From the Boidem -
September 27, 2016*: How to write a Boidem column.
occasional column on computers and information technologies in everyday life
Okay, I admit that how to read a column has a passable chance of being relevant to my eight readers. But how to write one? Why should that concern anyone besides me (and if it doesn't, what's the point in writing about it)? There is, however, at least more than just a bit of method to this madness. When I examined some of the ways that one might best read one of these columns I thought that the process of writing one might have some influence on how a reader might approach the reading. So it seems to be a legitimate topic.
As is, I suppose, to be expected, after numerous years of writing these "occasional" columns I've developed a collection of activities that in nothing close to a precise order make up a sort of playbook for the production of a Boidem column. Not every column has to pass through all of the stages, but on the whole at one point or another most of them do. Among the stages are:
With more than just a small measure of surprise, I often discover that after those first stages have been met fleshing out a column comes relatively easily, though here as well there are a number of stages that I tend to pass through:
- Toward the middle of the month start panicking that I still haven't thought of a topic that I think merits a column, and perhaps even reflect on the fact that maybe I've simply run out of issues to write about (and yes, here also there's a vice-versa)
- Rifle through my mail and other notes where I've raised various ideas for topics to see what might still be interesting
- Decide on a title for a column with the expectation that once the title has been established the content will more or less fall into place
- Discover that Facebook or Google, or some other internet giant has made a major faux pas which merits examination (thus getting me off the hook of not finding anything else to write about)
- Type some random thoughts about issues related to the chosen title (or the recent faux pas) straight into Word or Notepad or my mail in the hope that a few paragraphs will take shape and justify the continued writing on the topic.
Sometimes, of course, I'm lucky, and there really is a recent and interesting topic that merits Boidem-type investigation (whatever that really means). But relying solely on luck is highly unadvisable. And that means that sometimes the best strategy is to latch onto a topic that seems to have potential and simply write through my doubts. The worst that can happen is that I'll admit that the result wasn't one of the better columns.
- Check past columns to make sure that I'm not repeating myself (at least no more than twice)
- Convince myself that even inside, let alone outside, of a small circle of friends the chosen topic may actually hold some degree of interest
- Keep writing while still hoping that some sort of logic, not to mention meaning, may magically take shape
- Review lots of seemingly unrelated items that I've encountered over the past few months and see which, and how many, of them can more or less elegantly be tied into the “main” topic being examined
Though occasionally at this point I'll have already made some notes for linked pages – not the fleshing out of the main topic but the asides that make a column a Boidem column – this is also the point at which it makes sense to review what's been written and see whether some worthwhile hypertext can justifiably, and not too heavy-handedly, be cajoled out of the content. It's also the point at which hopefully a good enough picture of what I want to write (and maybe even the point, or the points, that I want to make) has become sufficiently clear, such that I can review the vast amount of articles I've accumulated and see which of them might be (again, hopefully) elegantly linked to or quoted.
And there's (at least) one more important element to writing a Boidem column. Throughout all of this, whether it's a column that quickly takes shape or has to be cajoled out of a few partially baked and even disconnected thoughts, I constantly remind myself that I'm not writing because I have some earth-shattering observation to make, or because the world is waiting for my oh-so-perceptive insights. I'm writing because I want to, because for some strange reason I enjoy this. With or without a readership.
That's it for this edition. Reactions and suggestions can be sent to:
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