So You Want to Be a Columnist?

My love affair with humorous columnists started back in 1988 when I visited Expo 88 with my wife in Brisbane.  We were seated on a suburban train heading into the city, and across from us was a bloke holding up a newspaper the size of a table cloth (The Courier Mail) and he was laughing his head off. 

Being the sort of person who enjoys a good laugh, I poked my head over the top of his paper and said “G’day mate.  What are you laughing at?” 

He pointed to the page and said, “Mike O’Connor, funniest bugger I’ve read.  Now piss off.” 

Welcome to Brisbane. 

When we got to the South Bank station, I bought a paper, and while we were waiting in one of the endless lines to see the various pavilions, I read the paper, and had a good laugh at Mikes’ column.  I was hooked. 

It was years later when the internet finally opened up the outside world to us, that I started reading some of Dave Barry’s stuff, and various other columnists from around the globe, that the thought struck, “I’d like to have a go at this.”

Like most things in life, it’s a lot harder than it looks.  

I started writing sporadically, a column here, a list of ideas there.  Some of it was good, a lot of it pretty ordinary.  I submitted my stuff to various papers, but rarely heard back, let alone got anything printed.  The only paper that was keen to print my stuff got shut down the week I was due to make my debut in print!  So I put the dream back on the shelf, and puttered about doing odds and ends. 

Then this time last year I was considering it again.  I had written on an online forum (Hiya Gang!) that I’d like to be a full time writer, and having loaded the gun and pressed it to the side of my own head thought, ‘Well, better make a start then.’  Out came the old columns, the unfinished novels, the numerous short stories, and the collection of poetry.  I did some sifting, sorting and burning before putting together a pile of yellowed papers which I thought showed some promise. 

Of all my scribblings, the one that gave me the most joy was writing humorous articles.  They were fun, and proved to be excellent therapy as well.  But in order to prove to myself that I could maintain the discipline of writing something at least once a week, I decided to start this blog, thinking that if I could maintain the practice of one blog per week then I could write one column per week.  Well, it’s been hoot doing this blog, and I’d like to thank my faithful fans (all six of you!) for your encouragement, praise and tips.     

One of my favourite non-Australian columnists, Keith Waterhouse from the UK, used to write 2 columns a week, Mondays and Thursdays (also a title of one of his books), and when I first read that, I recall thinking, ‘What a bludge!  Imagine having to only work two days of the week!’  I’ve had a bit of a rethink since! 

I wrote to (well, emailed) Mike O’Connor recently, to thank him for his inspiration and his reply was encouraging, but contained a bit of a warning as well; I quote “… and welcome to the treadmill of column writing.” 

I know what he means now.  The panic of the deadline, the desperation to put something worth reading ‘out there’.  The pressure!  I love it 🙂  But don’t really know why…

Hopefully I’ll still be loving it this time next year!

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