The writing life isn’t always easy sailing

For those of you who have friends in Sault Ste. Marie or the surrounding area, you might have heard I’m once again writing for the Sault News. This time I’m calling my column “Common Sense at 70” because, as you know, I’ve begun a new decade. I’m not sure where my 60s went, but they sure went there fast.

The previous publisher of our local paper and I had a difference of opinion regarding payment. When I started writing four years ago, I knew it was for free and that was OK with me. However, when it came to my attention that sports stringers were paid for their efforts, I requested gas money for my second weekly column, “A Look at Locals.” For that one, I interviewed people and made many trips to town. Alas, my request was ignored. After mulling it over for a month, I called it quits and left the paper.

When my column failed to appear on a Monday as usual, readers called the paper and inquired what happened. When Wednesday rolled around and still no “Common Sense at 60,” more readers called and expressed their concern. They were used to reading two columns per week from their “favorite” local writer. Favorite because I was their only local writer who wasn’t an employee of the paper.

I told a few close friends the truth, but when I wrote my last column I merely said I was concentrating on short stories. I was too embarrassed to admit I had been writing for free. Why is it creative writers have so little value that even our emails go unanswered? We spend hours at the keyboard thinking of clever, amusing and interesting things to write about. We dig deep into our memory bank and dredge up nostalgic stories from our childhood. We pay attention to grammar, punctuation and sentence structure. In other words, we put forth as much effort as possible to meet deadlines and give our readers something well written that will brighten their day if only for the few minutes it takes to read our stuff.

If writers are honest, they’ll tell you it’s hard work. It’s also lonely because we’re isolated. We close the door of our study, sit at our desk and begin writing. I don’t know about others, but if I waited to hear from the literary muse, I wouldn’t write one word. When you write a weekly column, there’s no such thing as waiting to be inspired. I’m starting this on Friday. I’ll send it in Monday. If I waited for inspiration, this page would remain blank.

Well, anyway, the new publisher of the Sault News and I came to an agreement, so after I finish this musing, I’ll spend another couple hours working on something fresh and exciting for my 450 word column. Wish me luck. You know what it’s like when you see a friend every day. It isn’t long before you run out of things to say after you’ve discussed the latest gossip. It’s no different with writers. Sometimes we’ve said all we had to say in the first paragraph. Egad, we think. Now what do we do?

We keep going, that’s what. There’s no such thing as reaching for the nearest crying towel or throwing a hissy fit. We’ve made a commitment and we honor it. Occasionally we hear from a reader who has enjoyed our column or one who has disagreed with it. Either way, it’s always nice to know somebody is reading what we write. I guess what they say is true. Bad press is better than no press.

I just checked my word count and it’s a little over 600. That means I’ll need another 300 to fill the space allotted. You may not know that editors require a specific word count. The life of a writer is governed by word counts. One place I write for requests 750, another 700, a third 1000, and a fourth doesn’t have a minimum or limit so I write until I’ve said all I have to say, proofread it again, then hit the “send” button.

Wouldn’t it be amazing if word counts were demanded of everyone? If a gabby friend went beyond her word limit, we could hit a little buzzer and she would have to stop talking. I imagine husbands would love such a gizmo. Perhaps in time, that’s exactly what will happen. At birth, a button will be inserted into the forehead of an infant. It will be like a third eye.

Mythology is full of odd creatures. Take Cerberus, for example. He was the three-headed dog in Greek mythology that guarded the gates of Hades. He must have been a terrifying sight, but we have a way of adjusting to the ridiculous and the absurd. I suppose it wouldn’t take long for society to get used to buzzer buttons on human foreheads.

Silly you say? Well, nobody thought Orwell’s 1984 would come true, but it did. Who knows what the future will hold? Things that seem bizarre now might be commonplace and accepted as “normal” in time to come. Luckily, most of us won’t be around to see all the strange, wonderful or outright peculiar trends happening in the next 50 years.

Well, I’ve managed to wring out my word count so it’s time to wrap this up. Have a great 900 word day!

Editor’s note: Sharon M. Kennedy of Brimley is a humorist who infuses her musings with a hardy dose of matriarchal common sense. She writes about everyday experiences most of us have encountered at one time or another on our journey through life. Her articles are a combination of present day observations and nostalgic glances of the past. She can be reached via email at sharonkennedy1947@gmail.com. In addition, Sharon has compiled a collection of stories from her various newspaper columns. The title of her book is “Life in a Tin Can.” Copies are available from Amazon in paperback or Kindle format.