Author: Campbell, Bruce

Hug an Ink Stained Wretch Today

I donít know if you noticed, but we have a wide variety of contributing writers who provide the daily Welcome Message. Some are intermittent; some provide a column monthly, some weekly. Itís the first thing you see when you go to the CBA Website, and if we have done our jobs well enough, your interest will be piqued enough to move you to click the ďcontinueĒ link to read ďthe rest of the storyĒ (as Paul Harvey used to say).

Itís a real honor to be given this bully pulpit, and Iíve really enjoyed contributing 500 or so words every week for about 5 years now. Thatís well over 200 columns, and sometimes, itís a challenge to decide what to write about. Rick Cornish has contributed many more columns than I have, but at least he has an interesting rural existence (including animals of many shapes and sizes) to provide fodder.

Some weeks, the column almost writes itself. Iíll be out doing something, or talking to someone, and itíll hit me like a bolt of lightning. ďThis will make a good column!Ē, I think, and if Iím smart enough to make a note of the germ of the idea, the 500 words will take 15 minutes. If I forget to make that note, I may find myself staring at a blank screen trying to remember that brilliant idea.

Often, a story will start out as one thing and turn into another. Itís not usual to get 700 words or so into it, and realize that the real focus of the story, the real message, isnítwhat I first thought. Then, itís time to chop stuff and rearrange paragraphs to create a linear narrative to lead to the most interesting point. Maybe thatís why writing the columns is so much fun. Itís sort of like talking to myself, only without the strange looks from people nearby.

Speaking of reactions, this is the idea this column came from. When I have a chance to chat with the other writers, they often say ďNobody said ANYTHING about my last column!Ē, and they donít know what to make of that. Did it get read? Did the readers not like it? I used to wonder that, too, but over the years, I have noticed a few things. One is, people generally do read the columns. If you go to the CBA website, itís hard NOT to read at the portion of it that appears on the main page, so I think most columns get a look from just about every visitor to the site.

Did the readers LIKE the column? When they donít react on the Message Board, itís tough to say. We have a good bunch of writers, so I donít think many people really DISlike many columns. More likely, as often as not, the columns elicit a silent ďHmmm..Ē and it ends there. At least one columnist had to be talked in ďoff the ledgeĒ when he wasnít getting any response to columns that he knew were good.

So yeah, itís gratifying to see public reaction to a column. Sometimes itís just an ďattaboyĒ or a clarification. But sometimes, the reader gets an idea from the columnís theme and a lively discussion ensues, and this is the most rewarding reaction. Even columns that create no visible reaction affect the readers. Not everybodyís a Chatty Cathy on the Message Board. I have dozens of people over the years tell me they enjoy reading the columns, and their favorites are often ones that sparked no public discourse whatsoever!

I think I speak for ALL the columnists when I say it is very gratifying to find out our words set your minds in motion, whether it you decide to tell the rest of the world about it or not. Writers are a sensitive, jittery bunch though, with fragile egos. If anything more than a ďHmmm..Ē crosses your mind when reading a daily Welcome Message, please donít hesitate to say something on the Message Board Ė it just might prevent a nervous writer from hanging up his (or her) QWERTY keyboard forever!

Posted:  9/7/2011

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