Tuesday, January 6, 2015

When the Well Runs Dry

When I started this journal in March of 2000, I did it for a couple of reasons, mostly inspired by my friend Steve Schalchlin, the fifth person ever to post an on-line journal.  But what I really wanted to do was to see if I could write a daily newspaper column.

I had long admired Erma Bombeck and dreamed of having a column like hers. On the off chance that The Davis Enterprise was ever looking for a writer for a column like that, I wondered if it could be me.

I tried to produce an ~750-850 word column every day...and discovered that I could, though I also found out that it was waaay harder to be Erma Bombeck than it seems on the surface.  I still haven't done that.
Well, eventually they offered me the job of theater critic, a job I have enjoyed for 15 years now, and there came a time when they did want someone to write a journal entry once a week and the job went to Marion Frank, a wonderfully talented writer who approaches my Erma aspirations more often than I do.

Recently she was stuck for something to write about.  It happens to all of us.  You know the deadline is looming and there is just nothing there.  As it happened it was around Christmas time.  While her family traditionally had a big celebration on Christmas eve, this year their children would not be arriving until Christmas day.  It would be the first year she and her husband would be alone on Christmas eve.

Then she got a flyer from Capital Stage in Sacramento, advertising its holiday show, Santaland Diaries (apparently she didn't get her information from my review. Harumph.  But let it pass) and she decided maybe they would have their "Jewish Christmas" ("I'm half Jewish myself," she admits), go to a nice Chinese restaurant for dinner and then see Santaland Dairies.
The truth is, I had two concerns that were prompting me to buy tickets. I was afraid of possible loneliness on Christmas Eve and I needed to produce a column by Jan. 1.
When she bought the tickets only 8 other tickets had been sold and she figured that writing about how a comedian does a one-man show for a handful of people would be an interesting angle.  But by the time the show arrived, about half the house was full so it wasn't going to be interesting to write about the lack of patrons.

She and her husband tried to check out the audience to see the kinds of people who go to the theater on Christmas night, but found them all just ordinary looking.
My husband and I left the theater saying to each other that Christmas Eve out isn’t very different from a normal night out. We weren’t having a unique experience and — worse yet — I didn’t have a column.
But she did.  She wrote a whole column about how she tried to find something to write about...but came up dry.

When I don't have anything to write about, I usually turn to an old meme that I saved years ago.
Tonight, however, I could write about my fellow writer, who was having the same problem I was tonight.

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