You are Boring

The other day a reader took exception to the writing style of two of the columnists he sees in his Sunday paper and since one of them is me the paper’s Executive Editor to whom he sent his email sent it on to me. Here’s what it said:

“I HAVE NOTICED YOUR FEMALE COLUMNISTS CAN ONLY WRITE ABOUT THEMSELVES, THEIR FAMILIES OR CUTESY THINGS THEIR CHILDREN OR RELATIVES SAY OR DO OR A ‘WHAT I DID LAST SUMMER’ ESSAY. THEIR WRITINGS ARE FILLED WITH ‘I , ME, MY, WE, ETC.’, IN OTHER WORDS A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE COLUMN WITH AN EXCESSIVE USE OF PERSONAL PRONOUNS.”

(In other words people and their darn families! Who cares about that?)

“IT IS VERY EASY TO TALK OR WRITE ABOUT YOURSELF” he went on. “ARE NOT COLUMNS SUPPOSED TO BE ABOUT THINGS? IDEAS? EVENTS?  FAR-AWAY-PLACES? OPINIONS OR CONSTRUCTIVE CRITICISM? THESE REQUIRE THOUGHT!”

(And, well, he may be right there and the idea realm is a good place to start so how about Intelligent Design for today, kids? Or perhaps Should Form Follow Function? Or, Benevolent Despotism: an Oxymoron or Our Future?)

“LET THIS BE A CHALLENGE,” this reader wound up. “CAN MS. X (as I will call her) OR MS. MAROTTA WRITE A COLUMN WITH MAYBE JUST ONE OR TWO PERSONAL PRONOUNS AND NOT ABOUT THEMSELVES?”

Can we? I have no doubt. Will I? Today anyway? Not likely.  On my writing agenda today I seem to have (a) an account of the bird the flew in our house and lived here undetected until the cat Abraham found him this morning; (b)something so sad I heard at the wake I went to yesterday that stayed with me all night and kept me from sleeping; and (c) a description of me falling face first, all dressed up, into the cargo bin of my minivan.

As to the ‘Should I?’ part, a Seventh Grade girl named Danielle wrote to the National Society of Newspaper Columnists last March, asking about what it’s like to have as your job the pouring of talk into a tall skinny word-funnel for the newspaper. I said I’d love to be the one to answer her and what I wrote I used as my column that week. It’s is still on the NSNC website if you’d like to read it. It’s serious and I stand by it. But if I were the kind of person who enjoyed sassing back I might to “Two words for you Mr. Z who thinks people aren’t interested in reading about other people: Reality TV.”

5 thoughts on “You are Boring

  1. I wonder if other columnists received a similar letter:

    “I have noticed your columnists can only write about ideas, events, and far-away places, or do or an ‘Assessing Global Inequality’ essay. Their writings are filled with ‘they, them, global warming, existentialism, etc.’, in other words an opinion or constructive criticism column with an excessive use of facts and figures.”

    “Are not columns supposed to be about people? Themselves? Families? Cutesy things their children or relatives say or do or ‘What I Did Last Summer’ lists?”

  2. Well, well misogyny lives on. Men on the baser (lower level bottom feeders) of life only see facts, figures what’s in front of them…none of the nuances. That’s why this paternalistic country is in such a mess – numbers and facts and constant babble and bickering to see who can yell or have most facts. No feelings or personal experiences are involved, and look how little gets solved; allegedly in my mind.

    I totally agree with Tim. T, you go girl!!

  3. A blog, as I understand it, is an expression of one’s feelings. One day it might be about a family issue, another day it could reflect one’s feelings about what some world event that day. Even the person who wrote his objection had to begin with “I” have noticed…..When a columnist expresses a thought coming out of his or her very own head, the reader reacts in his or her very own manner. No one is, well, maybe not too many people, are devoid of emotion. Keep on writing, sister!! Andrea

  4. The misguided critic always says more about themselves, Terry, than they do about the person/cause/whatever they are railing against. If only there were more people in this world who, like you, could sit quietly on some summer afternoon and notice how greatly wonderous the world around them truly is!

    Through the years you have taught me (and countless others) to be observant to everything around, and to become refreshingly aware of how human our natures are.

    Keep writing in your wonderful style, and never become self-consience of the use of words like “I, me, ours, mine, we,”etc, etc. After all, your columns represent life as YOU see it.

  5. You guys are great… each person here has said something encouraging and wise. I think there’s enough BLOVIATING out there about current events – to me the humbler thing to do is look at the little things right under my nose…

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