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KELLY'S KORNER: Thoughts on the writing process

Joe Kelly
Sentinel columnist
Posted 4/21/23

I write one column a week. My deadline for that weekly column is 10:30 every Monday morning.

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KELLY'S KORNER: Thoughts on the writing process


I write one column a week. My deadline for that weekly column is 10:30 every Monday morning.

This week I kept a diary of writing that column.

SATURDAY MORNING: The thought occurs to me that I have a column due on Monday morning. It seems like yesterday that I e-mailed my most recent column. 

I typically need three to four hours to write a column of about 600 words. I am not a fast writer. There is plenty of time, though, between now and Monday morning. 

I once wrote a column in 59 minutes. It had to do with breaking news and if it hadn’t been written that fast it wouldn’t have gotten into that day’s newspaper. There was another time I took eight hours to write a column. I’ve been unsuccessful in wiping that from my mind.   

SATURDAY EVENING: Sometimes I have a column idea by now. Many times I don’t. Tonight I don’t. I’ll sleep on it. It’s only Saturday.

SUNDAY MORNING: There’s a column idea stirring in my mind. Actually, there are two ideas. I’ll give it more thought after church.

SUNDAY AFTERNOON: The Yankees are on TV versus the Twins. The column can wait until after the Yankee game. Cole, our ace, is on the mound.  

Yankees win. After dinner I’ve got to decide on what I’m going to write about.

SUNDAY NIGHT: I’ve got to at least get the start of a column down on paper. I mean on the computer.

When I first started writing a column it was on a manual Underwood typewriter. We used paper that was purchased by the ton. 

When the Underwood broke, it was sent out to be fixed and I was given a Royal. I never got the Underwood back. I wrote better on the Underwood.

Each writer’s desk had shears and a glue pot. If you wanted to move paragraphs around it was literally done by cutting and pasting. It was time consuming and messy. 

LATE SUNDAY NIGHT: The house is quiet except for the television. My wife is watching a series called “Homeland.” The noise doesn’t distract me.

In the old days I worked in a large room filled with reporters pounding on Royals and Underwoods and people talking loud to be heard above ringing telephones. A television doesn’t bother me. 

She leaves for the bedroom, asking over her shoulder if I’ve got an idea. I say I’m not sure. She says, “You’ll think of something. You always do.”

But maybe I won’t. She’s a nurse. What does she know about writing? 

EVEN LATER SUNDAY NIGHT: I’ve written a couple hundred words. I go to bed but keep thinking about the column.

There is a pad and pen next to the bed. It is not unusual for column things to come to mind during the night. I’ll forget unless I write it down. 

MONDAY MORNING: The alarm clock is set for 8. I sleep until 8:15. After making coffee, I sit on the sofa, computer on my lap.

I check my e-mail and read the newspapers.  

It is now almost 9 o’clock. I’d like another coffee, but no time for that. I’m thinking maybe the other idea I had would make for a better column. There is not enough time to change horses in midstream. I’ll keep going, but need to write faster. 

It is now 10:15. I’ll read the column over one more time. There’s still time to change a few things, and I do.  

I send in the column because I’m out of time. If it wasn’t for a deadline I’d never finish. I’d keep writing until it was perfect and there would never be perfection. 

It is 10:40. I have the second cup of coffee and promise myself, once again, to start next week’s column on Sunday afternoon. 

And I think about the years when I wrote five columns a week and wonder how that was possible.


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