TO WRITE …
I don’t think it comes as a surprise to many that writing is hard.
I worked in journalism 23 years, and 20 of those years were … well …
fun. (The last three years I’m going to chalk up to penitence for some
life choices or as a lesson to move on to a new career and a new life,
but that’s a story for another time.)
I’m being honest when I say that the last few years of my career were
brutal, but I’m being equally honest with I say that I thoroughly
loved most of my time as a reporter and I do not regret going into the
There is no job as much fun or with as much variety as being a
journalist. I remember one day I spent the morning in a field talking
to a farmer about how the drought was affecting his corn crop and that
afternoon following the governor around and learning about
nanotechnology. I was able to fly in a stunt plane … participate in
the Great Peanut Tour bicycle ride in Emporia … float down the James
River as part of the Batteau Festival … accompany the U.S. Army on
training exercises at Fort Pickett.
Of course, there were also moments when I had to watch the human drama
unfold at its most painful: talking to the family of murder and
accident victims, and sitting through murder trails as the distressing
details of what happened are revealed.
Certainly, journalism is not for everyone. The pace of the work is
breakneck and it is considered one of the most stressful jobs you can
have, but even if you do it briefly – and considering the pay and the
hours, that would be my recommendation – the skills you would acquire
would benefit you a lifetime. I’m not just talking about writing, I’m
talking about being able to analyze, synthesize and convey
information. These are skills that serve you not just in journalism,
but in life.
One of the main advantages of being a journalist is that -- if your
goal or dream is to be a writer – it’s one of the few ways you’re
guaranteed to make some money and get to practice the craft at the
same time. Trust me, I know. I’ve been writing fiction books the last
few years. Writing them, not selling them – though I know that will
come soon. (By the way, creative writing and journalism are very
different, but writing is writing and, anyway, the more you are
exposed to the more it helps your creativity.)
Strengthening my writing was just why I even started taking journalism
classes. When I went to college, I had every intention of writing
history books. Then I knocked the dust off some history journals as I
did research for papers. It didn’t take long to realize that these
journals were dusty because the reading is dull, boring and
pretentious – written for academics with no intention or interest in
public consumption. But what’s the point of putting the time and
energy into research if you’re going to produce a work so boring only
a few people care enough to read it? Once I started taking journalism
classes I realized I had a knack for it. Actually, being a reporter is
a lot like writing books. In fact, read any nonfiction book and you’ll
see the footnotes are full of references to newspaper and magazine
articles. The old saying is true: journalism is the first rough draft
These are skills that serve you not just in journalism, but in life.
But even if you decide not to be a writer, good, strong, clear writing
gives you a leg up on the competition. You see, ultimately, everything
comes down to being able to write – to convey your thoughts and the
ideas of others.
Writing is hard, but being a writer – now that’s fun!!!
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