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Searching for an idea

September 17, 2015
By Joyce Schenk , Westfield Republican

Here I am again, sitting in front of a blank computer screen with a mind that is equally blank. And I can feel the familiar nudge of deadline fear creeping up behind me like a hungry jungle cat.

As the deadline ticks closer, I look into that space where all ideas hide, the storehouse that lies between my left ear and my right ear. And I findnothing!

There are no brilliant flashes.

No subtle glows.

There is nothing there, not even a dust bunny hiding in the corner.

Even though I don't often find myself in this situation, when it does happen I'm convinced I have chosen the wrong career. Even training wild animals would be less stressful than being a writer with a mind gone hopelessly blank.

But, as I continue to stare at the intimidating screen, I realize that slowly, quietly something is beginning to bubble up from that mysterious well lying deep inside my mind. It's the first tentative wisp of an idea.

I can feel the jungle cat of fear slink away as I begin to examine this unformed treasure.

At first, there's not much there, only a word to start the wheels of imagination slowly turning.

But, with patience, the word becomes a sentence, then a paragraph. Eventually, I sit back and look at the computer screen to find a whole column has emerged.

The weekly ritual is often this tentative, this painful.

Sometimes, though, I'm lucky enough to find an idea lying beside my path as I mosey along. I quickly pick it up and tuck it away in the pocket of my mind.

For days, I find myself rolling the thought around, looking at it from different angles, seeing it in various lights.

On those weeks when I have an idea eager to be pursued, the words almost trip over themselves in their eagerness to tumble off my fingers. It's a wonderful change from the bouts of empty-mindedness.

There are three experiences in such weekly writing that bring real elation.

The first comes when the column is at last finished.spelling checked, grammar corrected, sentences polished. The act of typing "the end" is joyously liberating.

The second high point of such a week is the moment when I finally see the finished piece in print. Even though I've been at this writing game for more than 30 years, there is a deep sense of accomplishment that comes from reading your own words in the pages of a newspaper.

But a writer's ultimate reward is finding that someone out there is actually reading those carefully crafted words.

Working in isolation at my computer, I find it hard to imagine the final column will have a life of its own, and that folks I've never met will read my words. That realization is what keeps me going, even when the ideas are hard to find.

And today, putting the struggle itself into words has given me the column idea I was searching for.



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