In a newspaper, the middle column finds itself between the erudite editorial and the letters of an enlightened reading audience with their considered notes of assent and dissent. And at the top are scholarly discourses or dissertations of important people on burning topics.
In the circumstances how does the middle hold its own? If the canvas is broad for the middle with no deadlines or topics, the brush is fine as the writer must attract the discerning eye of the editors and avoid their scalpel with finesse. The middle is basically the voice of the common man to whom the newspaper offers a creative outlet.
If you are good with words, the middle is yours. It is an escape or a refreshing diversion from weightier matters. It could be a piece with a dash of humour, a story that strikes a sombre note or a nostalgic trip in search of times that were and are now bound up with memories. Or it could be a general reflection on the more pedestrian things that be, the incongruities and absurdities in daily encounters. Often the anecdotes celebrate the ordinary men and women and their tales of extraordinary strength and resilience, making the marginal visible and giving the anonymous people a name.
However you might unleash your imagination, the middle must be tethered to the constraints of space and the inviolable confines of word count. With all these limitations there is something called the editor’s choice where her gaze could fall on an attractive turn of phrase, a metaphor or simile cleverly used.
And after all that effort the sheer joy of finding one’s name in print is well worth it. Acclaimed journalists who see their bylines on a regular basis cannot imagine the thrill and joy of a middle writer on seeing her name in the newspaper and the number of congratulatory calls and letters one receives. It promises immortality, however short-lived. Once a reputed journalist confessed that even after many years, seeing her byline on paper still gave her a heady feeling.
Walt Whitman wrote that we try and find meaning in an otherwise empty life, and we exist and can create something meaningful while we are alive. So some make paintings, some make music, some make homes and raise children. And some of us write hoping we reach a few readers.
Sudha Devi Nayak