Depending on the circumstances, writing this column can be either one of my greatest joys, or one of my greatest heartaches.

Today, unfortunately, it's the latter case.

I guess it's kind of like having kids. There are times when you are very proud of then, and then there are other situations in which you want to wring their necks. But you love them all just the same.

Whenever I have inspiration for a column, the words just come out easily. Sometimes it's so easy, in fact, that it doesn't seem like work at all. But then there are other times, like now, when I think it would be easier to move a mountain than get this thing written.

What's involved is subject matter. If I have a subject in mind for a column, things usually go pretty smoothly. The ease which which I can write a column is directly linked to how strongly I feel about the subject - because my emotions can generally give me the ammunition I need to write a good column.

However, every now and then, I get into a mood in which I just don't seem to want to write about anything. Longtime readers of my column know this is a rare occurrence, but happen it does. And there is nothing - absolutely nothing - more frustrating to a writer than to sit and stare ahead with nothing coming.

The problem - referred to in publishing circles as "writer's block" ­- never occurs during "straight" news stories. That's because the subject matter is already at hand, and a good reporter simply works with the existing facts. Features can be a little more tricky, because they sometimes require a little more imagination on the part of the reporter to write properly. Still, it can be done, due to the fact that a large part of the work is recording the facts properly.

So, what makes a column like this different? Well, columns and editorials are more free-wheeling. As a writer, I'm required to make it work - I'm required to put more of myself into what I am writing.

This can make a column one of the most fun things to write. After all, you don't get to be a journalist by hiding your light under a bushel. I confess, blowing my own horn is one of the great pleasures I get out of life. However, this also means that writing a column can be one of the greatest crosses a journalist has to bear. Because, as I said before, trying to write something when you can't think of anything to write about is sheer agony.

Now, some wags might ask: "Why don't you just skip it this week, if you can't think of anything to write about?" To which I reply: "What, and disappoint everyone who reads my column? Not on your life!" I mean, even if I can't get it completely up to snuff each and every week, I believe I owe it to you folks to at least try and come up with something.

Reading over what I just wrote, I suddenly realized that I managed to come up with something - writing about not being able to think up something to write about. Only in the newspaper field, I guess. See you next week, folks.

C.J. Marshall is a writer and columnist for The Daily Review. He can be reached at; or (570) 265-1630.