OPINION: This is a column about writing a column. You might have seen that blonde former Kiwi sheila from Packed to the Rafters doing the same thing Sunday night but, as I said to the kids afterwards, she's not real and I am.
Frankly, if I had a piece of baked cheesecake for every time someone asked me how I come up with a column each week, I'd be 1600kg with my shoes off.
It's been, by my reckoning, at least seven years since the phone call at work asking me if I'd like to throw together 800-900 or so words each week for my old employer paper. I still remember the frisson of fear and trepidation skittering its way down my back at the thought.
Nine hundred words seems such a huge task, although I've learnt since that my keyboard doesn't even get warmed up until the 1500-word mark. There have been so many times when the deputy editor has looked at the 1247 words I've sent through late on a Monday night, sighed heavily to himself and flicked "reply".
"Kathryn, please cut this down to at the most 1000 words," he'd write often. "You know very well I can't fit this much into the hole I have."
No matter how many times he'd say it, I'd still try and sneak through a half-novel each week. (Sadly true - Ed.)
Sometimes, I believe, more is less. Especially when I'm trying to get a point across.
I've written about everything: facial hair, fruit, funerals, cats, grass, trains. I've written so much about underwear that the aforementioned deputy editor thinks I have a bit of an obsession about the topic. (He now knows more on the subject than he would like to acknowledge - Ed.)
I beg to differ - as a mother of three, underwear is a pertinent and important subject for me. It's been an enduring constant in my life for so long . . . "do you have clean undies on?", "pull those undies up/ down", "aren't those undies too holey to wear in public?", "what the heck is that mark on your undies", "take those microscopic undies off and get some sensible ones on" and so on.
I'm sure any mother can relate to that.
Of course, my family has been my greatest muse.
Little Weenie 15-year-old realised just how much people knew about her when she was gently accosted at Centre City by a complete stranger who said she treated me badly, needed to lose the attitude and should make her own lunch now that she was 15.
When I look back at those old columns, it seems as though I've written about someone else's sons.
Eldest Child, now nearly 20, and Quiet Middle Child, who's not so quiet anymore, seem like different people to those who started my column with me all those years ago. Both are fine, upstanding young men with developing personalities and lives outside of my radius. Their futures are mapped out, they are happy and healthy. There's not a lot more you could ask for, is there?
Long-suffering Hubby, whilst deserving of a lot of the mirth directed at him, has always taken that criticism with a good dose of humour, and quite enjoys seeing what I've written about him each week.
He's still a fully paid-up member of the Dishwasher Restackers Support Group, only has to look at a cricket bat these days to pull a hammy and remains the biggest wuss I've ever seen when it comes to mice and rats.
As you can imagine, he's been - and continues to be every day - one of my biggest inspirations.
So how do I do it? Essentially, I'm a procrastinator, so I put off writing the column until the latest possible time. I tell myself that's so that I can choose from the most up-to-date of subjects, but it's not that at all, if I'm honest with you. I'm just too lazy to start off.
When I finally realise that I really do only have an hour or so until deadline, I sit down in front of my laptop and stare at it for several minutes. I tell myself this is "brain meditation time", but it's not. All the tiny ideas from the week flit around my head like fireflies and, if I'm lucky, come together to form a jelly-like topic.
Obviously if there's been some major event eclipsing all others in my life, then things are easy- peasy. If I've been nearly run over by a careering bus, or had one of my children abducted by a little green man from a hovering spaceship, or been felt up on a bus by a homeless man with gold teeth, then my life - and therefore column - is effortless.
As you can imagine, that doesn't happen every day. Most of the time I think of topics during the preceding seven days and confine them within my memory bank for future reference. These days, however, I usually throw them into a file on my iPhone as well; the old brain matter isn't as youthful as it once was.
Once I've got the first 20 words of the intro written, then I'm home and hosed. Some columns take 30 minutes to write, others five hours. Sometimes I hate it; sometimes writing this column is the most cathartic thing I can do. Sometimes I can't think of anything worse than whipping up 1000 words (supposed to be 800 - Ed) late on a Monday night; other times I'm almost itching to get going on something that's had an impact on me.
The only topic I promise you I will never touch is my mother-in- law . . . even though she'd love it; that's just heading out into a minefield with jandals on. Particularly as my husband eats her quiche with relish and yet won't eat mine unless I refer to it as bacon and egg pie. No bad feelings there . . . none at all.
I'm hoping to continue writing for you, but you never know what's around the corner. If Wednesday arrives and there's no Under the Sky Tower to read, it'll be because Colin Firth has finally come to his senses, whipped over on his private jet and picked me up, or I've won Lotto and on my way in MY private jet to Monaco.
At least you'll know that wherever and whatever I'm doing, I'll be wearing presentable underwear, at least.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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