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Kelly's Korner: My biggest writing regrets

Joe Kelly
Sentinel columnist
Posted 8/12/22

I was thinking about the process of writing the other day. It is much easier to think about writing than to actually write.

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Kelly's Korner: My biggest writing regrets

Posted

I was thinking about the process of writing the other day. It is much easier to think about writing than to actually write.

One of the things that came to mind is regret. I have regrets when it comes to my writing.

Frank Sinatra once sang, “Regrets, I’ve had a few, but then again too few to mention.” I, however, have enough to mention. In fact, I’ve compiled a list of writing regrets. It was easy to do. 

I regret not having copies of every column I’ve ever written. It would be a valuable reference tool. Some columns I’ve written off the top of my head, but others contained extensive research.

Plus, it would be nice to know exactly how many columns I’ve written over the years. I can only guess.  

My friend Frank Tomaino, who is 90 years old, has written a newspaper column since he was a young man. He knows exactly how many he has written because he has a copy of every one of them. His mother saved them for him. And when she passed, Frank was smart enough to keep saving them.

My mother never saved anything I wrote. That might have been a message. She was always tossing out things. She even threw out my baseball card collection and comic books. In my mother’s defense, she gave me fair warning all of it was going out unless it was removed from her house.

I regret the terrible column I wrote about Lesley Gore. She was performing at Turning Stone. The writing was good, but the words I used were mean. 

I wrote that the great voice she had used to sing “It’s My Party,” “California Nights,” “You Don’t Own Me” and “Judy’s Turn To Cry” was gone.

It is impossible to write that a once great singer has lost their voice without sounding mean. I shouldn’t have written anything and regret that I did. 

I regret not paying attention in school when grammar was being taught. Even now I’m not completely sure about when to use “good” and when to use “well.” 

Several other grammatical things confuse me. Instead of learning the rules, I write around it. I regret that, too.

And I regret not being a faster writer. When I worked in a newsroom along with dozens of other writers, I was always the last reporter to finish.

If deadline was 11 o’clock, I finished at 10:59 and sometimes a minute or even two later. 

I regret some of the topics I’ve selected to write about. Just last week, for example, I wrote about the Battle of Oriskany, which happened on August 6, 1777. 

As someone pointed out to me, “Not everyone is interested in history.”

True. And I promised not to write about the battle again - at least until early next August. 

I regret not being as sensitive to some subjects as I should have been. You have to write with care. Words are powerful. But no matter what you write, especially when you are trying to be funny, someone is not going to be happy.

Take, for example, the time I wrote a satirical column about prostitutes and got in trouble with their union or association or whatever the organization representing them was. 

Two things really surprised me. One was that they had even seen the column. It wasn’t like I was writing for the New York Times or Washington Post.

The other surprising thing was that the sex workers had an association and their own letterhead.

That’s a partial list of writing regrets. I might even regret writing this column. It usually takes me a couple of days to know for sure. 

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