There’s one reason we columnists do what we do (no, the other thing). There’s one reason we churn out columns every week for little or no pay. We don’t do it for money, glory, or the adoring fans who gush and squeal like 12-year-old girls at an N’Sync concert.
We do it because we love to write.
That, and because we harbor a secret dream that a Hollywood producer will make a blockbuster movie from our “How the Dog Ate the Thanksgiving Turkey” column.
Since we love to write, we need our own holiday. So, thanks to Delaware writer John Riddle, November 15th, 2002 is the very first “I Love to Write Day.” Although for some writers, it’s also “Good Thing I Still Have My Day Job Day.”
Riddle started I Love To Write Day at — where else? — www.ilovetowrite.com, so “people of all ages will discover the joy that comes from writing.” Having discovered that joy years ago, I’m now waiting to discover the joy that comes from making money at it.
Riddle believes ILTWD (as I now call it because I’m too lazy to write it out) could start a person down the road to writing. “(It) has the potential to launch the career of the next John Grisham, Mary Higgins Clark, Stephen King, or Toni Morrison.”
Personally I wouldn’t want to be the next Mary Higgins Clark. It would be extremely hard to explain to my wife and children, and family reunions would be awkward.
Riddle says he got the idea while driving to a writers’ conference. On the other hand, I’ve driven hundreds of thousands of miles, and have never been struck with anything so noble as creating an entire holiday. Instead I argue with myself over which is cooler: to be able to fly or turn invisible.
But ILTWD is for all writers, whether you write technical manuals, short stories, or hate-filled graffiti on your boss’ car. But, there’s a special day reserved just for columnists.
Unfortunately, National Columnists Day has an identity crisis: it’s observed on two different days, April 18th and “every fourth Tuesday in June.” But secondly, and more importantly, “Columnists” may or may not have an apostrophe.
And since no one can agree on a date, I’m doing what any good columnist should: writing about it in November.
This conflict has caused some serious hand-wringing among columnists, though no one seems to care about the apostrophe. And although no one will say it, I believe this debate is responsible for many of society’s problems, including the Martha Stewart scandal.
The National Society of Newspaper Columnists (to which I used to belong) observes the April 18th event. Dave Lieber, secretary of the NSNC and Fort Worth Star-Telegram columnist, and Bill Tammeus of the Kansas City Star co-created the holiday. Since they wanted to commemorate columnist Ernie Pyle, who died during World War II on April 18th, 1945, the NSNC passed a resolution declaring April 18th, 1995 the first National Columnists Day. WITHOUT the apostrophe.
But in 1988, Gloucester County (New Jersey) Times columnist Jim Six created his own National Columnists’ Day “as an attempt to be humorous.” He declared every fourth Tuesday in June was National Columnists’ Day. WITH the apostrophe.
In an email interview, Lieber told me, “…I applaud Jim Six for coming up with National Columnists Day in the great tradition of a columnist — he was desperate for a subject to write about that day.” But Lieber holds true to the NSNC’s higher purpose: “We chose the day to remember (Pyle) with the hope that some of his gallantry would rub off on us. For that reason, we hold firm to the idea that National Columnists Day is April 18.”
Six says he started his holiday by asking several syndicated columnists to send a special greeting (Dave Barry sent a postcard). In 1989, at Six’s request, New Jersey Governor Tom Kean issued an official proclamation declaring the fourth Tuesday of June 1989 (and every June thereafter) National Columnists’ Day — six years before the NSNC’s.
And there’s the problem. On one hand, a large international organization says National Columnists Day is on April 18th, and chose the date for purely noble and selfless reasons.
On the other hand, a single writer started the holiday as a joke seven years earlier, and got New Jersey’s Governor to issue a proclamation and Dave Barry to send a postcard.
Obviously both arguments have merit, but neither side will give up their holiday, so what’s a humor writer to do?
I could stay out of it and not take sides. I could celebrate twice by reprinting the same column on both days.
Or I could just write a column about it to stir up trouble and declare November 19th “Ha Ha You Don’t Know Where I Live Day.”