No Writer’s Block Here
Ihave been editing Bar News/NWLawyer and writing Bar Beat for six
years now and I am some-
times asked how I manage
to come up with a column
for every issue. I thought it might be of interest
to give you an inside look at my creative process.
I do my best literary work in the evenings, so I
generally begin with a 5: 30 p.m. massage (Swedish, 60 minutes
— 90 if it’s been a bad week). My skin still redolent of mint-coco-
nut oil, I repair to my home office, where I lay out a platter of local
organic apple slices, Carr’s
Whole Wheat Crackers, and
a smidge of Abbaye de Belloc
(or beluga caviar, if it’s been
a bad week). I pour a glass of
Walla Walla Cabernet (or a
shot of Aberlour, if it’s been
a bad week) to place on the
side table as an enticement
for later (along with a Cohiba,
if it’s been a bad week). I then
usually light two or three
beeswax candles and a stick
of Sai Bab Nag Champa (re-
gardless of what kind of week
it has been).
Next, I give my desktop
Zen garden a stir with the
miniature rake and assume
a lotus position in the middle of the floor to align my chakras,
achieve feng shui, etc. Thus fortified, I boot up my laptop, dial
in some Béla Fleck or Mark O’Connor on Spotify, and pop in
my earbuds. At this point, I scroll through the headlines in
the “Law” queue of my Google News homepage and then scan
Twitter, on which I follow several lawyer/journalists. After 20
minutes of browsing the latest law-related topics, I remember that I virtually never write about law in this column and
quickly dismiss from memory everything I have just read. I
then usually take a bite and sip of the aforementioned refreshments, because life is short.
I next take up my mobile phone and text, “What’s up?” to five
or six friends and family members in hopes that someone will
reply with something like, “Hey, remember that time you fell off
your motorcycle in the driveway?” Anything involving motor
vehicle mishaps, concerts, dogs, misbehaving kids, or alternate
universes is usually enough to generate a solid column idea,
given that I only have to come up with 850 words or so.
But sometimes 850 words is a lot.
If a column has not yet formed in my head, I may apply a sec-
ond bite/sip of refreshments and scamper into the next room
to play a few minutes of FIFA 2014 or watch the guys on Fast
N’ Loud try to repair a Ferrari F- 40 with duct tape. Or, weather
permitting, I will stroll onto my deck and marvel at the majesty
of the surrounding Douglas firs, gaze at the constellations, and
stub my toe on the brick I use to hold the door open.
My psychic batteries recharged, I return to my laptop and
search the Internet anew for inspiration. My commitment to
If the creative juices are
not yet sufficiently flowing,
In a fog of half-sleep, it will occur to me how agile and ingenious a cat has to be to catch a moth, and what an elegant
use of brain power that is as compared to, for example, typing
out an email about how all women’s wool sweaters are on sale
at Banana Republic. And there it is: this month’s column idea.
The cats, they never fail me. All that remains is another three
or four hours of obsessive writing and rewriting, including as
much as three minutes of “research” (checking Google to see if
anyone has ever measured cat brain power in computer terms,
which of course someone has). By 8 a.m., I have sent my column off to the managing editor. Then, three or four days later,
I rewrite the whole thing and resubmit it five minutes before it
has to go to the printers.
In summary, the whole thing is a lot easier than it looks. NWL
N WLawyer Editor Michael Heatherly practices in Bellingham.
He can be reached at 360-312-5156 and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more of his work at nwsidebar.wsba.org.