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Thursday, December 4, 2014

How To Be A Column Writer

For the 16 years I worked in newspaper journalism in addition to reporting, editing, writing editorials, and managing staff, I wrote a column at least once a week. I've been revisiting some of the columns and thought I'd share some of them here.

– Never lie. In print.
– It's okay not to know what you're writing about as long as you don't know about it in an interesting way.
– The longer the column, the greater the number of important sentences it must contain, and not only do column writers not have a great number of important sentences in their heads, readers can't deal with too many of them anyway.
– The hardest thing to attain in a column is your own individual voice: try to force it and it cracks; fail to search for it in every sentence and it disappears.
– Truth, that bastard child of reality and perception, shines brightest unadorned.
– When all else fails, do satire, and then repent.
– Political columnists have it easy, they only have to write with their heads. But when intellect takes over prose, prose loses is poetry.
– Comic columnists are fun to read, but comedy reaches truth only through the door of dark cynicism.
– The sources of inspiration are too fragile to explain; leave them alone.
– Love thy neighbor for his foibles; they give you something to write about.
– Gather criticism and compliments in the same crucible of skepticism.
– A column that disturbs no one has no mark to hit; a column that disturbs everyone has missed the mark.
– Learn the columnist's prayer: "God, grant me the courage to complain about that which I cannot change."
– Learn the columnist's confession: "God, forgive me for complaining so much."
– Learn to write aphorisms; they'll get you through another day.

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