I have decided only to write when the spirit moves me. Frankly, I don’t know when that will be.
I’ve been writing columns for many years. One such column was meant to be state-wide in New York and the other a local Berkshires column. We are talking so many years that I really don’t remember when it all started. I am now, incredibly, 81 years old. I have not added up exactly how many columns I have written. Maybe there were hundreds, maybe thousands. In any case, we are talking a lot of words.
It started when my friend, Alan Copland, was the editor of the Berkshire Courier but over the years, a whole host of very good editors were looking over my shoulder including the very talented Stephen Fay who used to edit my columns. So now I have decided only to write when the spirit moves me. Frankly, I don’t know when that will be. Many columnists and some other news folks put the number “thirty” at the end of a particular columns to let the editor know that the piece is finished. So, this might just be my “thirty” column, but it probably will not be. When you write every week you develop a habit. You really can’t stop scratching the itch.
Sitting with the best part of my life, the lovely Roselle, trying to figure out how to decrease the pressure, we thought one way out from under the grueling demands of a weekly column would be to only write occasionally. I really don’t know what that means. It might mean that I will keep on keeping on and doing what I have always done or it just might mean that I may skip a week here and there or longer. In any case, there is a big difference between doing something because you have to do it or doing it because you feel like doing it.
I have always loved writing columns. As you walk around, something will pop into your head and you’ll think, “Hmm, that would be a good column.” It’s interesting. When you write about someone, people may end up ether appreciating you or hating you. That’s because columns can be a real reflection of who you are. We all have likes and dislikes. Too often, that puts us at some dissonance with others who do not share our beliefs. I have opined on so many subjects for so long that I’m always afraid I might contradict something I’d said previously.
There are people who will take offense at what you have written because they just don’t like the fact that you are defending ideas that they have different perspectives on. Or, they just may not like you. What always amazes me is just how angry some people can get, even if they actually agree with you.
Just think about the arguments you may have had with your significant other which, when properly analyzed, didn’t really amount to much. So why do we defend our ideas so vigorously? Sometimes it’s because we really believe in positions that we are taking. Sometimes it’s because we really don’t believe in what we are saying and feel the need to defend the indefensible. Sometimes we really don’t like the person that we may be arguing with. Sometimes the positions we take go way back to our childhoods, sometimes to our siblings and/or to our parents or relatives. I remember once when I was speaking to an aunt who didn’t like what I was saying. She smacked my face really hard. Funny, I remember that smack to this day.
So just think about what you DO remember. Funny how I remember the tough guys in my neighborhood who were a lot tougher and meaner than I ever thought of being. Think about people who made you feel lesser as a human being.
When you think about your life maybe you should jot down your ideas down and leave that piece of paper where you kids or grand children can find it. That’s what posterity is all about.
Alan Chartock is professor emeritus at the State University of New York, publisher of the Legislative Gazette and president and CEO of the WAMC Northeast Public Radio Network. Readers can email him at [email protected].