Soon I will be an ex-columnist

…and I’m fine with that.

For the past few weeks I have been getting used to the fact that my weekly column in the Bay of Plenty Times is coming to an end. The news came with a quiet but respectful email to inform me that, following a major review of columnists in the region, my column is to be discontinued after 4 September.

I indulged in a bit of disappointment and then realised I’m actually looking forward to the end. It takes a lot of work – a lot of work! – to get each column across the line, all in my spare time. I’m realise now how tired I am. My main problem is my own high standard: I have always refused to submit anything that bores me.

I know that a lot of people out there have been reading my stuff. A few times lately I have been recognised by strangers who tell me they read my column every Friday. The disturbing thing is that they probably recognise me from my profile pic, which I never much liked.

My official columnist mugshot.
My official columnist mugshot.

Of course, being recognised by a few strangers doesn’t automatically mean everyone has been buying the paper more, or even reading it online. I don’t yet know the reasons for my column being discontinued. It may be that, quite genuinely, they want a different flavour of opinion. Or it could be a drive for more cost-efficiency across the Bay of Plenty papers (which would be kind of hilarious given how much I don’t get paid.) I would love to discover that there’s been a high level conspiracy against me. That would be fun.

I need to point out that the Bay of Plenty Times brought me on in the first place. They didn’t have to. I’m grateful that they did.

I’ve had a good time and I’m massively proud of my work. The unsung hero of all this is my wife. She was always my first and most valuable barometer for whether I had nailed a piece of writing. She also had to put up with my creative moods that were crammed into an intense cycle and replayed every week. (“You’re always much happier on Thursday and Friday.”)

So tomorrow my last newspaper column will be published. It’s a bit like the final episode of a TV series: the finale is never as quite satisfying as the second-to-last episode because it has a slightly different job to do. But I’m happy with it.

Determined to exit on a strong note with my second-to-last episode, I spent at least 20 hours in total on last week’s column about depression. I finished the first draft on the weekend, then decided I wasn’t ready to broach that topic in public so I wrote something else entirely. It was okay, but lacked punch. I returned and rewrote the depression piece. The feedback I have since received totally validates all the effort. It reinforces an important lesson: always write the stuff that is burning inside you.

Where it all started: Tomorrow I am a columnist.