Sweet Silence

Damon Runyon

My column is slightly irregular and loyal customers sometimes do me the honor of saying:

“I didn’t see your stuff in the paper today. What happened?”

This indicates that they looked for it, which pleases me no little. However, I am sometimes perturbed by the fact that when it does appear the customers make no comment. They notice when I am out but not when I am in. It is something to worry about.

Well, now, there are two reasons for the irregularity, one being physical. But the major reason is that I have nothing to say.

I hesitated a long time before revealing this. I realize that it may be a great shock to some of my customers and might create a precedent of far reaching consequences among newspaper columnists.

I mean it might change the present old established practice of columnists who have nothing to say, saying it.

Anyway, they might take to following my example in remaining out of the paper when they find themselves in the situation of having nothing to say. While this would save a vast amount of white paper, I fear it would be deplored by many editors.

When an editor contracts for a column to appear daily in public print, he naturally wants that contract fulfilled to the letter and though the columnist often has nothing to say the editor is apt to feel that it is better to say it in the space and to the extent of the wordage allotted it than deprive his readers of the opportunity of guessing what the columnist means when he says nothing. Because quite often columns of this type arouse more discussion than those in which the columnist really says something.

The man never lived who had something to say every day of his life. By something to say, I mean of course, something worth listening to or reading. But if editors took to leaving out columnists when they have nothing to say, every columnist would be reduced to about three appearances per week and some less and that would be bad for the columning racket.

I expect no applause from my fellow columnists in this confession of the reason for my irregularity. They will probably say that I am non-union. Nor do I expect the commendation of editors. They are more likely to put me away as lazy. I can only hope for the approval of some of my customers for sparing them the boredom of reading my column when I had nothing to say.

The shock of many of them will probably be in their discovery of my lack of versatility on finding I had nothing to say. They will perhaps wonder why I did not fill in with a few letters from Vox Populi or other omnivorous readers. I thought of that. On reading a batch of the letters at hand I found they had nothing to say either.

I worry like the dickens when I find I have nothing to say, and never mind telling me I must be worrying all the time. I want to say something as much as any man alive, yet I have a feeling that whatever I say it should be interesting or entertaining. I have a number of stock subjects that I know I ride too hard, such as the case of the discharged soldiers and my national lottery, but they are not elastic enough to stretch over all the periods when I have nothing to say like those that some of my more facile contemporaries keep in store.

I envy those guys who when they have nothing to say, can always turn to labor and to Russia and to belting the administration and also to rearranging the world after the war. This last, ladies and gentlemen, is a matter of which I know so little that I cannot even say nothing about it though certain of my contemporaries can do it to the extent of eight or nine hundred words daily.