The complexity of column writing
While columns are typically considered an easy read — meant to give people insight on an issue or another perspective on a topic or just a short escape from everyday life —they’re actually not that easy to write, or at least, they’re not for me.
At the beginning of this year, when I joined the reporting team at the Bureau County Republican, I gained the opportunity to write a column once every three weeks.
At first, it was an exciting endeavor for me to finally have the chance to use my own voice to write my own story, my own opinion and my own take on issues around me. This wasn’t an opportunity I got at my previous newspaper employer, so it seemed like the gold ticket at the time.
My first column was probably my best yet. It was as if the inspiration had been building overtime, and I just needed the chance to use my own writing voice to let it out. I wrote about the reasons to “never say never,” because most likely it would come back to prove you wrong. I received positive feedback on the topic, and felt somewhat like an accomplished columnist.
My second column assignment didn’t come as easy. And as I struggled with the writing up until the last minute of deadline, tweaking the sentences to sound just right, I still wasn’t completely satisfied with the final turnout. And, just for the record, there was no feedback that followed this column.
And so the real tone of column writing was set for me. Column assignments suddenly became somewhat a daunting task for me.
I decided to start looking at ideas and styles of fellow columnists at the BCR and beyond. After all, reading and studying other reporters’ newspaper writing style is how I learned to write clearer, more concise news articles.
The idea, however, backfired on me. Inside of finding a writing style I could relate to, I instead felt a sense of intimidation by the interesting topics writers came up with, and were able to perfect in their own message to readers.
As I read through column after column, I felt my own writing voice pushing itself further and further down its rabbit hole.
And as I’ve continued to strive for the perfect writing ideas, I find myself being haunted by column assignments altogether.
Any time I hear something interesting or some weird occurrence happens in my life, I constantly find myself asking, “Is that a column idea?” “Could I make that idea into a column?” “How can I portray that idea in my next column?”
No matter how many interesting things I’ve come across in the last few months, every time I attempt to write them down, a little voice lingers in my head saying the writing topic is insignificant or was a dull pick.
“Don’t bore the readers with that gibberish,” the voice says to me.
In a way, I’m currently coming to terms that perhaps not every aspect of writing is for me. Although I enjoy coming to work everyday to write and tell the stories of people, places and projects throughout our county, perhaps I just thoroughly shine using my writing voice to tell others’ stories, rather than my own story.
Everyone must find their own niche, perhaps that is mine.
Or perhaps, I just need more practice with my columns. If that’s the case, maybe this next year will bring me better ideas and inspirations to fill this column space. Until then, bear with me just a bit longer, readers.
BCR Staff Writer Goldie Currie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.