• Mark Albury: How to write a column
    July 01,2013

    On occasion, people ask me how I come up with the silly ideas for this column. Contrary to popular belief, I did not grow up with a major vitamin deficiency, nor was I accidently locked in a room with a TV set during an entire season of Gilligan’s Island. No, my story ideas are the result of disciplined study habits picked up between the toga parties, prolonged frisbee catches, and excessive bouts of daytime sleeping I enjoyed at college. Of course, it helps to have a muse.

    There is something about an imaginary friend giving you concepts and telling you what to write that makes the process very easy.

    A typical Saturday morning of writing usually goes like this:

    7 a.m. Woke up prepared to write a hilarious column about some inane topic. Went to the kitchen to grab a cup of coffee and feed the dog.

    7:15 a.m. Settled in the living room, turned on the laptop, and waited for the arrival of my muse for inspiration.

    7:31 a.m. The dog decided that the repast he preferred was found in the trash and not his bowl and proceeded to knock over the can, scattering garbage all over the floor.

    7:32 a.m. Returned to the kitchen to clean up mess.

    8:07 a.m. Back at the laptop ready to write.

    8:09 a.m. Heard the dog scratching at the back door. Reminded my best friend that he had already been out.

    8:11 a.m. Cleaned up dog “accident” by back door.

    8:25 a.m. Resumed seat in living room and tried to think of an opening sentence for the classic column I was about to write. Typed “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” and laughed out loud at my great wit.

    8:37 a.m. Heard the dog scratching at the back door again. Promptly got up and let him out.

    8:38 a.m. Watched the dog sprint into the distance in search of romance and adventure.

    9:15 a.m. Located the dog fraternizing with canine of the opposite sex on the other side of town. On the drive home explained to said dog that he had been “fixed” 12 years ago.

    9:30 a.m. Deleted “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times” sentence, and tried to think of an opening sentence that hadn’t already been used. Looked down at the keyboard and noticed my fingernails were getting long.

    9:31 a.m. Went to the bedroom to find nail clippers.

    9:40 a.m. Returned to keyboard well-groomed and ready to write.

    9:41 a.m. Tried to type, “The quick red fox jumped over the lazy brown dog” without looking.

    9:42 a.m. Deleted, “The quivk ted dox kumped ovet thr last browm fog.”

    9:45 a.m. Realized I had better get to work. Stared at the screen and concentrated. Noticed that the screen was very dusty.

    9:46 a.m. Retrieved damp rag and cleaned computer screen.

    9:50 a.m. While in possession of a damp rag decided to dust coffee table, mantle, and other furniture in living room.

    10:05 a.m. Made vow not to move from chair until a new column was started.

    10:06 a.m. Got up to pour another cup of coffee.

    10:07 a.m. Renewed vow not to get out of chair until story was started.

    10:08 a.m.–10:38 a.m. Tried to reach paper clip on coffee table without getting out of chair.

    10:40 a.m. Scraped plaque off teeth with paper clip.

    10:50 a.m. Decided to meditate for writing inspiration. Closed my eyes and concentrated on the sounds around me. Heard the soft rain falling outside; the gentle hum of the laptop; a soft whistling noise coming from my nose.

    10:51 a.m. Went to the bathroom to clip nose hairs.

    11:00 a.m. Gazed absently at the laptop waiting for the arrival of the muse.

    11:30 a.m. Awoke facedown in a puddle of drool on the keyboard.

    Looked at the diary of a typical day of writing and decided to submit it to the paper. Muse delivered yet again.

    Mark S. Albury lives in Northfield Falls.

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