Regular readers of this column know that subject matter varies from week to week. Nearly any topic that has to do with everyday life is fair game. Quite simply, it’s often about whatever strikes a chord in any given week.
Sometimes column ideas spill forth freely. Other times, I have to eke them out like a stubborn sliver stuck in ones thumb. Occasionally, readers will approach me with column ideas. “I think you should write about fill-in-the-blank here.”
This comes across as a compliment and makes me happy. Someone trusts me to write about something that is near and dear to them. That’s great.
When this does happen, I thank them for their input. Then I smile and nod and try not to promise I will write about their topic, because most likely I won’t. It’s not that their topic isn’t a good one. It most often is. Problem is, it is most often newsworthy.
My column topics are hardly ever newsworthy. They are opinions, not journalistic masterpieces. Masterpieces are masterpieces. Opinions are opinions. I write opinions.
So when I do get a suggestion, I politely thank the person for their input and try not to make any promises I can’t keep. Most often, readers will leave it at that. They don’t press the issue.
This isn’t always the case. Years ago, someone wanted me to write about gun laws. I don’t even know what stance he took on gun laws — if he was for them or against them. He never said. I guess he assumed his stance was the right one and of course I’d agree with that and write from his perspective.
Anyhow, he wouldn’t let it go. I’d run into him every once in awhile and he’d always remind me that I was supposed to write about gun laws. The first few times this happened I attempted to divert the conversation to something — anything — less controversial than gun laws: the weather, politics, climate change, Disney movies, teddy bears, the global decline of the bee population, the price of tea in China.
He was not to be thwarted. Like Pooh, once he got his mind on something he stuck to it. Like bees to honey.
So, in a last ditch maneuver to be done with discussing the likelihood of me writing about gun laws, I decided to do something unconventional and crazy. I decided to be honest. I told him I wasn’t feeling the gun law topic and didn’t think I’d write about it but if he felt passionate about gun laws perhaps he could address it in a letter to the editor.
He got mad and hasn’t spoken to me since. Seriously.
I have a few take-aways from this situation. First, no matter how bizarre and unorthodox it may seem, sometimes honesty gets you your desired outcome. I didn’t want to make this guy mad, but I don’t think I’ll ever have to talk with him about gun laws ever again.
Second, I got material for this column. It may not be about gun laws in the way he envisioned it, but I did mention gun laws. That’s got to mean something.
Third I was able to work in a mention one of my favorite characters, Pooh, in a column that is sort-of but not really about gun laws. If that’s not the sweetest take-away of all, I don’t know what is. (Oh bother!)
Jill Pertler is an award-winning syndicated columnist, published playwright, author and member of the National Society of Newspaper Columnists. Don’t miss a slice; follow the Slices of Life page on Facebook. Pertler writes a weekly column published in The Logan Daily News. The views of this column may not necessarily reflect that of the newspaper.