How to write a weekly column
Saturday, February 11, 2012 8:00 PM
Okay, it seems that wherever I travel I have people who ask, "how do you think up all those things?" or " how do you write about them and get it down on paper?" So, I decided I would lead you through the process of how I go about writing these articles.
All of us think. Our minds are jumbled with all kinds of thoughts, our eyes bombarded with all sorts of images. Sometimes we single one out and give it a bit more thought. Those thoughts are triggered by what we know, our experiences, our beliefs, our culture, our backgrounds, everything that makes us "us."
So that's the first thing. It could be just a word that triggers a memory, it could be a conversation I've had, it could be an interest in a particular subject or an article I've read that sparks a memory. One good thing is that I am not obligated to writing about one topic, such as sports or politics. You wouldn't want to see anything I've written on those topics, especially politics. But, we won't get into that. I have written sports stories, however, on local teams. But, that was years ago when the Saturday edition of The Times Bulletin was put together on Friday night and there were umpteen local games to cover. I always found it hard to come up with some of the flowery terms they use for touchdowns, home runs or baskets. I tried.
I will have to admit that the first time I set down at a computer to compose a story I found it very difficult. So, I composed it on paper and then typed it into the computer. With time being of essence, I don't do that anymore. I do however take a notebook and paper along on some of my husband's field trips for old tractor parts or equipment. I also take a book and my knitting, just in case inspiration doesn't strike.
There is such a thing as writer's block, but I've learned not to stare at an empty screen, either you get up and do something else or get something down on paper, even if it's the ending and not the beginning. It will come.
I will say that I have a curious and quick mind. That's a good thing, but it can backfire. You might say I'm a "jack-of-all-trades and master of none." I'm good at TV programs such as "Wheel of Fortune" and "Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader," even "Jeopardy," if it is something I am interested in; my mind absorbs all kinds of unconnected trivia. However, don't ask me to expound upon any subject with intricate detail unless I've done my research.
The mind is a wonderful thing. Everyone remembers and learns differently. I marvel at my grandchildren who consistently get straight A's or are on the honor roll each and every nine weeks, some without study or effort. Believe me I earned those A's when I was in school.
History in elementary school was always difficult, trying to remember all those dates for pacts, treaties and other important documents. But then two things happened. Our elementary school history class had a section on Ohio history and suddenly it clicked. After all, I was roaming the area where this history occurred, our own farm where I was finding Indian artifacts talked about in that history book, and also the places I knew, Fort Amanda, the Miami-Erie Canal, Grand Lake St. Marys, etc.
I also have to credit two teachers, one in high school and the other a college professor, both of whom loved history and it showed in their teaching. I was hooked. History that deals with people rather than dates or sterile documents meant more. Then history can come alive.
Perhaps I approach writing in the same way, how things affect me and others, how the past affects today, how changes affect our lives, the people story. I like to remember how things were done years ago because I respect those who did them.
So once I decide on a topic and begin writing I try to be accurate and make sure my spelling is correct. Now, I will have to tell you that you have to know how to spell a word before you can find it in the dictionary. Then there is my computer that often changes a word behind my back. Shame on you computer!
I must know more words that it does, because it often tries to tell me I have spelled something wrong, when in fact it just doesn't recognize a word. Sometimes it won't tell you when you have misspelled a word because it thinks it is spelled correctly but I know it just isn't the right word for that sentence. Then I change it back because I know more than that computer, right? But, sometimes it changes it back again behind my back. Shame on you computer! Sometimes we fight it out, and sometimes it wins, unbeknownst to me.
Often facts and figures need to be checked and rechecked for accuracy. Although I have an extensive library on certain topics, the internet is a good way to find what you want, if you pay attention to your source. There is a lot of misinformation out there, as well.
So each week I write about whatever is floating around in my head, putting down on paper those ideas, thoughts, historical references or experiences. Some of it is trivial, some of it entertaining, some of it thought provoking, some of it factual. I just hope you enjoy it. I know I enjoy sharing it with you.
Jeannine Roediger has lived on a family farm all her life, first as a farmer's daughter and now as a farmer's wife. She writes weekly for the Times-Bulletin and enjoys gardening, quilting, cooking, bird watching and writing.