Blogs > Jim Collins' Editor's Notebook

Jim Collins is editor emeritus of The News-Herald and also serves as executive in residence at Lakeland Community College. His popular weekly column appears each Sunday in Comment in The News-Herald.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Ideas everywhere, and some are really entertaining

Laura Kessel was right.

Not only that, but turnabout is fair play.

You see, she started her column last week with my name, so if she can resort to that, I guess I can start with her name if I feel like it.

She had a point, though. Her point was something I told her many years ago when she started writing a column.

To quote her quoting me: “When you get an idea, write it down.” That was what I told her.
I guess I will have to elaborate on that.

She mentioned last week that she often has dreams which have great potential for columns. And all column writers need to have a storehouse of ideas, because when they sit down to write, they need something to write about.

Several years ago, I couldn’t think of anything to write about, so I spent 22 inches of valuable space lamenting the fact that I couldn’t think of a topic for my column.

I thought it was a pretty lame way to fill space, but Bill Crosier thought it was great, and I am not one to dispute him because he is one of my all-time most loyal readers.

Every Monday at Rotary he mentions something I wrote about the day before. Now that is loyalty.

And coming from one of Lake County’s all-time great police chiefs and chief deputy sheriffs (or is it chief deputies sheriff), I take his comments as compliments of the highest order.

But I digress.

Laura was saying that she has dreams that would make good columns, but by the time she wakes up she can’t remember what she was dreaming about.

I have the same problem about remembering dreams. I once put a tape recorder beside the bed, so if I woke up in the middle of a great dream that had as its topic a matter of profound national interest, I would wake up and begin dictating the column.

I tried this once. Do you know what you get when you play back the tape? Absolute gibberish!

The words may be filled with sound and fury, but they signify absolutely nothing.

So I told her: You must have a backlog of ideas for columns, so that you will never come up with nothing, even though that “nothing” may be something that Bill Crosier finds entertaining.

Today, although I had intended to write about something else, I will amplify my comments about making notes for future columns.

The “something else” I was planning on writing about today is the rapid, downhill decline of the Cleveland Plain Dealer since they started delivering it four days a week, expecting people to buy on newsstands the other three days, and not be unhappy about it.

I also said that I will never, but never, read a newspaper on a computer, as the PD people expect me to do.

A lot of people called to say they totally agree with that sentiment.

More than a few callers said that if The PD people think they are going to carry a computer into the bathroom to read the paper, they have another thing coming.

(I have no solutions for reading a computer in the bathroom, which seems to be the venue in which a lot of people choose to read the paper.)

And trying to work a crossword puzzle on a computer in the bathroom is preposterous. You could drop the conjugation of an entire verb into extremely cold water. And you might flush away a useful though little-known word such as “erstwhile,” which I will have more to say about next week.

As I told Laura, whenever you think of an idea for a column, write it down. Save it. Never throw it away. It might be just a single word, but it could lead to a column 22 inches long — which is my weekly goal.

I have thousands, literally thousands, of notes bearing single words to remind me of column topics. They may not be interesting to you, but at least they are interesting to me.

These notes of mine are literally everywhere. They are in my pockets, in my office here and at the college, in my car, and everywhere else I may feel the compulsion leave a note.

I shall offer but a single example. I have a note that says “Hamp.” It refers to the last CD I bought by Lionel Hampton, and it is a reminder to quit stopping at Half Price Books in Mentor every time I have a few minutes to kill, because every time I do I buy $40 worth of CDs.

Make no mistake, I love every one of them. But I’ve got to stop! That one Hamp CD sent me to my basement, rummaging for Hampton CDs I hadn’t played for a long time. I found six or eight of them.
I don’t have time for that when I have hedges to trim and weeds to pull.


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