Tuesday, February 20 , 2018, 9:07 pm | Fair 50º


Paul Burri: Where Do Column Ideas Come From?

And how much of what I write is true or significant? Let's pencil it out

A friend once asked me, “How do you find things to write about?” I answered, “When you get as old as I am, you can remember stories that never even happened.” Or another way to say that, paraphrasing Mark Twain, is, “I never let the truth get in the way of a good story.”

Paul Burri
Paul Burri

But the real truth (as opposed to the false truth) is that everything I write about really did happen to me at one time or another. (Well, most of the things.) As we approach the end of another year, I thought it would be interesting to look back over my column-writing history.

This column is my 239th since I began writing it several years ago. At an average of 550 words per column, that comes to about 131,000 words. Since the average novel runs 70,000 to 80,000 words, it looks like I have enough for nearly two of them so far. So I guess if anyone asks me whether I’ve ever written a book, I can say, “Nearly two.”

But then one might ask, “Yes, but did you write anything significant?”

Let’s figure it out. I estimate that about 6 percent of my writing consists of such words as “a,” “and,” “the,” “but” and “etc.” Then there’s another 15 percent that includes such words as “I,” “me,” “my” and “mine.” Then I guess I should discount all the infantile inanities, redundant reminiscences, monotonous monologues, pointless protestations and worthless wordiness. That adds up to another 58 percent.

And I can’t overlook the worthless witticisms, the obstinate opinions and the just plain stupid ideas. That adds another, say, 20 percent.

Unfortunately, that adds up to 99 percent of what I’ve written. Or to put it another way, only 1 percent of my stuff is worth reading. (Don’t ever say you haven’t been warned.)

“And time yet for a hundred indecisions, and for a hundred visions and revisions.”T. S. Eliot

See you next year, and thanks for your loyal readership.

P.S. I have 16 pages of ideas for future columns.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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