This is going to be one of those columns. I’m not sure yet what it’s going to be about, but it needs to get done. Actually I’ve got less than a half hour before it’s late.
OK, I’m just going to blame it on the truth. The wind. Allergies.
And when I say allergies, I mean itching, watering eyes, stuffed up ears and head, irritating cough, scratchy throat. I could give more details, but none of us have time to get into that now.
So, if you read between the lines, you may know, the doctor-prescribed meds make me sleepy. I overslept this morning, and the idea I had for the column isn’t flowing like I need it to, and that, in all likelihood is because I just want to go back to bed.
But I have this column to finish, which you may have noticed, I haven’t actually started – yet.
I need to get this turned in ASAP. The clock is ticking. The deadline’s moving closer. I feel miserable.
This is a known fact. Newspapers have deadlines. Deadlines are necessary for me, and just about every other writer I’ve ever known, because if we didn’t have deadlines, our stories would never get finished. Some of us wouldn’t get started. The rest of us would start in plenty of time, but keep working and changing, editing and fixing, and telling our editors, “Yeah, it’s nearly finished, I’ve just got to…
The “got to” can be practically anything. Like a graphic artist guy I worked with used to say when we were at the nth hour of finishing a publication. “OK, now, let’s put the end at the middle and the bottom at the top. Then we’ll be done.”
Back in the day, before emails, twitter, social media and stuff, every print and copy shop you went into would have a cartoon behind the counter of a little ghostlike guy doubled over in laughter. The caption read, “You want it when?” It was one of those so funny because it is true jokes.
Well, anyway of the two types of writers, I tend to be a little bit of both. True. I usually wait until the deadline is breathing down my neck to get started, but also, it has to have the right ebb and flow to suit me – and I will keep tweaking it until it does. Oh, and there is this: Sometimes I can’t get started because I don’t know what I’m going to write about.
But in this case, it was none of those things. Or all of them. Does it really matter?
It’s just that for the last week, the wind’s blown – constantly – delivering dust and pollen and unbreathable junk right to me. Yes. I am a victim.
Sometimes, if you’re a weekly columnist, you can beg for a little more time. Usually, the editor knows, if the column were finished, you wouldn’t be asking for more time, so his only hope is to give you more time. The editor tries to be gracious. I try to be thankful, and apologetic.
So, here we are, right where they say (figuratively speaking) the rubber meets the road. I’m still thinking I might make it. I always manage – another comfort cushion that, if overused, sure gets in the way. That is, knowing a column topic is going to come to me.
For weeks now I’ve been squirreling away little opinion factoids on student testing, public school challenges and one of these weeks I’m going get those all down in an indignant “What are we doing to our children” column. But frankly, I’m tired of being indignant. Instead, I just want to focus on the happy.
Happy, like on Thursday I saw the first two hummingbirds flitting around my feeder. Happy like last week, the little kindergartner I’ve been working with since the start of school – who couldn’t hold a pencil correctly – did all of her handwriting assignment perfectly and legibly.
“Grandma, aren’t you so proud of me,” she asked.
I’m happy the wildflowers are blooming, and for good allergy meds. I’m happy for the pointy-eared dog, who last week got sick, but a vet visit and good meds fixed him right up and now he’s sitting at my feet perfectly content. I’m happy for the chance to be here, in this space, still, after all these years, no matter how I push the deadline.
That’s it. I am happy to say I’m finished, before I – technically – got started.
Editor’s note: Candace Cooksey Fulton, formerly of Brownwood, is a freelance writer now living in San Angelo. She writes weekly columns for the Brownwood Bulletin and the San Angelo Standard-Times, each unique to the particular paper. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.