So, you want to be a columnist? You think this is easy? Maybe you picture me dressed in a button-down shirt, vest, corduroy pants, and penny loafers … sitting behind a computer, deep in thought … smoking a pipe and having a glass of brandy next to me … closing out the world so I can make you love me, hate me, cry with me, or laugh with me. Nothing is further from the truth!

I do my writing prep, in bed, between 1:30 and 3:00 in the morning as my wife imitates the sounds of a diesel truck next to me. I’m fighting with three pillows, a twisted sheet, and a blanket so I can get up and run to the computer to write down my thoughts. But the computer is updating itself for the next three hours. So now I am running around the house in my underwear (which is not a pretty sight), looking for something to write on, and realize I forgot what I was going to write about and now I have to go to the bathroom!

I usually handwrite everything first and let my wife read it. She just laughs and shakes her head at the way I spell words or create new ones. “This isn’t a word. What were you thinking of at the time?”

Then I send my story to my editor, as he will make the final decision to print it or not. “That’s a good one, Haryn. We’ll print it on this date.”

He then gives it to his copy editor. I send in a story that has between 500 and 600 words and get back an 800-word memorandum telling me what punctuation I have missed, what tense I have wrong, and how they would write MY story. [Editor’s note: Avoid excessive exaggeration.]

I try to keep to Ben Franklin’s method of writing – that “good writing is smooth, clear, and short” – so all people can understand it. After all, I am not a writer, a journalist, or the sharpest tool in the shed. I am a storyteller who just pours his brains out onto the page and lets other people sort it out. After counting to 10, I agree with the editor and give my blessing so I can get the story to you.

Now the story is in print and I get back reader comments ranging from “loved your story and how true” to “this is poor journalism and you should be eaten by a bear.” My last editor told me to read a letter he had received about my writing, and then advised me not to answer the person back and to keep a handgun at my bedside.

Most people understand my style of writing and what I am saying in my stories. They get it. Then there is that one percent with no sense of humor or understanding of what I am obviously trying to get across. They only understand cold, hard facts, only think in black and white, and just don’t get it.

I once wrote a satirical story about the lake based on a factual one from another newspaper. Two lake associations wrote to my editor about how I was hurting the image of the lake, it was bad journalism, and I should be dropped into the lake with an anchor tied to my feet. My editor wrote back that if they would read the story, they would see that I had never said what they said I said! To this day, I do not go to a lake restaurant without fearing an unruly mob of yachtsmen will follow through with their threat.

So, you want to be a columnist? Jump in, the water’s fine.

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Tony has lived in Lake Hopatcong since 1987. He has a bachelor’s degree in American literature from Ramapo College, a New Jersey teacher’s certificate, and a master’s in business administration from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Tony’s column, “For What It’s Worth,” appeared in Aim Jefferson for nine years. He recently retired after 46 years in the corporate world. Tony can be reached at tony.haryn@thejeffersonchronicle.com.