WASHINGTON — The year-end review required of all columnists inevitably brings us to the mailbag and a few clarifications.
For the record, I read my mail but never online comments. Anonymity liberates hostility, we've learned, and the customary online abuse riot undermines the grandiosity required to write opinion. But don't stop! For some reason, my family thinks the comments are a hoot.
The mail that does reach my inbox is about evenly split between fans and not-so-fans. I've concluded that there must be a repository of letter-to-columnist templates out there somewhere. About 70 percent of missives begin with one of the following:
“I usually stop reading your column after the first sentence, but …”
“I rarely agree with you, but …”
“I am a fan — you knew this was coming — but …”
And this just in. “I'm not sure how columnists like you who write for a living get paid.” KP: Usually by direct deposit.
Otherwise, my response to all of the above: So whaddya want for a buck?
A few days ago, a letter arrived asking me whether I ever considered that I might be wrong? My one-word response: “Constantly.”
Which is true, up to a point. A columnist couldn't write if she thought she were wrong, right? But oftentimes we write to find out what we think, and sometimes we surprise ourselves. Many times I wish I thought otherwise, since life would be so much easier, but then we'd be bored.
Sometimes, yes, I even change my mind. When you've written columns as long as I have (26 or 27 years, I can't remember), you'd best change your mind or admit that you never trouble yourself with thinking. Certitude is a mask one dons only for deadlines, after which, feet on desk, one ruminates on the source of such certitude. This, of course, leads to crippling self-doubt, which in turn may lead to drinking or, worse, yoga.
For my own edification, a few words about the differences between online writing and newspaper writing. Like the difference between the male and female sexual appetites (just to keep you interested), one is a microwave, the other a crockpot. Online writers zip and zap across the digital realm in real time, sometimes accelerating before news breaks. Newspaper writers, especially columnists, tend to simmer.