If some asked me how I felt about having my own column in one sentence, I would say this: I absolutely hate it. Hate is a strong word, but in this case it is completely accurate. I hate it more than school exams, more than doing my laundry and even more than cleaning bathrooms.
A lot of people probably think that it must be really great to have a column every issue. You have a space reserved specifically for you every week to say whatever happens to be on your mind. That’s not something that a lot of people get. Those people should consider themselves lucky. I don’t want a soapbox in each issue. I have poor balance, so standing on a box is a bad idea for me.
It’s not as much fun as some people think. It’s extremely difficult to produce a column every week. Even though this is only my fifth one, if I could give my space away, I would without hesitation and with a huge smile on my face. It’d be more exciting than giving someone a Christmas or birthday present.
When I ran for editor in chief at the end of last year, I wasn’t really thinking about the column that I would have to write for every issue. There were so many other duties that went along with this position that I wasn’t really thinking about the column. It was more of a side thought. It was kind of like studying for a test. You know you will have to at some point but you just keep putting it in the back of your mind saying "Oh, I can do it some other time."
Over the summer it didn’t really cross my mind much either, and I almost forgot that I would have to do it at all. Again, I was too busy thinking about some of the other things I would have to do. When the year started up and I realized that I would need to start writing them, I was far from thrilled. That’s like when you remember you have that big test in two days and think "Uh-oh. This sucks."
By the end of the year, I will have written 20 columns. I have no idea how I’m going to come up with that many topics. Some weeks there just isn’t anything that I feel like using as the topic for my column. Ideally, the topic is something that is related to St. John’s and is something that I actually have something to say about. It’s also nice if the topic is something that people might want to read. By the end of the week, I have to write about something, even if I’m not completely crazy about it.
If the topic does end up being one that I don’t have a lot to say about, writing can be very difficult, even more than when I like the topic. I have a half page to fill with my column. It amounts to about 1,000 words, which is longer than a lot of essays that teachers assign in English classes. If students whine about a 500-word essay, I think I definitely can whine about a weekly 1,000-word column. At least the teacher gives you the essay topic. By the end of the year, that will have been at least 20,000 words. It is intimidating to look at that huge white space and know that you are the one responsible for filling it. Not doing it isn’t an option.
Usually I have at least a week to write my column. That’s really a lot of time. If I were to write a little bit everyday and pretend to be a highly productive person, it could be finished in no time at all. However, that rarely is the case. I open up a Word document on my laptop and just stare at the screen wondering what I should type. I can always find things to do to put off writing it like cleaning my that is already as neat as can be by the standards of most college students or reading the press releases on www.redstormsports.com.
Eventually I finish cranking out the entire column, but it takes a while. Even as I am writing this column, I keep checking the word count to see how much is left. Word is really a great feature. It’s so much fun to see the numbers get higher and higher. But then don’t get higher quick enough, which makes it feel like I’ll never reach that magic number of 1,000.
After forcing myself to write my column, I take it to the office to be read and edited by some of the other editors at The Torch. This might be one of my least favorite parts simply because I can’t help but worry what they will think. If they disagree with my opinion, that’s fine. It’s more a worry about if they think it makes sense and is well written. Writing columns isn’t my strong point, so I can’t help but worry that I’m doing something wrong. Plus, they all seem to get a great deal of enjoyment out of giving me a hard time anyway and this just provides them with an easy target. Whenever they recommend cutting one sentence, I volunteer to cut the entire column. Why cut one sentence when you can cut the whole article?
Before my column is actually printed, I try to give the space away every week. I volunteer it to be used either by someone else for a column or for ad space. I’d like to think I’m just trying to be helpful. I just want to give someone else a chance to voice opinions. As for the ads, I’d rather cut from my column than have to take away space from one of the other sections. Unfortunately, this thinking has yet to work and it doesn’t look like it ever will.
The last step is for my column to be put out there for anyone who picks up the paper on campus to read. This usually doesn’t make me too nervous. That might be because I assume that no one takes the time to read it. Thinking like that maybe on the negative side, but I would probably dislike writing my column even more if I thought there were a lot of people who read it. Ignorance is bliss and I√ØøΩm about as cheery as they come.
Once we finish each issue of The Torch every week, I’m happy if for no other reason than that it is one less column I have left to write. The only bad part is that the ones left to write far outweigh the ones that have been completed. It’s like you get all happy just to get shot back down with reality.
Since I can
‘t give my column away or replace it with ads, I just have to keep plugging away at it week after week. As much as I dislike it, which is a great deal, it’s part of my job and I have to keep doing it. Hopefully, as the year progresses, writing a weekly column will grow easier. It certainly couldn’t get any harder. Maybe I’ll even come to enjoy doing it at some point. Only time will tell.
Five down, 15 more columns to go and 15,000 more words left to write.
Jessica Lyons is a senior majoring in journalism who would love to cut this column. Send comments to [email protected]