Today – Saturday afternoon, after getting up unfortunately late, it’s time for me to write.
Writing is no piece of pie (and it’s not a piece of cake either).
There are some people that say “everyone can write.” Or for example, at the Washington Journalism and Media Conference I spent my last week at, I was told repeatedly that “anyone can be a journalist.”
Being an honest-to-goodness writer at heart, and currently employed as a writer (among other things) at my internship, I don’t really think this is true. Maybe in theory, anyone can write, but it takes a lot of passion, commitment, dedication, and often times (okay probably almost EVERY time) frustration to write a truly good, heart-wrenching, inspiring story.
But I digress, as the reason I’m writing this blog is to give you insight into my personal frustration as a writer, and particularly my frustrations writing out the news story I worked on for the majority of my day today.
Every time I sit down, paper and pen in hand (okay I lied, most of my writing these days is done with a keyboard and word document), it’s a daunting task.
How do I begin a new story? What piece of information will really make the story “pop out” at the reader?
I’m really asking these questions…. Is it always appropriate to start a story with a rhetorical question? What about a striking fact or statistic? Or maybe just an extremely hilarious anecdote that gives the reader no choice but to continue on reading…
I mull over these questions on a daily basis, and I still sometimes have no clue what I’m doing. But I think that’s part of the beauty of writing.
As a writer, I live to recreate the experiences around me. To open up the world and events I encounter to an unknown audience (who are kind enough to actually sit down and read something I authored…)
And no human being ever actually has a clue what they’re doing or why they do some of the things they do. No human being knows why certain events transpire. The uncertainty of life is the beauty of life, and that’s exactly why the uncertainty of writing is the beauty of writing.
The first story I ever wrote was frightening. I sat down at my desk staring at a blank word document for literally 2 hours. I thought ‘my god what have I gotten myself into?’
But now, I’m used to going through this process (thankfully it doesn’t take quite as long anymore). When I write, I dive into the story and just write whatever comes into my head. It might be a jumbled up, out-of-order, mess, but at least it’s something. It’s a starting point.
This is precisely how the story about a recent local event I was working on today started. A jumbled up mess with no transitions that would have the uninformed reader confused and denouncing the byline “Jenna Welsh” for life.
So after this process, it’s time to polish up the story. Add detail and transitions. Move one paragraph to a new spot, re-shape the opening of the story; make it come to life.
I was once told that writing is re-writing. That phrase has resonated with me ever since; it’s so true. I don’t think I’ve ever written something, looked at it, and thought “this is perfect; I don’t need to do anything more with this story.”
I probably had to cut out about 50% of the sentences I wrote today. As I held my finger on the backspace and watched the words I had so carefully chosen disappearing before my eyes, a little part of me began to die inside, but it had to happen.
So after I re-write, I edit. I might have had some typos, grammatical errors, and etc to improve.
And after editing, it’s time to read the story again, and again, and again, until I feel somewhat satisfied with what I’ve written. But to be honest, I’m never 100% satisfied with any story.
After I send my work off I’m still thinking about my story as if it’s my child and I’m some sort of obsessed, overbearing mother. I’m thinking about what would have made the opening better, what words I should have cut, and how I should have included this quote or cut that quote.
But after all is said and done… when I see my story published, I’m satisfied. It’s a great feeling – being a writer. It takes practice and a lot – A LOT of passion.
So while some of my friends think I’m wasting my day – spending hours perfecting a story that might only be seen by a few people, I can’t think of any other way to spend it. Writing is a part of who I am, and as long as I am blessed with the opportunity and a gracious audience of readers, I’ll keep perfecting my craft.