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Monday, Oct. 14, 2002 - 4:27 p.m.

Writer's flood

I am itching to write again. Not here, as nice as it is, but in print. No offense to you guys, but this diary isn't quite satisfying my appetite for composing evocative, moving prose. I can't bring myself to treat it seriously enough.

This feeling hit me last week when I read a student column in Notre Dame's newspaper, The Observer. I used to edit the editorial page and one semester I was in charge of hiring the new columnists. I went through about a dozen submissions for what I think were two or three openings. After graduation, a friend of mine even wrote a biweekly column for a year. While some of the columnists — particularly those who are not current students — have interesting jobs or something else unique to offer, Matt was just a columnist, one of those random graduates who had stuff to say. I always thought I, too, could do that.

Maybe the timing is now right. Any connections I had to The Observer's editorial staff are now gone, graduated and out there in the Real World struggling as journalists or thriving as "sell-outs" (and I don't mean that in a derrogatory way) in another field (if the opportunity's there, take it). I am in a decent job with a good schedule that would allow me to write at night or on an occassional Sunday afternoon. I can be poignant, I can be funny. I have plenty of clips to show them, from my work at the newspaper (to prove who I am) to this very journal (to prove I can do more than write about baseball).

I think part of this comes from this new job. I sit here each day checking the facts on these "stories" and can't believe what I'm reading. Either there are some writers who are just plain stupid, or just plain lazy, not caring about their work at all. I understand I might be on the extreme end of The Exception: I obsessively edit myself in keeping this journal and even in casual e-mail correspondence. And yet, I read stories from "writers" with horrendous spelling and grammar mistakes, finding colloquialisms and syntax that would make a third-grade English teacher cringe. Don't even get me started on some of these writers' reporting techniques, either. It's all giving me a rash and I just want to walk into the editor's office and be all, "Dude, make me a writer. I can write novels around some of these pokes." But then there's a part of me that doesn't want to do that kind of work yet because, in some ways, my job right now is easier than the writers'.

So much of the way this magazine works is giving me flashbacks to college days at The Observer. My latest night here was Friday, when I left at 10 p.m. Dylan's been here until midnight a couple of times. Other editors have had several 11 p.m.-or-later departures. We're still getting things squared away and trying to get the flow going, which is why — although schedules and deadlines say one thing — we've never had any pages ready to be sent before 5 p.m. in any given day, rarely had story copy in (our fact-checking) hands earlier than a day before the closing date, often had sentences, photos, pages, concepts revisited or even redesigned the morning before — even the hour before — the time to ship.

We're still making dozens of corrections on paper proofs of pages (all that's missing is the no-repo blue pens), still putting in and taking out commas on Quark, still watching deadlines pass like strangers in a crowd, with hardly a blink of the eye. One night last week, Dylan even went out for food and couldn't get back into the building, not knowing the code nor having his cell phone to call upstairs for someone to come down and let him in — similar to how we'd have to have someone call the elevator up from the basement after 2 a.m.

So all of this has put me in a nostalgiac haze (coupled with the weather's decided turn into autumn), reminding me of my days as a fledgling campus reporter, longing for the lunchtime I'd sit down in the dining hall and turn to page 2 to find my picture beside the Inside Column (and enjoying all 30 of those days).

You'd read my columns, wouldn't you?

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