My first column was published Jan. 7, 2007, and while, on one hand, 23 months is a blip on the radar, on the other, at approximately two to three hours per column, that represents approximately 250 hours of my time as a writer or $75,000 of my time as a lawyer.
I’m not fooling myself that my hourly rate as a lawyer somehow represents the value of my time as a writer. Since I’ve been at it this long, however, I must have some idea that my columns have some sort of value.
Every one of my columns ends with an invitation to email me directly if there are any issues my readers would like discussed. I expected I would get feedback through that invitation. I expected that, good or bad, I would get perhaps an email or two every week with a reaction to what I wrote.
Of the 99 columns I’ve written before this one, I’ve received e-mails from perhaps 15 to 20 people. With three exceptions, the feedback I’ve received has been entirely positive.
One reader took exception to my “tirades” against insurance companies. Imagine that.
Another took issue with my characterization that the driving inattention we are all guilty of most of the time, kills.
The third didn’t agree with a suggestion I made that every motor vehicle be fitted with a breathalizer disabling device.
Getting absolutely no feedback on 80 per cent or more of my columns, though, isn’t a great return for someone who thrives on feedback.
Lucky for me, I’ve got someone in my life who has also been a newspaper columnist. Some 40 years ago, my father wrote for the Catholic newspaper, The Prairie Messenger. He was a newly ordained priest.
How’s that for the apple falling an orchard away from the tree. (That was my idea of a lawyer joke.) My father has helped me with my disappointment. He told me that it takes a lot for a reader to be motivated to contact a columnist.
I’ve been hanging on to that advice. I also have a dear friend who has kindly taken the time to read my columns and provide me with feedback.
Most recently, after reading my 99th column, she asked me: “So, do you find you’re running out of column ideas?” She’s not the most objective of critics. She’s one of my wife’s friends.
What is she going to do: Tell her friend her husband is a complete bore? By later that evening, I managed through subtle cross-examination, a glass of wine and a Corona, to pull out of her the fact that she thought I had started to sound repetitive.
Last week’s column was about the insurance company’s negotiation style. I characterized it as a Mexican-style negotiation, where the first offer bears absolutely no relationship to the value of a claim.
I guess that theme has figured prominently in my column over the last couple years. It happens to be one of the things that riles me up the most.
I still get worked up when I hear about someone who has settled his or her claim without getting the legal advice necessary to have a clue about what’s fair.
Unless I’m feeling particularly unmoved, my column topics are determined on the basis of what gets me going and what makes my blood boil. While themes might recur from time to time, I’ve never recycled a column.
It’s a trend that’s likely to continue, notwithstanding how much I may seem like a broken record from time to time. You can take some responsibility for the topics I discuss, however.
My e-mail address remains at the bottom of every one of my columns.
Published December 7, 2008 in the Kelowna Capital News