My editor took offense recently when I defended my creativity as a columnist. I also implied, the average journalist does not write creatively. Because I was the second person to tell him so (in the same week), he disagreed and then proceeded to tell me why. He’s right about most things in the world of newspapers, but on this point I think I’m more right.
Hard news reporters are all about the facts: the who, what, where, when, why and how. But in my column, I do more—I get to tell stories.
Sometimes I’m allowed (even asked on occasion) to write hard news.
Although a former editor had his opinion on the matter…
It was the week of Thanksgiving. I sacrificed two whole days plus bits of other days before the holiday to attend a county board of supervisors meeting, read through a quarter-inch-thick pile of paperwork, and then write an article about property line disputes in my neighborhood.
Since I live in a ghost town where hardly anything newsworthy happens, I thought it was worth a try… and my editor said, Go for it.
So, when I should have been cleaning and baking and preparing to have a dozen guests for dinner on that next Thursday, I was busy reporting.
I thought I did a decent job of presenting the issue, after all the time I spent in research, interviewing the individuals involved, and sitting through one very long and boring meeting.
But after my editor read my article, his reply email said, Sorry, but I don’t understand it. And if I don’t understand it, our readers won’t, either.
No matter how much time and effort I put into a story, if it doesn’t print, I don’t get paid.
But, back to that infamous Thanksgiving week and my brutally honest editor…
After rejecting my story, he added: You’re a better columnist, and that’s exactly where I need you.
This is my blog post #100, and I’m writing about writing.
There was a time when I thought copy editors don’t know much about writing. Because one of their jobs is to come up with the headline (title) for whatever the real writers send in. I write headlines for my stories, but rarely do the editors use them.
Copy editors have been the subject of many conversations at our house on Saturday mornings (the day my column appears in the paper). The headlines they invent are usually lacking. No imagination.
For example: When my wonderfully poignant piece Unexpected Rendezvous landed at their desks, they changed the headline to, Morning Hassle Turned Fond Memory.
I’ve been tempted to send in a story about llamas or metal art entitled, Snoopy Goes to Baltimore, just to see what they’d do with it.
Journalists, myself included, consistently complain about two things: limited space and deadlines.
But my current editor likes to remind me, deadlines are the very thing that keep me writing professionally.
How many of your writer friends are in print? And how often? he asks.
Two or three, I answer. And once or twice maybe…
And how many times have you been in print?
And every one of those articles came with a deadline.
Like I said, he’s usually right. Then he tells me about this famous author who holed up in a room for 24 hours with a couple sandwiches and a bottle of scotch. He had procrastinated for months, and was only days away (as in, two) from his deadline. He then proceeded to write a best-selling novel, because the pressure was on—all because of that stinkin’ deadline.
So… after 100 posts at my blog, Ponderings & Promises, I don’t know that it’s making any real dent in the world of writing or blogging. But I’ve met some interesting and gifted people, and made a few new friends.
It’s also therapeutic, as writing has always been one of the places I go to unwind—to try and make sense of the insanity surrounding us.
Besides all this, though, what have I accomplished?
In the past eight months of blogging, I’ve written over 65,000 words—close to the size of an average novel.
My one hope is, for you to find encouragement in the contemplations of my heart, put into words, and flung (with a tiny bit of apprehension and a ton of prayer) into cyberspace. Whether I’m writing about my family and our crazy-busy days… giving you a glimpse into my life of faith… or just writing about writing… I appreciate the time you spend in reading these posts.
Now it’s your turn to write something. Leave a comment and let me get to know you a little better, okay?