The one question people ask me most about writing my column is: “Where do you come up with the stuff that you write about?” The question is easy, but the answer gets a little complicated.
Stuff happens to me the same way it happens to everybody else.
The company that makes Red Bull energy drinks was sued recently and ordered to pay more than $13 million, split among everyone who purchased their product since 2002. The lawsuit was based upon false claims in their advertising that “Red Bull gives you wings.”
The plaintiffs argued the drink gives you caffeine, not wings. It seems dumb that a company would get sued over that and I’m sure there is more to the story, but Red Bull stretched the truth and somebody felt gypped.
So that’s one complication in writing this column. I'm not very comfortable stretching the truth and regular readers should notice that most of my life mirrors theirs. It follows then that the reader is going to notice if I wrote something fantastically improbable.
A couple of popular singers/music producers were sued for more than $7 million recently for using a song written by Marvin Gaye in the production of a new song that topped the charts during the past couple of years.
The singer and producer argued that they were simply trying to recreate the era from which the Gaye song originated. The courts on the other hand decided they stole from Gaye’s song and owed his estate a bunch of money.
That’s another complication for columnists. It's difficult to find an author who hasn't used a previous author’s line of thinking to help sew the seeds of an idea. We all imitate somebody else — at least a little bit — hopefully not word for word, but in idea, structure and creativity.
I try to be original, but I am not much more than an amalgam of the people whose work I like to read. My style and interpretation separates my work from others.
My interpretation of frozen pipes?
The phrase “frozen pipes” implies the pain, frustration and underground frozen water struggle that this winter wrought upon residents all over northern Michigan. “Frozen pipes, followed by a question mark” is what you might expect to see as a clue in the Sunday crossword puzzle. If “frozen pipes?” is the clue to a 10-letter word beginning with the letter "L." The answer must be … laryngitis. Many of my columns originate just by looking at something from a skewed point of view.
So this is my answer to the person who asks me how I write this column.
First, don’t stretch the truth, too much. It’s alright to embellish a little bit to be entertaining, but people will generally know when you’re lying.
Second, be original. It’s alright to borrow thoughts and be influenced by ideas from other people because nobody is born knowing everything. Run them through your own personal filter first and add your own influence.
Finally, try to look at things differently because one man’s frozen water main is just another man’s sore throat.
Rob Ford was born and raised in northern Michigan. He lives in Elk Rapids where he owns and operates Riverside Title. Email him at Rob@Riversidetitle.org.