Life as a newspaper columnist

USA Today’s Craig Wilson

USA Today columnist Craig Wilson is always working. He is constantly on the lookout for something to write about.

Wilson, who has written the Final Word column for 16 years, gets inspiration from what he sees of human behavior. Column ideas can come from standing in a grocery store or witnessing people playing with their cell phones.

Wilson started his career at a small newspaper called The Saratogian in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. He was hired on a part-time basis at USA Today and has been at the newspaper for three decades. During his stint at the national newspaper — in which he has also written feature stories and book reviews — he has learned to keep his columns brief but informative.

“I always tell people to rewrite a story, cut it in half and don’t leave anything out,” Wilson said.

This way, the reader stays interested in the story. “If [the writer] is bored, then the reader will be bored,” Wilson said.

 As a columnist, Wilson looks at the world with an inquisitive eye and is observant of human behavior. He has written columns about social phenomenons such as self-absorption, talking on the phone early in the morning and his experience of being hit by a car — a column for which he won an award. He has also written a column about his experience of having lunch with actress Shirley MacLaine.

“I’m never quite sure what’s going to work,” Wilson said of his column ideas.