Except for this fleeting reference, this column does not mention deranged cop killers, an East Coast blizzard or drought in the Midwest, the rising cost of gas, gun control, hacking the Bush family computers, French troops on the march in Mali or burning a witch in New Guinea.
Those were the real-life headlines and dramas playing out the day I sat down to compose this piece. But I need a break from real life, and some of you probably feel the same.
However, having reduced the topics, I found myself sitting in my, uh, plush den staring at a computer screen, trying to develop an idea for a column. In fact, I ogled the laptop for 45 minutes and still wasn’t smitten by the creative muse.
I was perched there, slack-jawed and brain dead, and not one masterful phrase had appeared on the screen.
It was time to draw from experience gained in “Squeezing Out a Column 101,” a course not offered in journalism school, but one that should be required for all prospective columnizers.
The course syllabus is brief: The only topic is what my mom used to refer to as “piddling.”
According to the Mom Dictionary, “piddling” is: An action that accompanies being bored or lacking focus, which makes it seem like you’re accomplishing something when all you’re really doing is aimlessly messing around.
In regard to waiting to be struck by creativity, piddling involves wasting time until an original thought grabs you like a foot cramp in the night.
Well, having given in to the piddling urge, here’s what transpired.
First, I got up and paced around for four or five minutes, then I went to the Internet and started looking at The Sporting News website.
I discovered Seattle pitcher Felix Hernandez would soon sign a seven-year contract for a record $175 million, and all that did was cause me to shake my head and roll my eyes.
So, I got up and started thumbing through a stack of magazines.
I scanned a few pages of a Schwan’s catalogue (Yummm, those bratwurst looked good!), then I skimmed through AARP, The Magazine, which had a feature story titled The 10 Healthy Resolutions You’ll Love. Number one on the list was “Throw a Party,” because direct social connections can help you live longer and better. (But I was the only human in the house, and nothing’s more boring than a party for one.)
I noticed a stack of books and read another chapter in Jimi Hendrix Turns Eighty, a fun, sarcastic novel by Tim Sandlin. It’s a futuristic look at what happens at nursing homes once Baby Boomers move into them en masse, and the main character is a guy who retired from being a sportswriter in Waurika, Oklahoma. (I’m not making this up!)
Alas, the book didn’t hold my interest. So, I said to myself, “Self, music can enhance piddling.” With that, I turned on the radio, which was a mistake.
The station was classic rock and I tuned in to Peaches and Herb wailin’: Shake your groove thing/shake your groove thing, yeah, yeah!
As an experienced piddler, I can assure you the acts of piddling and shaking one’s groove thing are mutually exclusive.
Listening to music was out, but flipping through albums can be productive piddling, which prompted me toward the stacks of wax (Yes, VINYL ALBUMS!), where I thought I could kill some time sorting LPs.
Beginning to shuffle discs, it seemed someone had gotten several albums out of alphabetical order! (Grrrr!) A T-Rex album was between The Allman Brothers and The Amazing Rhythm Aces, The Clash’s London Calling was filed in the “M’s” and Tammy Wynette’s Greatest Hits mysteriously showed up in the jazz section.
I spent 27 minutes rearranging albums, then knocked off another six or seven minutes straightening pictures on the wall, which was kinda depressing. See, many of the shots of family and friends were taken 40 to 50 years ago, and most of the males who are still alive now using Rogaine.
I burned some time trying to have a conversation with one of the cats, but Lou just yawned and showed no interest. So, I used up 15 minutes gawking out the backdoor, watching birds at the feeders. (You know, redheaded woodpeckers are very acrobatic eaters.)
Finally, I sat down again in front of the laptop, and what to my wondering eyes should appear? The screen was filled with words!
An original thought had never smote me; the creative muse had never visited. But I had piddled my way to the end of a column!
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