While going through some storage tubs a few weeks ago, I once again came across the hard copies of all the newspaper articles I’d written during the last 10 years or so. Each time one appeared in whatever newspaper I happened to be writing for, I removed the page it was on from the paper, folded it up, and added it to the pile. Over time, that resulted into quite a large stack that was not organized in any particular way. So I decided that it was time to do that.
The impetus for this grew when I acquired two new and unused scrapbook albums, which I realized would be perfect for this task, and so I started out. First, I spent several days going through each newspaper page and clipping each article out. In some instances, that was pretty easy, as the articles were all published in the same corner of a single page of the paper. It got a bit trickier with newspapers for which I wrote several articles some weeks, as many were divided among several pages, with some even appearing back-to-back! After organizing the clippings by year and date, I was ready to paste them into the albums. It didn’t take long before I realized that those two scrapbooks would not hold 10 years’ worth of work, so I commissioned a couple of spiral notebooks for the remainder of the task.
It took me nearly three weeks to complete this project, but I didn’t stop to consider its meaning until I was able to step away from it and consider it objectively. At no time during those 10 years did I ever appreciate the enormity of the body of work I’d created, both as a newspaper reporter and as a columnist. At no time did I ever notice how tall that stack of newspaper pages had grown; and not until I started clipping those articles out and pasting them into scrapbooks did it hit me how much of myself I’d invested in every single word I’d written.
Now that I am able to stand back and look at those albums, I can also appreciate what they represent: a chronicle of the time I spent doing all that writing, which, as any writer can attest to, involves so much more than simply putting words to paper or computer screen.
Before a single word ever begins its journey to wherever it will end up, it first does a little dance in the writer’s mind with a thought or an idea. Then sometimes, it takes a detour through the soul where it usually picks up small nuances of emotion before emerging as a heartfelt testimony. Even in the case of newswriting, where the author must remain objective, I have seen something of the writer if only in his or her style, how he or she strings the words together, or how he or she begins an account of whatever subject matter is at hand. No matter what type of writing it is, it bears the mark of the author, making each line produced unique in that no other writer would have handled the subject matter in exactly the same way.
Those four scrapbooks represent 10 years during which I spent a great deal of time living in the place where inspiration derives from. Yes, much of that work is also stored away somewhere on this computer or on a disk. But there is something so much more intimately meaningful in seeing it in tangible form, in allowing the newsprint to rub off onto my fingers, and announce its significance with a soft crackle as I open and close those albums.
For something of me is in them, between those pages, making its way even now along the narrow pathways that exist between each two lines or each two paragraphs. It touches each word gently as I go along, as though touching one of my children, saying to them “I thought you into being and dreamed you onto these pages, and so you shall live forever, even if the light should fail.”