Lockport Union-Sun & Journal Online

February 13, 2014

VALLEY: Enter the Sandman, Don McLean and Maggie

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal

Lockport Union-Sun & Journal — I usually sit down and write this column on the weekend prior to the day it appears in the newspaper. That gives me two to three days to outrun an informal deadline of Monday.

It makes life a lot easier for those on the receiving end if I can e-mail the article to editors as early as possible.

The process of writing isn’t as easy for me as it is for the normal scribe. More-gifted writers can sit down and pound out articles like they’re thumping their fingers to the beat of a favorite song. I admire them for that. But, unfortunately, that’s not the way it works for me. It takes me a little longer.

Obviously, when writing, the topic is priority number one. What’s the column going to be about? And how do I make it readable if it’s less than interesting? It’s amazing where inspiration sometimes comes from. People tend not to believe me when I tell them. I don’t know why. So I just don’t bother to bring it up anymore.

The real work for me comes after I’ve written the first draft. I’m never satisfied. I have to walk away from it. That allows me the time to see it in a different light; a chance, hopefully, to see it from the perspective of the reader.

That’s when I start to notice that I’ve gummed up the article with sticky-nicks and disjointed wordage. Meaning: I have to start “sanding” the rough spots out of the story. An easy read is a smooth read. That’s my goal. The inadvertently-written speed bumps have to be eliminated (as much as possible) to hit that target. (Bulls-eyes are pipe dreams.)

The fact of the matter is: I’m seldom comfortable with the final product. I always feel as though I should have sanded it at least one more time, to give it a little more polish.

Another valuable tool that I have and use when writing – if not the best tool I have — is letting my wife, Kathie, read the article before I submit it to the paper. She’s smart, honest and a great contributor to the whole process. I thank her for that.

So why this explanation today?

Well, frankly, I also use the Internet. I use it as a source to check facts. And today’s original topic needed a lot of fact checking. Names, dates, places, etc.

But when I started the column, the Internet was down. That wasn’t good — I needed it right away. Time was running out. I had no choice but to find another subject to write about.

So I took a break to think about it. The cable (TV) was also out, so I turned on my trusty turntable and cued up a Don McLean record.

“Starry, starry night ...” (Be thankful you can’t hear me.)

My dog, Maggie, sensing a problem, asked if there was something wrong. I told her the situation. She suggested that I should write a column explaining my plight and how I wasn’t able to write about the intended subject matter.

“You mean actually write a column about not being able to write a column? I asked.

“Bingo!” she barked.

“Good idea,” I said, “but will it be long enough?”

“Sure. You can also explain the process you go through to come up with a finished piece. And … if you have it in your heart, you can mention who came up with the idea!”

“I’d love to mention you, Maggie, but trust me ... no one would believe it.”

“They would not listen, they’re not listening still. Perhaps they never will.” (Don McLean)

And that’s the way it looks from the Valley.




Tom Valley is a Medina resident. Contact him at tvalley@rochester.rr.com when the Internet is working.