I feel a column coming on

For at least 15 years, I wrote a weekly column in the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors, Minn. I started out writing about issues, but when I realized that people enjoyed the silly, off-the-cuff sort of things I did once or twice, I started writing more of those.

Nothing was safe. My observations about usually unnoticed things in the world around me, or the foibles, antics or even the dilemmas of my neighbors or my own family were likely to find their way into that column. I even made a t-shirt that said, “Be careful, or you’ll end up in my column.” One of my favorite ways to tease someone who had just said something outlandish was to announce, “I think I feel a column coming on!”

It’s not easy writing a new column every week. I did the math. In 15 years, that would be 780 columns, each about a different subject. Even when I went on vacation, I brought a laptop with me and got a column sent back to the paper. People liked reading it. I can’t count the number of times people said to me, “Your column is the first thing I read when the paper arrives.”

I realize, of course, that being a popular writer for a weekly paper in a small community might have made me a “big fish,” but it was in a very small pond.

So, when my life changed, when I retired and moved two times in two years, I discovered that finding another pond wasn’t quite so easy. At the newspaper, the sky was the limit for what I wrote because publication was guaranteed, and my readers could all identify with the places I referred to–and with me, personally.

Now, I became the stranger in town. Newspapers here were dealing with the same downturn issues as newspapers everywhere, and weren’t inclined to add an unknown to their staff. They certainly weren’t going to pay me.

So, for nearly two years, I didn’t write. But, to someone who has written one thing or another her whole life, this was not a comfortable position to be in. I was constantly saying to friends, “If I were still at the paper, I’d be writing about this,” referring to whatever subject happened to catch my notice.

Finally, someone said to me, “Well, why don’t you write anyway? Even if you can’t be published, write your columns anyway.”

That person was correct. Writers need to write. But writers need to be read, too. Otherwise, what’s the point?

And so, after finally figuring out what this new phenomenon called a blog is, I decided to start one. I still won’t get paid, but neither will some newspaper get my work for free. There’s no guarantee that anyone will see it, or read it–but the possibility is always there, and I guess that’s good enough. When someone tells me or my mother, as they often do,  “I miss Monica’s columns,” they can be directed to this site.

I think it’s time to dig out that t-shirt. Once again, what others say and do is fair game for my column.

(Addendum: To my surprise, many of my blogs are now about food. I never wrote about cooking and recipes when I was at the newspaper, but I stumbled onto it here and find that hose are usually the most-read blogs. So I guess I now must warn you that not only could what you say or what you do end up in my blog, so could what you cook. Hmmm. I wonder if that will limit my dinner invitations.)

(Addendum #2: When people know you can write, things happen. Since I started this blog, many years ago now, I’ve been contracted as a regular freelancer for our diocesan newspaper, do a rather nice-looking and -sounding newsletter (if I do say so myself) for our parish, and occasionally am asked to tackle other writing jobs–and all of this for pay. I may be retired, but the  beat goes on!)




7 Responses to I feel a column coming on

  1. Linda Novi says:

    Dearest Monica – I just finished reading all of your blog postings and wanted to thank you for writing. My heart was touched by many things you said and find myself sitting here waiting for my son to wake up, and feeling quite peaceful and content. It was such a joy for me to see both of you this past Sunday and being blasted into my past at the sight of Georges’ mom’s home. Very emotional for me… My only sadness is in realizing that you two are so very far away because I feel like we could become good friends and hang together having fun, sharing lifes ups and downs along the way.
    The written word will have to be our connecting place I suppose. That and meeting together in the space of quiet, reflection, and prayer. Fondly – Linda Novi

    • Monica says:

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this blog, Linda–and came to the open-house. I knew, among the many who wished us well, that you were most appreciative of the journey and the steps we had to take. Thanks! It would be great if we lived closer; maybe we’ll have to resort to REAL letters. (Gasp!) I’ll pray for your family, and I know you’ll pray for ours. 🙂 Hugs, Monica

  2. sarahlmandl says:

    I thoroughly enjoy your blog. I nominated you for a Daisy Award! You can click this link to find it: http://wp.me/p1StdW-cD

  3. Hi Monica! I’m Stephanie from the Huntsville, Alabama area. I write for our itty-bitty little town paper (outside of the bigger city), some community magazines, and hopefully more. I was a tech writer before deciding to stay home w our baby (over a decade ago). Freelancing doesn’t pay as much, but at least I have plenty of time for wife/mom/life! 🙂


    • Monica Sawyn says:

      Good for you for being a stay-at-home mom! I was too, too, until my kids were in school. I worked at a daily newspaper in Michigan before the kids arrived, then we moved to Minnesota and adopted three children. (One first, then two at once.) I started freelancing for the weekly there when the youngest was in school, eventually was added full-time to the staff. Now, I freelance various kinds of writing projects, and am contracted as a freelancer for the Compass, our diocesan paper. Supplements my social security very nicely. That’s what’s great about writing: you can continue to earn money long after you’ve stopped working. I haven’t looked up your blog yet, but I intend to.

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