Have you ever had a song get stuck in your head?
A process is something that converts inputs into outputs. Writing a weekly column is a process. Thirty years ago I wrote a weekly column for the Kelowna Daily Courier. It appeared on the front page of the second section every Wednesday. This was in the days before computers. My columns were handwritten and in order to meet deadline were put through the mail slot at the Courier before 7:00 am on the day of publication. I wrote 90% of them on Tuesday night. My editor, as he often told me, suffered from anticipatory anxiety because he worried that the column would not be there Wednesday morning. I never missed a deadline. The process would begin with an idea. I would then consider whether I could stay within the overall theme of the column, come to some useful and logical conclusion, and find whatever data necessary to support the piece. Then I would write it. I had to fill but not overfill the allotted space. Nor could I leave the space unfilled.
It wasn’t a song that got stuck in my head this week.
How is this column different? Really only in two ways: one, I use a computer which means I can create, read, update, or delete (referred to as CRUD) at the touch of a button; and two, that I can seek ideas from a wider sphere. The result is that I usually have four or five columns written in advance and ready to go. One more minor difference – I don’t have to put the pages in an envelope and physically put it through the publisher’s mail slot before deadline. All is digital. I have not yet missed a deadline.
What got stuck in my head was that photo of a member with a carbine.
I have been reading, reviewing, writing, and saving half-written columns all week in an effort to polish one for publication. I’ve been going over ideas, thoughts, and stories that I intend to write about and have started to write about. Benign, controversial, humourous, thoughtful, inspiring, boring, and half-baked columns that just need a little more time in the oven.
And I can’t get that picture out of my head.
I explained my frustration to my dear wife who said – sagely – “Write it but don’t send it. Get it out of your head. As soon as you write it, you will be free to go on to another subject.” That made me think, ‘So if I have a song stuck in my head, I should prepare to perform it at Carnegie Hall, and then not show up.’
But I don’t want to write about it.
Because … if I look at that picture as a citizen, then my thoughts are all about society and politics and history and psychology … and if I look at that picture as someone who spent some years in counter-terrorism, then I want to explain how that picture is the end-state of a data-threat-analysis-information-plan-policy-operation chain that stands before and behind it … and if I look at that picture as someone who spent some years training law enforcement and military in vital point defence, then I want to critique what I see … and if I look at that picture as a member, then I start to wonder why him, why not me … and if I look at it as one of several similar pictures published across Canada over the last five years, then I want to contrast and compare the nature of the response in various locations and how context dictates the political will, the creation of specialist teams and … and if I’m a politician, then … and …
But first, I’m going to re-read “The Defence of Duffer’s Drift”.