I regularly get two questions about my writing these columns: One is about how I got in to the business of writing these columns and the other is how I come up with ideas for columns.
I’m not sure I can be completely exact about either one.
Last year, Dave Hill, the former editor of the Daily Reporter, put out a request for people to submit ideas for columns that would be printed in the local paper. These columnists would write once a week, once a month, or however frequently they and the editor chose. So I chose to submit a couple of column examples. Between these and examples of letters to the editor I had sent in over the years, I was chosen as one of the guest columnists.
After some consideration, I decided once a month seemed a reasonable interval for me, and Dave Hill agreed.
What made me think I could do such a thing? I have had a desire to share my thoughts on paper over the years. While I will never say never, I do not think I have the skill or patience to write “the great American novel.”
As I mentioned before, I have written letters to the editor over many years to the papers here in Greenfield and the Indianapolis Star.
It is a habit I share with my younger brother, who submits his letters to the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. And some of them have been printed.
I have written numerous technical reports over the years as a licensed clinical social worker. While this is a completelydifferent style of writing than writing a column, there are basics to any writing that involve the use of skills that allow the writer to clearly communicate with the reader.
So, I thought it made sense to give it a try.
And I have thoroughly enjoyed it. There have been times I have thought I may not discover a topic in time. This was one of those times. But I have had conversations over the last several days in which people have asked me how I get ideas for my columns. And, thus, this column was born.
Writers of columns love to share with you their ideas and opinions. Where we get ideas probably varies with each writer. Mostly, I listen to ideas and thoughts others share with me or the people with whom they are conversing. Yes, I listen in on others’ conversations.
I assume others do the same with me.
Sometimes, I get an idea from something I have read. Often the ideas are also about topics I have moderate or strong feelings about.
To a certain extent, columns are emotion-driven.
Without emotion, we would not do anything. Even if it is as basic as “I need to feed my family,” there is emotion involved with any endeavor. And writing, more so than most other tasks, requires us to experience emotion about the topics we share.
So, between ideas generated by things I read or hear about and the emotions I experience as a result, I come up with topics. But emotions must be mitigated by reason in order to write a cogent article about a topic.
Increasingly, in mental health, education and now business, this is being discussed as mindfulness. And mindfulness allows us to balance emotion and a reasonable mind. Without a reasonable mind, we are unable to strategize a plan for a column that makes sense to the reader.
Some call this combination of reasonable and emotion minds a wise mind.
This endeavor of what I call guest columnists is a corporate effort by Home News Enterprises (HNE), the parent company of the Daily Reporter, to get readers involved in sharing their views in their local papers.
My understanding is that the Daily Reporter has more guest columnists than any other paper in the HNE system. Now, that could mean that Dave Hill, and now Noelle Steele, have been very convincing in getting people involved.
Or that is an indication that the readers of the Daily Reporter are simply more opinionated.
I will leave that to all of you to decide.
Jim Matthews of Greenfield is licensed clinical social worker. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.