Two or three folders stuffed with little pieces of paper covered in scrawled notes. A computer file folder named “ColumnSeed” with files named “ColSeed0001” and on up, presently, to “ColSeed0334.” What each of those folders holds, of course, are ideas for newspaper columns/blogs and now, podcasts.
The column-starter ideas submerged in them (though most are relatively benevolent) are a bit like the nuclear missiles resting in submarines and silos: they are usually out of sight, but I feel better knowing they are there.
I almost never look at them. When I do, I am reminded of why I almost never look at them.
Most of them seemed good to me at the time, but now seem weak, at best, and completely unneeded and uninteresting, at worst.
More than a few of them seemed timely at the time. That time is not now. The week I handed a diploma to a son, a few of those ideas were fresh, and I wrote about one of them. The week each of my grandchildren was born, I was overflowing with gratitude. Still am. But it’s another time in those sweet lives. Even the “bug emergency” a granddaughter brought to my attention regarding bugs adrift at sea in our backyard wading pool, well, was an emergency then. And I wrote about it, and I’m glad. But a few such noted moments are notes past their “sell by” date now.
Most of my column-starter notes, as I mentioned, are benevolent in tone, but not all. [Note the preceding sentence. Notice how much can be done with differing combinations of N O T E S in just one sentence. Are words not wonderful?]
Some of my not-so-benevolent notes are actually complete columns that I wrote while ticked off. Writing them delivered me of a gut-load of fury—righteous, self-righteous, or otherwise—but they never needed to see the light of day. I am not, you understand, saying that they were untrue. But Scripture tells us that truth-speaking should be done “in love.” Even if your point is ever so true and desperately needs to be made, skewering someone with pointed truth heated by blistering anger is much more “aggression” than it is “love.” It never helps.
So the angry columns—and, I’m pleased to say that they are few in number—helped me at the time but will help others only by staying where they are. All of which, by the way, is a good reminder that anything you write quickly as a text, a social media “shot” or reply, etc., should be allowed to marinate a bit before you fire it off. Many people, I’m told, even some national leaders and famous folks, don’t have enough discipline to just wait a couple of minutes for their blistering note and hot head to cool off; they just launch the missile. Almost always a mistake. Most mature third-graders know better than to behave that way.
Some of my notes seemed funny or witty at the time, I guess; they are not now.
Some were written in a crisis time. Crisis times are nothing I enjoy, but the shock sometimes lights off brain cells. Some of those (few) notes seem to have come from a scorched brain; others, more worthwhile, are more interesting but the fizz has gone out of the soda. (And I’m glad.)
So, there. Looking for something to write about, I just shared some thoughts on “column seed” and am saved from having to scratch out on a note to stick in a folder: “Write about how to keep ideas available on stuff to write about.” Whatever ColSeed0335 turns out to be, it won’t be that one.
I probably wouldn’t look at it anyway. In my experience, ideas for stuff worth writing about don’t come out of a dusty file; they come from the story the Author of life is always busy writing all around us. I just need to be still long enough to open my eyes and notice.
He’s not called “the Word” for nothing.
You’re invited to visit my website, and I hope you’ll take a look there at my new “Focus on Faith” Podcast. At the website, just click on “Podcast.” Blessings!