Writing for newspapers and magazines is a fine apprenticeship for would-be writers. There’s nothing like a hard word-count limit to keep sentences tight. Nothing like banging out a column on a calendar’s schedule, rather than writerly whims, to uncover the realization that discovery does not depend on inspiration. Ideas spin out of words. Start writing, see what you find.
Having a real readership can be invigorating, startling and scary. Growing into the role of writer from origins in secret basement scribbles, it’s a revelation to discover that meanings vary, that intentions go awry, that writing is a world of hurts and misses.
Over the years, I have written regular columns for my hometown Red Deer Advocate (where then-Editor Joe McLaughlin gave me an open invitation to write on any topics of interest), a book column for The Lethbridge Herald, a short-lived column on business books and ideas, and sundry one-off opinion pieces and feature articles.
For a time, I had a receptive readership on the op-ed pages of The Ottawa Citizen, publishing expansive pieces on everyday themes like ‘back to school’ season. Today, with those big dailies all running the same corporate content, the opportunity is gone.
Much of the local commentary once seen in newspapers has now moved to blogs where, of course, it is different. Communities of interest become more important than geographic communities. The ‘general’ or ‘mass’ readership is replaced with specialized interest groups.
This site is, of course, part of that shift. Still, one hopes that the general article written for some undefined broad readership remains a feature of our more diverse literary world.