May 02, 2012 - Often times when I am out and about a reader will come up to me and ask, "Week in and week out where do you get ideas to write about?"
I have answered that question a lot, so I have been able to hone my answer down to something that at least sounds original each time I say it.
"Life," I say, "is what I write about. God has a sense of humor and it's up to me to recognize and report it."
Unfortunately, there are some days when nothing moves me. Some days I can sit down and write up an award-winning column that'll make folks smile or laugh or get sad or get mad in about 15 minutes . . .
. . . and some days . . . well, some days not to so much.
When that awful day happens I have to dig deep, work a little harder and, over the years I have come up with two time-tested exercises to get me up and pumping out a column that is somewhat entertaining . . . or at least educational. Neither exercise is patented or pending a patent, so you can steal it and use it to your heart's content. These exercises also don't cause you to sweat (which is a good thing when you're at the office and your RightGuard underarm deodorant ran out the day before).
Exercise One: Start a list going of whatever comes to mind. It's word association and it goes like this:
April . . .cold . . . showers . . . flowers . . .bees, birds
Pretty soon an idea comes. By the way, I stole this idea from Big Jim Sherman, Sr., when I peered over his shoulder one morning about 25 years ago, whilst he was sitting at his desk. Were he standing, my point of view would have made it to his shoulders, but not over.
Exercise Two: Look for news of the weird. This exercise has gotten a lot easier over the years. Used to be I had to scan the newspapers everyday, clip and store for latter use. And, sometimes I would have to run to the grocery store and buy a tabloid paper.
These days the internet has made looking for weird crap a lot easier. Find it, read it, make fun of it, wrap it up with a pithy conclusion and BAM! One column done.
So, for Exercise One, I might write about how crappy the weather has been in April. Or how we all were spoiled by 80-degree days in March. I might ponder-on about how the goofy weather we have experienced this year will effect my flowers and the honeybees.
Then I might ask why?
Then, I might take it a step further and combine Exercise One with Exercise Two (talk about a workout!) and come up with something about how last week, in Putnam City, Oklahoma a high school baseball game was cancelled. Know why?
Because the grounds crew at the ball diamond was attacked by what some believe are Africanized Honeybees (also known as KILLER BEES!). I could prattle-on about how Putnam City, Oklahoma is only 1,196 miles from downtown Lake Orion (less than that as the crow flies) and that in less than one day we could drive there.
As a highly-trained and well-respected columnist of many awards, I could also weave into my alarmist story that once upon a time Tornado Alley stretched from the Dakotas to Texas, but nowadays it has more than doubled in size and stretches east to include a little bit of Michigan and then south to Florida.
I could further correlate, postulate, theorize and predict-a-size about our impending doom. (As a veteran of the newspaper column wars, I also have the latitude to make up words normal folks like you cannot). That it won't be long until the killer bees strike fear into the heart of every Michiganian. It will take just one or two big strong windy-storms to whip up a colony of crazy, killer honey bees to Michigan. Then, I could blame it all on global warming. But, I won't. And, if you haven't guessed already, it was one of "those" weeks.
Don is Assistant Publisher for Sherman Publications, Inc. He has worked for the company since 1985. He has won numerous awards for column, editorial and feature writing as well as for photography. He has two, sons Shamus and Sean and resides in the area. To read archived copies of his columns, click on his name, just under his picture up top . . . He can be e-mailed at: firstname.lastname@example.org