This is my 800th column. I started writing for newspapers in the year 2000, one article every week for 16 years. I have never missed a deadline.
The 800th is always the toughest, don’t you think? I’m stuck. No ideas, no thoughts. I have writer’s block. Writer’s block is when, well it’s kind of like, you know, it happens after you … it’s a time when you can’t … I think you get the picture.
I’ve been suffering with it for the last month. As I recall, I woke up with it in the middle of the night. I was sweating, heart palpitating, discomfort in my chest. At first I thought it was a heart attack. With a heart attack, trained physicians insert a tube in your leg vein and shove it up your groin, then toward your heart, to clear the blockage.
I should be so lucky. At least there’s a treatment for cardiac arrest.
In order to overcome this writer’s ailment, I considered trying a number of techniques that some of my writer friends have warned against. I got down my huge volumes of Art Buchwald, Andy Rooney and Dave Barry essays. I mean, these books were just filled with great ideas: why sock sizes are silly, the junk you find when you clean out your fridge, when not to tip a waiter, the problem with haircuts, funny street names, weird things airline pilots say, strange recipes with ketchup. I was in heaven.
My problem was solved. Except I had a new problem: journalistic integrity. Not that that had ever been a problem for me before.
You see, this is the dilemma with coming up with new creative ideas. Basically, you’re always too late.
Here’s an example: several months ago I wrote an essay on napping. A few days later I was talking to an old friend. I had sent him the column and wanted to know what he thought.
“Yes, very funny, Dick. By the way, did you know that Leonardo da Vinci wrote a very clever essay on napping?”
“You’re kidding. When was that?”
“Oh, about 500 years ago.”
“Do you think I’m the first since da Vinci?”
“I’m sure you are, Dick. I’m sure you are.”
Well, that made me feel a little better. I just hope the da Vinci family doesn’t read any of the newspapers my column appears in. I don’t want to get sued. That’s not the kind of family you want legal problems with.
I tried one more thing. I didn’t bathe, shave or eat for several days. By adopting this strict, austere presence, I hoped my creative juices would flow as with all starving, desperate writers who are dedicated to the art of the printed word. I forgot that a lot of this deprived, destitute stuff is actually because they can’t think of an idea, either.
I had hoped my 800th column would be a really good one. So, can we not count this one? Let’s see what happens next week.