I have touched on this several times over the years, but perhaps a refresher column is warranted. Let me answer the top five questions I am asked, which are: why don’t I write about news-worthy topics and current events, where do my ideas come from, how long does it take me to write a column, what technology do I use, and will that now include AI (artificial intelligence).

I try not to write about things currently in the news. Regardless of the topic, there will already be an information overload. If I add my voice to the cacophony of whiners and self-proclaimed experts, or I foam at the keyboard over the world’s latest darling or imp, it would be a waste of my talents and your time.

What pleases me is gentle humor and interesting, mind and soul-expanding topics. Though I often miss the mark on both counts, it pleases me to take aim and try.

Where do my ideas come from? Two sources. One is things that crop up in my reading (I read a lot.) The other source presents itself when I start writing with no topic in mind.

A draft once began with these words: “I admit that at times I am a slow learner, but I think I may, in this regard, have just won a prize.” I had no idea what came next.

That opening sentence led to a column about how I’d been double-knotting my shoelaces incorrectly, using granny knots instead of square knots, which was why my double-knotted laces always came undone. My son, Michael, said, “You’re the only person I know who can write about something as ordinary as tying your shoes and make it interesting.”

How long does it take me to write a column? Somewhere between one hour and a half a day. There are times (and they are rare) when a column flows onto the page and requires only a bit of polishing. More often (most often), it takes an hour for the first draft (during which I ignore all mistakes) and several hours for rewrites. Rewriting includes double-checking names, places, and other facts, as well as spelling and grammar, and finding better ways to say what I said. Usually, it also involves discarding the first couple of paragraphs to get to a fresher start and rewriting the last paragraph half a dozen times.

What technology do I use? Mostly an ancient Lenovo ThinkCentre M92 SFF desktop computer from 2013. When out and about, I sometimes draft by hand on a stenographer’s pad. Or, if circumstances allow, on a Samsung tablet from 2020, using an iClever portable Bluetooth keyboard. Also, I use a free text-to-speech program called Balabolka, which reads my writing aloud, allowing me to hear weaknesses that my eyes alone won’t catch.

As for AI, I’ll never use it. Not for research, not for drafting, not for rewriting, not for polishing. Why would I give up the very things that make writing this column a joy?

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