Lake Fausse Point, Louisiana

January 24th, 2005

Much Ado

Did you know that I write one hundred and fifty-six columns a year?

Really. Once a week for FAOL and twice a week for the newspaper I work for. That means that one hundred and fifty-six times a year I have to come up with an idea.

It's not that this is new to me. I've been writing one hundred and four columns a year for the past seven years. I have been writing my newspaper column "From the Other Side" for almost twenty-five years, though it was weekly until the last seven. Over all of this, I have written roughly 1,700 columns, allowing for vacations or times I just couldn't come up with a dadgum thing to say.

There have been times when I thought I was completely washed up. Used up. Burnt out. I would struggle along writing garbage for a few weeks, then things would just seem to settle out and I'd get back into my normal routine.

But here it is, cold as the dickens outside, for Louisiana at least, the waters are high and muddy and winds are whipping anywhere from ten to twenty-five miles per hour on any given day. I haven't been fishing in weeks, and despite the primary result that this is killing me, I also have nothing to say about it.

Now, I just finished a column for the newspaper today about a controversy with the city's local historic district. But you guys won't be interested in all that. I had promised, too, to keep you updated on the building of my wooden skiff, but there hasn't been much of that, either, with this screwy weather.

I could try to write one of those "how-to" columns I see on fly fishing, but then I get uncertain I really know how-to, considering the percentage of time I come home having caught zilch. I could write "how-to" on coming home having caught zilch, I guess, but who wants to learn this technique?

Listen, you think this is easy? Ask Micus, Flats Dude, JC or ain't easy coming up with topics, I'll bet they'll agree. If they don't agree, I don't want to know about it, because then I'll start feeling washed up again.

A lot of it, right now, has to do with the fact that I'm proofing the galleys for my first book, to be entitled Native Waters: A Few Moments In A Small Wooden Boat and will be out in a couple months. Further announcements are coming, but right now, I am suffering from my usual problem: no matter how good I think a piece of writing I've done is, how hard I've worked on it, when it comes down to brass tacks I always, always, always feel like it's complete junk. Horse-hockey. Dog doo. "It was a dark and stormy night. Suddenly a shot rang out," rates higher, in my mind.

I almost want to pull it off the presses, believing that I'll be laughed out of the country, my fly rods taken away from me and I'll be disowned by the tribe. Besides that, though, is reading it exhausts me, and it makes it harder to think of a column topic for FAOL this week, because in the back of my mind is a little critter that looks suspiciously like Gollumn hissing, "It is... all...worthless precious!"

Last week I was asked to give a presentation to an honors English class of juniors at the local high school. I resisted mightily, but agreed at last. I was really dreading it, but I think I did pretty good. The first two questions were if we still lived in teepees and if we still scalped people I replied, respectively, we never did live in teepees we lived in palmetto huts, and no, we quit scalping people two or three years ago. After that, things went pretty well, probably owing to the fear that the practice might be resurrected.

Then one of the students asked how it feels to be a "famous writer." I had to lean on the chalk board to steady myself. Me? A famous writer? Maybe in Franklin, Louisiana. Sure, I got a few followers out there, not the least of which are you kind folks here at FAOL, but famous? Stephen King is famous. Tom Clancy is famous. I'm a columnist for a newspaper and a fly fishing website who has visitations by Gollum. Perhaps I'll be famous after they put me away in a padded room, but I doubt it. At least I remembered to brush off my jeans, so that after I steadied myself I didn't walk away from the chalk board with a white behind.

But that's all neither here nor there. I guess the point is that I chose to do this one hundred and fifty-six times a year, so there's going to be times when I can't come up with doodley-squat worth writing about. Especially in winter, when I'm largely house-bound and there's no fishing going on.

There will be a point, though, when I will be writing about fishing when you Yanks are still icebound. I don't want to sound spiteful or anything, but at least I'll get a headstart on the fun. However, Flats Dude will likely get a jump on me, being farther south down there in Florida, so I had better behave myself. What goes around comes around, as they say. There's also the likelihood that at some point I'll be puttering out more nonsense like this, and my writing comrades on FAOL will be churning out brilliant essays and witty commentaries, so I'd better keep my mouth shut.

Coming next week, weather permitting: A grandiose epic column on the merits of various diswashing liquids. Stay tuned. ~ Roger

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