How to assemble you own column. A Fictional Functional Family
I am often asked how do you become a newspaper columnist and write a column every week? The following set of ten easy steps should provide the basic materials to construct your own column. Some assembly is required. No batteries included - talent provided by the author.
Step 1. Choose a style: Silly, serious, satirical or sombre. This is a critical decision. It is important to pick only one rather than attempting to mix them together. Silly is relatively easy as people enjoy a bit of fun. Serious, especially with inbuilt pathos is good and sombre plus dignity is a powerful combination. Satire is the hardest. It requires subtle guidance to the reader that you are leading them along a path strewn with illusions and distractions. They must know it is being written with the tongue very firmly planted in the check otherwise they might think you really do believe that aliens are hiding inside road cones waiting to invade earth.
Step 2. Make coffee. This is essential. It is said the if you drink enough strong cups you can see into the future and improve your peripheral vision. Turn on the coffee pot, the laptop, crack your knuckles and get cracking.
Step 3. Get distracted by videos of cute animals doing cute things. Refill coffee cup. Read online editions of the Herald, Guardian and New York Times to see what's happening in the world. There is so much to click on including the clip of the little kid jumping onto the wedding train of the bride as walks down the aisle and the video of a dog on a surf board.
Step 4. Realise what the time is and feel the rumble of fast approaching thundering great deadline that might go right past unless you get your act together. Check email. Do not open but nevertheless note the elaborate scam tale of woe asking for money/bank details and admire the time taken by the writer on character development and narrative flow before deleting.
Step 5. Panic. The page and your mind are blank. Go to DEFCON 3. The threat of creative self-destruction is now very high. Go to kitchen and defuse situation with a cheese and tomato sandwich plus fresh pot of coffee.
Step 6. Sudden flash of insight followed by realisation that someone has already done that subject. Column can instead be about how the media steal all your best ideas with narcissism rampant, out of control and only you have the power to change this. Donald Trump is not aware you have this power or that you are planning to build a wall of columns to keep him out of Mexico.
Step 7. Fingers fly over the keyboard as the ideas tumble forth onto the page. Pause to google definition of tyrant and to check if demagoguery is actually a thing. Accidentally get flag debate website and go to kitchen to see if there is anything stronger to drink. Become morose and begin humming 'Into the Hall of The Mountain King' by Edvard Grieg for no apparent reason.
Step 8. Look back over what you have already written and realise that the inherent genius in it is so well concealed that even you can't see it.
Step 9. Rearrange the beginning, middle and ponder how to compose a suitably witty ending. Check spelling and whether Edvard Grieg might have grounds to sue. Do word count. Remove all extraneous and's if's and but's.
Step 10. Fact check: Greig died in 1907 so no legal impediment to humming his compositions.
Step 11. Email completed column to editor and go to bed with a good book.
Terry Sarten is a writer, musician and satirist. Feedback: firstname.lastname@example.org