I’m not cut out to be a columnist.
An old friend of mine is publishing what might be called a ‘zine (in the old parlance) in December, and having seen the vast pile of stuff I’ve written here, he asked me to contribute. No problem, I thought – I had about three months of lead time and I write about stuff all the time, so I figured I’d just bang out a thousand words or so and call it a day.
But as the submission deadline approached, I felt the weight of the assignment (since I viewed it as such) bearing down on me like an oppressive force. What was wrong with me? I write all the time – just pick a topic and go! No problem! I wrote in fits and starts, taking notes, trying to organize my thoughts into something at least coherent, let alone interesting, but everything ended up looking like some kind of dry research paper.
The assignment or column format just kills my writing ability, I guess. Almost all of my writing here is spontaneous, and is usually in response to an event or is telling a story. I very rarely write drafts; it’s as if the words are already in my head, and all I’m doing is transcribing them via the keyboard. (This also explains why I can’t stand writing by hand for long stretches – my writing can’t keep up with my thoughts, whereas the keyboard is an effortless translation.) Having an assignment, though, interferes with this process, because I only write when I already have something to write about. This meant that I struggled with writing in school, and for a long time thought I was terrible at it; my writing was technically capable but stilted and coming up with a topic was almost impossible.
Luckily I don’t make my living by my writing, but it does still seem shameful that a guy that’s written all this crap can’t write on command (even with three months lead time).