The other night Kate Heartfield, Deputy Editor of the Op Ed (Opposite Editorial) Page of the Ottawa Citizen, urged a media group to which I belong to get busy writing.
“Writing is so essential. People who fall ill and are about to die feel impelled to use their time to write as much as they possibly can. Look at Christopher Hitchens who was taken away by cancer last year, or John Milton who wrote his greatest works when he was going blind. One writer I knew was very prolific all his life but kept up an even more dizzying pace during his last two months.
“I hope I am not being morbid”, she chuckled and smiled.
Her point was not to wait until it’s almost too late but to tackle writing with energy, freshness and joy because it is a fantastic talent to have, a close kin of life itself. We members and friends of the vintage Canadian Women’s Press Club, now the Media Club of Ottawa, sat up and took note of her tips:
“(1) Approach the blank sheet of paper as a child. In my case, I know I must formulate my column with a point, a certain number of words and a summing-up at the end. But what words can I use that are not clichés? Every piece of writing is like a child’s play, a new, fresh creation.
(2) Put away your ego (except for the self-confidence you have that you can do the job) and identify with your reader and more general social concerns.
(3) Everyone is an expert on something so don’t be too shy to submit your opinion to the Op Ed page of a newspaper. You can email me at the Citizen or look on the website of the newspaper in your area to get an appropriate address.
(4) Don’t expect your writing to be edited. Copy editors are a thing of the past. It’s your business to make sure your grammar and spelling are correct and your piece conforms to the paper’s tone, style, length, capitalization, etc. No one has time to fix it up, except for minor things.”
Mother of a two-year-old child, Heartfield appears to be following her own good advice while enjoying robust health. Aside from the very demanding deadlines, hours and responsibilities of her job, she also writes fiction and is about to publish a fantasy novel.
Heartfield told us the subscription policy of online editions of traditional newspapers is called ‘paywall’. Readers may browse and read stories for a set number of times before they are asked to pay for a subscription. The Guardian is an example of a newspaper that is free.
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