First off, Merry Christmas. This goes live on Christmas Eve, so I don’t have any delusions that a lot of people are going to be reading this. I hope they do, but I hope more that everyone has better things to do – be with family, wrap gifts, inadvertently get sucked in to the “24 Hours of ‘A Christmas Story’” marathon – than read a political column on December 24th.
That being said, it doesn’t excuse me from my obligation to write one because an obligation is an obligation and a deadline is still a deadline, even on holidays. Which leads me to this column. I get messages from readers all the time, and the ones that stick with me are the ones from people who’d love to be writers. They’re mostly about how to do it, how to get into writing for a living; and how writers come up with things to write about regularly when there are so many people writing about the same things.
Being original isn’t easy, which is why there is a regular stream of plagiarism allegations, actual or not and intention or not.
While I can’t address every question I’ve gotten here, I will take this opportunity to address one that Christmas Eve exemplifies: how do you write a column when there isn’t much to write about?
The question is: what should I write about, knowing the big news of the week (the tax cut bill and the Democrats’ freak-out over it) has already been covered by just about everyone with a column and whatever I write is likely to be little-read?
That’s a dilemma for everyone with a column, because they will always fall on some holiday, eventually, and you have that voice in the back of your head that says, “You can just phone this one in, no one is going to see it. Then you can double-down on the awesome in the next one.”
But Christmas presents a different challenge. The next one, for me anyway, will fall on Thursday. But the Thursday of Christmas week is still a down time for readership since a lot of people take off the whole week. If I phone in this one and that one, the one after that falls on New Year’s Eve. That’s three in a row…and that voice begins to sound like a choir.
It’s times like this that writers appreciate the two time tested fallbacks that are only available at this time of year: the “Year in Review” and the “Predictions for Next Year” columns.
I’m guilty…of both. And will likely be guilty of them again.
Sometimes there is nothing new to write about, and in the week between Christmas and the new year is often that sort of time. If it’s not, that means something went horribly wrong – something awful happened and you want to address it. Congress is on recess, the President is on vacation, all the news anchors are doing whatever it they do (and given the revelations about them this year, that could literally be anything).
We all hope for being forced to pick one of the standbys because the alternative is never good, unless you’re a sick person.
Well, despite what you may have assumed from some of writings, I’m not a sick person. I also don’t want to rehash well-covered ground about the news of the week knowing that should I mine a gem line or two from my head for that column, few people would read it.
That leaves only a few options: something obscure that happened during the week, the “Year in Review” while the year still have a week left, or something deeply personal. My current situation – having gifts to wrap and work to do – makes option one less appealing. I find it too soon for option two, but that is totally subjective and I don’t fault anyone who went that route. Option three I’ve already done and it was, and still is, too emotionally draining to revisit right now.
That leaves me out of options; I have nothing to write about. I could’ve written about Rosie O’Donnell’s attempted $2 million bribe of Senators, but the only shocking news there is that Rosie O’Donnell has millions of dollars left and isn’t spending it all on family counseling. But that seems too mean…
So what am I left with? Not much; maybe, process? But how boring would that be? Where are the bombs? Where are the zingers? Well, it’s Christmas Eve, maybe I’ve gotten soft with the spirit. Probably not. I did make fun of Rosie O’Donnell.
So I’ll just say Merry Christmas and Happy Boxing Day (to anyone weird enough to celebrate that), and keep my powder dry till Thursday…when I’ll take a look back at 2017. Or not.