Column writing is not easy. It requires an almost fanatical interest in current events, a hard outer shell and a sense of humor. But more than anything, it requires conviction.
Oh, and planning.
It was late December when I started brainstorming ideas for my first column of 2003.
I wanted it to say, “Welcome back.” I wanted it to say, “Happy New Year.” I wanted it to say, “This year, I’m going to make and keep my New Year’s resolution, and you all can hold me to it.”
Unfortunately, when I pitched my idea to my editor, he informed me my idea was taken. Seems resolutions are a hot topic in January.
But in March?
Since my editor and I are busy people, and since it was vacation, and since I had nothing better to do that fine December day, I did a little research on New Year’s resolutions. Research I thought would go to waste.
“The tradition of making a New Year’s resolution dates back to Babylonia …”
“Resolutions were set in March, to coincide with spring …”
Resolutions were set in March? To coincide with spring?
Column writing also requires a certain amount of resourcefulness.
As March approaches, I can’t help but think of my lone New Year’s resolution, already failed. This year, I told my friends, I want to have more conviction.
Stop laughing. No, really. It’s more difficult than you think.
Because it’s one thing to have an opinion, but it’s another to express it well, with conviction.
Losing 10 pounds is easy, but to have conviction?
Look, for example, at Daniel Lee, aka Preacher Dan, aka Public Enemy No. 1.
I remember the first time I met him. It was in Corvallis. Oregon State was hosting a conference called God at 2000. Archbishop Desmond Tutu was the keynote speaker. Dan protested Archbishop Desmond Tutu.
It takes a lot of nerve to protest Desmond Tutu. Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize.
It takes an equal amount to fight that man, a man who cannot be swayed.
But it takes conviction not to hate him. Not respect him. Just not hate him.
Because hating Preacher Dan makes us no better than him. And I think most of us would agree that one Preacher Dan is enough.
One Preacher Dan.
One New Year’s resolution.
One more chance to try again.
This New Year, let us embrace the one quality Dan seems to lack: Conviction. It does not come from the mind. Books can aid it, but they are not enough.
Conviction requires heart. Heart to know that the opinions of others are merely opinions. Heart to know the difference between right and wrong. That the sun and the moon and the stars do not circle around one man. That the years will come and go and, if we’re lucky, no one will remember Daniel Lee.
But plenty of people will remember Desmond Tutu. Jimmy Carter. Leslie Feinberg. Martin Luther King, Jr. Sarah Weddington.
Plenty of people might remember you.
Remember: Hard outer shell and sense of humor, and everything will be fine.