I’ll Keep On Writing

By Alan S. Chartock | February 17, 2023

About a week ago, I wrote that I might not be writing every week. The key word there is “might.” I like writing. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t do it. I remember as a kid we had this routine. Someone would say something and we might respond, “Well, that’s life.” Of course, we all know that the response would be, “What’s life?” The classic answer would be,”A magazine.” That’s when “Life Magazine” was big stuff. So the point here is that we seem to keep on doing what we have always done. Sometimes that’s because we get into a rut but most of the time, it’s because when we discover that, at least in our own minds, we think we are doing something well.

So I wrote that I might no longer be writing on a regular basis and some of you were kind enough to write me some fairly nice notes suggesting that I reconsider my decision. Well, okay, I have thought about it and what I wrote sounded fairly definitive. Since then, though, as I reconsider to something my own mother used to say so many years ago: “Don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.” That, in hindsight, seems like what I was doing. I really do like writing and I especially enjoy your occasional responses. One of the reasons why we columnists write every week is that regularity is a big part of getting it done. You all know that. When you have to return to something week after week, it becomes part of who you are. If you don’t believe me, all you have to do is to fill in the blanks as far as your own life is concerned.

There are things we do every week that sit at the top of the “to do” list. It’s like putting on your shoes every morning. You certainly notice if you are missing a shoe, right? So, as you walk through life, perhaps at 6:00 in the morning when you are out in the dink and the dank, you remember that something needs to be done, whether it’s finishing a project or starting one That’s when you recognize your responsibility in making it happen. Sometimes that’s like knowing that you are on the cusp of something like blowing your nose. You know that feeling. You feel it coming, it’s starting up in the back of your nasal cavity and you absolutely know that you are not going to be able to stop it from happening so you just have to follow through. It’s very much like all those times that you knew that you were going to have to scratch somewhere in your body. When you have to scratch, well, you have to scratch. It’s that simple. When you do, the result is both satisfying and palpable. That need to scratch can only be satisfied by scratching in that exact spot on your body that is calling for it. It may be just under your right shoulder blade or above your posterior lobes but it is satisfying.

So, for me, writing is like scratching. There is a point when you know that you have to do something. In fact, for all of you who write on a regular. basis, you know that you really just can’t stop cold turkey. When you have a productive habit, why would you stop doing it? Just imagine trying to stop that scratch when you really have to scratch. You could drive yourself crazy. I’m sure that you’ve found yourself lying in bed having to scratch but feeling too tired to assume the position to allow you to do it.

So, I’ll keep on writing and I’ll keep on scratching until that time when I’m in another place. I’ll probably see you then.

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]