This morning, I've been gathering together bits and pieces of scribbled-on paper scattered here and there throughout the house. Each note has a phrase, a quote or a random idea that came to me during the week. The activity is a ritual I undertake frequently in order to find something on which to build my Moseyin' Along column.
You see, when you are charged with the responsibility of filling a certain number of inches in the newspaper each week, your first concern is to find an idea suitable for expansion.
Moseyin' Along is, basically, a personal experience column. So my inspiration is usually drawn from something I've stored away between my left ear and my right ear.
But there are times - and after 23 years, these come more and more frequently - I find that space conspicuously empty. That's when I turn to the recent notes and clippings I've been collecting, as well as the bulging files of stories and other mind joggers I've stockpiled over the years.
When I started my writing career many years ago, I knew I wouldn't be one of those star-quality writers who would one day be interviewed on the Today Show or be signing autographs at some big-city book store. Instead, I was more than content to write about the people and the happenings in my community.
Later, Bridget Johnson, one of my early editors, asked if I'd be interested in putting together a weekly column. The thought of adding that assignment to the news and features I was already covering was both exciting and intimidating. How long, I wondered, would I be able to find ideas worth writing about?
It's the same question every columnist asks as they struggle to turn concepts into columns to meet those endless deadlines.
Even today, after all these years, the search for a fresh idea, a new slant, a humorous experience goes on non-stop. Every week, as the deadline nears, I begin going over my bits and scraps, looking for something that will get my creative juices flowing.
This week's collection of notes and scribbles has included seeds that might grow into something worthwhile. But, as always, many are undoubtedly duds.
For instance, what can I possibly do with the following?
"Behind every successful man stands a surprised mother-in-law."
If the folks in Congress had to rely on Social Security and Medicare, they would be a lot more protective of Social Security and Medicare.
"If nature had arranged that husbands and wives should have children alternately, there would never be more than three in a family."
But this one, a quote from author Mitch Albom, just might make a good jumping-off place for a column. In an article paying homage to his former teacher, Morrie Schwartz, Albom said, "Do you want to make a difference? Teach what you know. It's like throwing stars into the sky, a light that goes on and on."
Thanks to Albom's observation, I think teachers and teaching may just be the basis of an upcoming Moseyin' Along column. Stay tuned.