Today I’m writing a column that I hope you don’t read because it’s about how to write a column, and I’m afraid that if you read it, you’ll write a column that’s better than this one, and I’ll be out of a job. Nevertheless, as a fearless journalist, I’m going ahead with it because I think it’s the right thing to do.
First, if you plan to write a column, you will need to know what the subject of your column is going to be. As a seasoned journalist, I have discovered that ideas for columns are everywhere. The problem is that not all of these ideas are suitable for column subjects. Let’s say you read an article about the Russians finding a frozen mastodon, say, in Siberia, and you’re thinking, why not do a hilarious column on making meatloaf out of a frozen prehistoric animal that looks like an elephant?
You may not believe this, but there are several problems with this idea. One is that the Russians may have plans for the mastodon that don’t include making a very large meatloaf. You would also have a problem getting the animal to a conveniently located oven. Besides, any oven you would find in Siberia probably would not be large enough to accommodate an elephant-size animal, particularly a frozen one.
So maybe we should just drop the frozen animal thing as a column. But if you persist in using this idea, you need to know that if your readers follow through and make the meatloaf, they’ll be faced with a serious hair problem. Mammoths were covered with shaggy hair — a lot of shaggy hair. Before we leave this fascinating subject, you need to know that the name mastodon means “nipple tooth.” I know what you’re thinking, “Oh, boy, I’ve found a fantastic idea for a column.” Alas, I have to tell you that the name has nothing to do with what you think it does. “Nipple” refers to the shape of the mastodon’s molar teeth.
What did mastodons otherwise look like? They resembled a modern-day elephant but had smaller ears and trunk, longer tusks and something that looked like a toupee on the head. Not attractive, perhaps, but they didn’t deserve to become a meatloaf. In any case, this idea for a column has now been taken.
Contact Ted Blankenship at firstname.lastname@example.org.