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Thu January 15, 2004
Where Do Commentaries Come From?
Paul considers where the inspiration for commentaries arises from.
By Paul Wilkes
Wilmington NC – [Click the LISTEN button to hear Paul's commentary.]
Some of you may wonder ? and some of you have asked ? where do the ideas for these commentaries come from? Are they written? Or ad-libbed.
Four minutes in length, you will hear some 500 words and they take up about two pages, double-spaced when they are written ? and re-written. Those are the technical, definable details, but in fact, these little blips on the screen of life are actually somewhat of a mystery to me.
Because I never sit down and say: well I have to write a commentary now and begin typing.
Rather, something has been percolating in my mind for a couple days, sometimes weeks. Or some deep memory has resurfaced, jogged into the present tense by something I saw or heard. I might jot down a word or two on the back of a credit card receipt or grocery list. Sometimes I actually can read them. At other times such fleeting thoughts are lost forever to a guy who very honestly earned straight Ds in penmanship.
For sure, these commentaries are not products of the intellect. Thank goodness, for we wouldn?t want to try to pump too much oil from that shallow well. No, they are far more visceral than that. And, I was blessed with a lot of visceral.
My inspirations? The generous smile of a check out woman at Harris Teeter generates a commentary on Great Souled People.
A walk through Oak Dale cemetery with my dear, now departed friend John Talbert, gets me thinking about how I want my funeral to be.
A chance conversation in a car on a bumpy road in Costa Rica stirs thoughts about how we need to take vacations with our kids and spouses just so we can really talk to one another.
But even after I outline the basic idea, there is another element ? the mysterious element ? that comes into play. For words and sentences and connections and ? occasionally, an insight, come from?.well, I don?t know where.
It?s only when a writer gets to the keyboard that this happens. You can think and think and think about writing, but until the process begins, you really have no idea of what will eventually come out.
Something I saw on my hospital rounds, or at the university, an obit in the paper, some current event. These are the seeds, but the final fruit may look quite different.
You have those same, flickering moments of recognition, where something strikes you as wonderful or wrong, transcendent or banal. Ah, yes, you say. Yes.
And, to be quite honest, it could be you just as easily as me, doing these commentaries every other Thursday.
It?s just that I have four minutes of airtime to fill. And that demands that fleeting thoughts be grabbed by the tail and held there for a moment or two. And, two pages and 500 words later, released to fly again.
Paul Wilkes teaches in the English department at UNCW, and is the creator of New Beginnings, a church revitalization program.