One-hour columns

Published 12:00 am Monday, September 8, 2003

Suffolk News-Herald

I’m trying an experiment in writing columns; I want to create something readable within 60 minutes. Actually, I hope to have it polished within 51 minutes and 48 seconds. That’s the time it will take on my CD for Glenn Gould to complete playing Preludes and Fugues 13 through 24 from &uot;The Well-Tempered Clavier I&uot; by J.S. Bach.

After all, do I or anyone else really need much more than an hour to write an eye-catching, thought-provoking column, or least a respectable space filler?

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I just checked. Glenn’s on Track 8 and all I have to show for it so far are these few measly sentences. Eek!

Since time is of the essence, then let’s make that the subject.

As I learn more about the work I choose to do, I struggle in learning to prioritize my time and work more efficiently.

When I don’t, the daily growing mountain of tasks is poised to cascade in an avalanche, leaving paper cuts and disappointed customers in its wake. On Saturday, for example, a representative of a church left a terse message about omitting an important notice from Saturday’s Worship page. Had I paid more attention to my mail last week, I would have seen its importance and thus avoided having to call and humbly apologize.

Then there’s the issue of distractions – speaking of which, Glenn just finished tickling the ivories about a minute ago, but there’s still 7 minutes left! Pant! Pant! Pant!

See what I mean? Was that previous paragraph really necessary? No, but that’s the way with things that we let divert our attention. It’s easier to challenge a faceless opponent in Internet Checkers (I often win) than write a column. I wonder if Steve Herbert ever takes time to play Free Cell before making a major decision? I’d ask him to reply and let me print it, but then the council malcontents would read it, foam at the mouth and go rabidly barking after him.

But even after the little game victories or the time spent surfing the Net, there’s still the work and more work that needs to be completed.

Actually I do have the priorities in my life arranged. Like dogs and cats, I believe that food, naps and playthings are interchangeably important at an impulse. It’s work that interferes.

Did I finish in time? No. Glenn Gould has left the building, and I’m now at 18 minutes overtime. Well, I’ll try again later. After all, tomorrow is another 1,440 minutes.

Stephen H. Cowles is the managing editor and a regular columnist for the News-Herald. He’s at home sleeping while you slave away at work. Lazy. You can reach him at 934-9613, or via e-mail: