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Words keep flowing as ideas come and go
BEYOND MY CONTROL, BY LAURI GROSS
Words keep flowing as ideas come and go
This is my 100th Vital Trifle column. They run every other week, and, since each column averages 900 words, that's about 90,000 words. When I began writing this column in 2007, I had a list of things I wanted to write about, but I worried that I wouldn't be able to sustain the effort and that, after a short while, I would have said everything I wanted to say.
Boy, was I wrong. Sometimes I run into dry spells without any new topics popping into mind, and I think, "That's it. I'm done. I'll never have another idea for a Vital Trifle column." And then somehow, I find myself with a new list of column topics.
As I scan the list of my first 100 columns, some topics are familiar, but I realize there are plenty on my list that I had completely forgotten. I have written a lot about myself: my curly hair, my lack of a sense of direction and lack of fashion sense and my fear of squirrels (if you read that column, you would understand).
I've written a lot about our family pets, vacations and traditions. I've written nearly 10 columns about sports, including my kids' involvement and my meager understanding of professional sports.
There were also plenty of random topics, like making apple pie with my daughter, visiting my childhood home after more than 20 years of being away, dancing at a cousin's wedding and spreading mulch.
When I get an idea for a column, I put a few notes about it in a file for later consideration. Sometimes I attack an idea immediately, and the column seems to write itself in a matter of minutes. Other times, those notes stay in my idea file for months or years and then emerge as a tangent in a column of a completely different topic. Funny how that works.
Sometimes family or friends suggest topics, but often their suggestions relate to experiences of theirs, not mine, so they tend to stay in my files rather than make it into an actual column.
My inspiration comes from everyday life, or things I read, or conversations I find myself in, or life's daily annoyances or pleasures.
What would a psychologist say about a person who has so much to say about her own daily existence to an audience she cannot see or talk to? Does it mean I have a huge ego and think that the world really needs to hear what I have to say? Does it mean I am deeply confused about life in the 21st century and my columns are a form of therapy for helping me sort it out?
More likely, I just enjoy writing. Always have. I guess it's a calling, so I pretty much have to write, whether anyone will ever read my words or not.
Sometimes friends comment on a column, and I have received a few letters of fan mail, but mostly, I write it, the paper prints it, and it might as well have been sucked into a black hole instead of distributed to thousands of homes and businesses. I could fantasize about my columns having a profound impact on countless strangers. But I don't. I just write what I want. Too bad if you don't like it.
In our culture, we often recognize the significance of the number 100 in many areas of life. For instance, when my kids were in kindergarten, the school made a big deal about their 100th day in school. As any parent knows, little kids tend to learn better when a concept is presented to them in many forms: verbally, visually, in stories, craft projects, songs, games, etc. So my kids' kindergarten teachers devised numerous ingenious ways to convey the concept of the number 100. They strung necklaces of 100 pieces of Froot Loops cereal, they measured stacks of 100 pennies, they counted how many times they could jump rope in 100 seconds and more. By the end of the 100th-day celebration, every kindergartner got the concept.
Anyone who reaches their 100th birthday is entitled to more than a little recognition. Companies that last 100 years are heralded as models of transition, flexibility and foresight. Some people run 100 miles. Others strive to mark 100 days of being sober or smoke-free. Species in the natural world that live 100 years include the giant tortoise, a few species of trees and not much else. The 100th customer of a newly opened store might receive a prize. The first $100 your kid saves from babysitting or lawn mowing is a milestone, as is the first 100 donors who support a charitable cause.
Soon I'll write my 101st column and my 102nd and so on, and the world will not have changed because of it. But, apparently, if I don't keep writing, I will need some other outlet, like maybe committing a mass murder or becoming an international double agent or perhaps a prima ballerina. Think of all the new column ideas that would spring from those pursuits. Let's hope those topics don't actually appear in any of my next 100 columns.
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