversary.
Now before you female readers get all up in arms and you male readers offer a sympathetic groan, I need to clarify that it is not quite as bad as you might think. I’m not in the dog house or anything and as far as I know, my wife is completely oblivious to the fact herself.
Trust me. She would let me know if I had missed an important date. Recently at the CVS drive-thru, the pharmacist asked for my wife’s date of birth. Since my wife was in the seat next to me, I deferred to her for the most accurate response. She simply stared at me with raised eyebrows as I struggled desperately to remember. It was hopeless. I would not feel especially guilty since we have only been married three years, except that her birthday is the same exact day as my mother’s. Not a pretty situation at all. I got no sympathy from the pharmacist either.
No, this momentary lapse in recollection is nothing so extreme. You see, the anniversary I missed was my start date as a humor columnist with the Mountain Press.
That’s right. On July 7, 2013, those few readers fortunate enough to have kept turning when they reached the classified section were wowed by my legendary account of using “The Diet App.” Both my mom and mother-in-law gave it rave reviews, and the rest, as they say, is history.
With a year under my belt as a columnist, I find that I sure have learned a lot.
One interesting fact I have learned is that when my column appears as, literally, a single column on the side of one page, it is a column, but if my column appears at the top of a page as a group of multiple columns spread across the page, it is still just a column. Frankly, I feel cheated. It seems like I should get some kind of credit for having written multiple columns when that occurs, but the editorial staff is not buying that argument.
I have also learned that deadlines are the arch nemesis of any decent writer. I know this because many decent writers have told me so. I can only attest that they are the arch nemesis of us mediocre writers as well.
I have learned that newspapers today have to do twice as much with half the staff as they did 30 years ago but the expectations of the reader have only increased. Always desiring to be helpful, I have done my best to help lower the expectations of our dear readers, and I truly believe that, at least with regard to my column, I have succeeded.
Recently, I learned that Chicago is not, in fact, the capital of Illinois. Who’d a thunk that? Thanks for clearing that one up, Mr. Paschal. For the record, I do write a humor column and reserved the right up front to mock politics. But I do take corruption very seriously and battle it with my vote every election. I have personally lobbied in Nashville as well but found that to be far too demoralizing and ineffective. I fear the only thing that will end the corruption that permeates our political system is the arrival of that seemingly inevitable day in the future when it will collapse under its own weight. The previous statements are too serious, though, and not consistent with a humor column. I may come back and remove them later if I have enough words.
Words! Speaking of words. Remember how I was so thrilled when they bumped me from 600 words to 900? Yeah, the glimmer has worn off on that silvery little gift, and I am staring at a nice patina rapidly approaching rust even as I write this very column(s). When I was limited to 600 words, I always had an extra 300 in me just bursting to get out. Now, my ability to communicate succinctly and abruptly seems to have blossomed. Maybe there is a career out there for me as a technical writer if this doesn’t pan out.
I have learned that the process of editing can take a 900-word run-on sentence with no more than one or two periods and a single semi-colon thrown in randomly and convert it to a somewhat legible piece of writing. Not a single one of my semi-colons have made it to print yet, but I am determined to put one in every time until it slips through or I somehow manage to use one correctly. It makes me feel smart when I type a semi-colon, even though I have no idea how one is properly used. I think they taught that particular form of punctuation the same day we went over state capitals.
When it comes to word limits though, I have diagnosed myself with “grass is greener” syndrome and will always want what lies on the other side of the fence. I know that is not a noble trait, but I have to be honest with myself sometimes – only sometimes though. I can’t handle the truth in large volumes.
One truth I have learned in the past year is that I truly enjoy writing for The Mountain Press; it makes me happy. I hope at some point in the past year it has made you happy too.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the semi-colon in the previous paragraph passes edit.
© Michael L. Collins
*This column originally appeared in the July 30, 2014 edition of The Mountain Press.
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