The following was originally published in The Sherbrooke Record, an English daily newspaper in the Eastern Townships of Quebec.
This week marks 10 years that I’ve been writing this column for The Sherbrooke Record. That means, according to The Columnist’s Code, I get to submit a self-indulgent piece all about me, as opposed to other weeks when its only mostly about me.
I can’t believe I was only 19 years old when I started this column. How young I was, not to mention firm, fit and at my textual peak. As you can see from the accompanying headshot , the last 10 years have been exceedingly rough on me, which probably means I should ask for a raise, if for no other reason than to afford some judiciously applied Botox.
In 10 years, I believe I’ve missed only three columns. When my family drove across Canada two summers ago, I filed from the road and still managed not to get divorced. (Love you, Deb!) There were a few extra columns over the years in addition to my regular column, so all in all I have written about 520 columns. At an average of 750 words, that amounts to roughly 39,000 words, which is a good reminder that writing about math is boring.
Over the years, many people have asked me, “Do you know you have broccoli in your teeth?” but also, “Where do you get your ideas?” To these people I say, “I’m saving it for later,” and also that ideas come from the news, trends, something I saw, something that happened in my life, something I stole from the Internet, all over the place.
And then there’s the shower. As I lather up my 29-year-old body that, despite the time-ravaged face, remains surprisingly toned and, dare I say, lady-bait, I ask myself, “What can I write about this week? What would the readers be interested in? Where did I put the conditioner?” Believe it or not, inspiration comes to me surprisingly often, from which we can conclude one thing: I have magic plumbing.
Once inspiration strikes, it’s just a matter of grasping hold of it, kneading it into some kind of shape and making sure it stands up under scrutiny. And then I dry off, put some clothes on and start writing.
But writing is just the first part. After that comes the editing, going over what I’ve written to make sure the piece holds together and that there are no regretful word choices. For example, never ever use the term “lady-bait.”
Naturally, not every column is going to be a winner. I’m thinking in particular of the one that consisted entirely of four-letter words. They say there’s no such thing as bad publicity, but still, lesson learned: much more foul than copy with none; even that Ford dude yaks sans cuss some rare days.
Then again, there were many highlights. For example, there was the time my body was possessed by the ghost of Archbishop Desmond Tutu, resulting in one of the most eloquent and inspiring pieces of my career, made that much more amazing by the fact that Archbishop Tutu isn’t even dead.
Perhaps the greatest joy, though, has been writing about my family, especially my children as they’ve grown into wonderful young people. I’ve often stretched the truth in this space or even crafted complete fabrications (this week, though, all true!), but Deb, Emily, Katie, James, Abby and, yes, even the miserable pets have been the great humbling truth in my life, and I thank them for letting me share their stories with you. No joke.
Thanks also to the editorial staff at The Record for never once saying, “Uhhh… no.”
The past 10 years have shot out of reach like a bar of soap squirting out of my wet hand, an analogy I use solely to keep that shower imagery in your head for as long as possible. Which brings me to my final thanks to all you lovely readers who have been caught in the spray of my thoughts, who have allowed me to vent and ramble and be plain immature. Thank you for reading. Thanks as well for stopping me in the street and saying, “Seriously: the broccoli.”
I can’t promise I’ll be here for another 10 years because, well, I’ll be 30 years old soon and if I’m ever going to fulfill my dream of becoming a professional lute player, I better get plucking.
And so, as a final, self-indulgent 10-year anniversary gift to myself, I am now picturing all of you in the shower naked. I think that’s only fair.