More than 17 years ago, when I first moved to Denver Colorado, I wondered how you got your foot into the door at places like Westword and The Denver Post. I might not yet have known about Denver Westword's office, but I did go downtown and enter into the lobby where The Denver Post was held, and I walked up to the security desk and asked how I could get a job there. heh. That's how I thought things worked, and really, up until I'd moved to Denver, things kind of seemed to work that way for me. I mean. . . Boise is a little bit smaller, and for the most part folks are pretty open and nice about what they know. Or were when I lived there. I'm pretty much out of the Boise loop these days.
Since then, I've worked at a click-bait site (now defunct), written hundreds of articles, conducted numerous interviews, written for a minute over at Colorado Independent (their freelancer budget dried up), taken a handful of journalism MOOCs, and completed a grip of ghostwritten things that paid alright while they lasted. ...and this is all outside of the creative writing stuff I do (which generally doesn't pay, but feels good when it's published).
Anyway. . .this kind of work is so super humbling. I have a lot to learn since I've entered into journalism through the back door, and I get edited a lot. This work is challenging, but I think I like things that way. I'm always working upwards on the curve, learning all I can, and as part of that, failing a lot. Failing is part of the practice and the work. I get better and better by failing. That's just how it is.
I like telling my students how challenging writing is generally when they say that they want writing to get easier and that they're just bad at it. I tell them writing is a learned skill and it is always work, always learning. I tell them that I just received an article or review or essay back from my editors or writing group that was red-marked to hell with stuff I needed to change for whichever audience, or because I was inadvertently hiding something that was too important not to be left out, or because my language was super fuzzy or flowery or not concise.
I've been writing for a long time, sometimes get paid for it, and I still write shit. I still need other eyes to help me to see through it and to compost what's salvageable, and continue on with something better.
For the most part, hearing this allays classroom excuses. I am a working writer and I still write shit. It's okay. We'll all learn together. Give yourself permission to "write shit" (I first heard this sentiment, shit attached, from a workshop writer and editor Heidi Pitlor conducted at Regis University's Mile-High MFA program).
I'm not writing these things to brag. I'm doing this more so to take stock. It's important to take stock. I know a lot of really brilliant writers and journalists, and some of them work much harder than I do at just writing. A good deal of them have gone to journalism school and/or have been in the game for decades doing the thing more than intermittently. I piecemeal my life and my income from massage therapy, teaching, freelancing, and many other odds and ends when and if they come. I still do my best. And I still feel green. And when I start feeling like I'm failing too much, I take a moment to look at the tip of the iceberg, the stuff I have to show for the work I have been doing, which in some sense has been constant.
I still feel so new at this, and at the same time, I've been able to take stock and see where some successes were, and this gives me a little more confidence to aim higher as I continue learning and writing.
Blah. This is another blog post with a flat ending, but I'm ending it here, just the same. I honestly needed to pick myself up this morning, and to do a little writing warm-up before I address the stuff my editors have sent back. At any rate. . .yeah. There it is, for whoever cares or wants to know. :P If you want to, we can talk about it (in the comments).