I had a really hard time finding something to write about for this glorious Tuesday edition of the Merritt Herald. It’s not for lack of anything interesting out there to write about; it’s just a result of that writing slump that occasionally and inevitably gets the better of you.
When I first took over as editor for the Herald, I was surprised to find the hardest adjustment from my previous position as reporter was writing columns.
I would comb through dozens of websites to try to find something that I could write about that would be relevant, timely, and hopefully something I had a real opinion on.
After all, I won’t slap my name on an opinion that isn’t mine and that isn’t honestly held.
Finding these topics was harder than I had originally anticipated.
Getting down to deadline, when I got really desperate, I would just stare at my blank computer screen and await inspiration.
Alas, it’s like when you open the fridge because you’re hungry but you don’t know what you want to eat. Nothing new magically pops up in there, but somehow, you keep opening the door, almost hoping that something would.
I think the biggest source of my writer’s block when it came to columns (lo, those many months ago) was that I used to think they had to offer insight that had never made its way to paper on a topic.
This led me to look for very serious political issues, reading and rereading international newspapers, scouring for some critical angle that was left untouched.
Of course, that’s pretty defeating when you’re up against some experts on human rights discussing abuses in Syria or political science pundits spouting off about uprisings in Egypt.
What can I offer that these people can’t, or haven’t?
Thankfully, it didn’t take me long to figure out that wasn’t the purpose of this column.
This column is here to pick inspiration from wherever it comes from and provide a glimpse into a slice of life here in the Nicola Valley. Those are insights you don’t see in other newspapers.
In the months since my opinion piece revelation, I wrote about whatever tickled my fancy. Anything that struck me as weird, wonderful, woeful or wacky could be the jumping-off point for a column.
Take a column from last week, for example, about a family of cats that broke into a maximum-security prison in the States. That little story began the column, and segued into another topic: human-animal relationships and all the paradoxes these relationships contain.
Why do we eat some, kill some for sport, wear some, and keep some as family members? We can learn an endless amount about others and ourselves from animals and our relationships with them.
I would hope the Nicola Valley connection here is obvious: people here love animals. Some rescue them, some hunt them, some (like me) pull over on the side of the road to take pictures of them when we’re lucky enough to spot them.
This week, I find myself in a bit of a bind that I expected to eventually creep up on me, but which is unwelcome nonetheless.
When anything and everything becomes a potential column, sometimes there is just too much choice.
This is where I find myself today, on a gloomy Monday, as our press deadline nears and I’m increasingly feeling the pressure.
But I have one insight I can share with readers, and it’s about my columns.
My columns aren’t hard and fast analyses of “Very Important and Serious Topics” with some kind of astounding angle to them, nor are they intended to be. All I can hope is that they are enjoyable to read, and maybe cause the people who read them to think about or marvel at the strange, surprising and sometimes silly world we live in.
And with that comes the conclusion of yet another column.
(I promise I’ll try harder on Thursday.)