People talk about wanting to be writers. One of my editors told me if they really wanted to be writers they would write. Easier said than done.
I used to be a writer. It was quite a few years into my gig as a reporter that I realized I actually got paid to be a writer. It floored me. Growing up I dreamt about being a writer. I wrote stories and created books. I imagined signing my latest bestseller and greeting my fans.
Then I went to journalism school and had jobs attending city council meetings, reading the police log and covering the state Legislature. I used to work with someone who would regularly ask the newsroom reporters if we could believe they actually paid us to sit around listening to people talk and then writing about it.
When I thought about it, it was hard to believe. Being a reporter wasn’t as easy or as pastoral every day as that guy made it sound. It was often stressful and a lot of work. And I often did a lot of menial tasks and blatant attempts at avoidance before I actually sat down to write. But when I did I felt happier than when I was doing almost anything else.
Several years ago, I stopped being a reporter and started advising students studying to be reporters. This was a new twist on life. It’s different being someone’s adviser than it is being their editor. I work in very close proximity to them and as a result might not always tell them what they want to hear. I’ve tried to learn to have a mix of positive and constructive criticism that helps them move forward but also isn’t too intimidating. It’s been an interesting journey learning to walk that path. I certainly don’t think I’m an expert.
One of the consequences of my advising job has been my personal writing. I’ve done some freelance work, but I can’t always find the energy to mix writing and advising on a regular basis. I know some advisers who do this very well and I hope this blog is one way that I can increase my word count. I listened to an interview with Harvey Fierstein several years ago. He was asked why he’d moved away from activism, which had taken up much of his time in previous years. He said, he was doing valuable work but wasn’t putting any dinner on the table. By dinner he meant creating.
I haven’t put any dinner on the table for at least three years. So. here’s my attempt at doing more cooking.