I’ve realized during my first week of classes that this is going to be the most “normal” my life has been in the past eight to nine months. I spent the first chunk of the year working at the Missourian, which basically ate my life from January to May, and then after about a week’s break, I went to Colorado for three months, where I worked 40 hours a week taking care of 10-12 year-olds.
And after having a year where my schedule is packed to overflowing with things demanding all my energy, my life feels like it’s going “back to normal” (whatever that means).
Now granted, I’ve got things to keep me busy. I’m taking 17 hours of classes, attempting to finish an online course, doing a bunch of stuff with my church, living in a house with some of my friends, eating a lot of pasta and sandwiches, meeting new people, doing homework, and trying to pick up other interesting things to do.
But I’m finding it really bizarre to have a two or three hour break between classes where I can just sit down and study. Every time I don’t have somewhere specific I have to be, I find myself fighting this bizarre feeling that I should be at the Missourian frantically trying to finish my next story. My attention span is about the size of my left pinky because I’m not trying to cram out a story in four hours and somehow find time to eat, have a minimal social life and read 100 pages of a novel by 8 a.m. the next morning. Basically, I spend a lot of time attempting study and then finding myself wondering what else I should be doing.
But I’m not going to sit around and pretend I’m not doing anything. Because even after the first week of classes, I can already feel myself being stretched to grow in new ways.
I’m taking a bunch of journalism classes this semester (in addition to a lot of English ones; British lyric poetry, anyone?), two of which are intro to news editing and intermediate writing. I’ve really enjoyed my editing class so far; it’s a chance to indulge in my love of being an English nerd and an opportunity to gain more confidence working with copy. We’ve talked a couple of times about what it means to be an editor — how to help people in the news room, how things like copy editing fit into the bigger picture, how to make news decisions, etc. It’s been a good opportunity to look at reporting from a different angle and to get the chance to improve my own writing by knowing what others are looking for.
I can already tell I’m going to grow tremendously in intermediate writing. I spent most of last semester doing quick-turn pieces, and one of the areas I know I need to improve in my reporting is working on doing more narrative pieces. I’m hoping this class gives me the opportunity to do just that. We’re currently working on a package for Vox, and there’s a chance a couple of other pieces I do this semester could get published as well. So I get to continue building my portfolio while growing in my skill as a writer. Not a bad deal, I’d say.
This class has pushed me even in the last week. I walked out of my first class Tuesday afternoon with an assignment: four story pitches for a Vox package on gun culture by Thursday. Here’s something else you should know about areas I need to grow as a journalist: I hate pitching stories. Pitching stories feels like the personifications of a tendency to be shy, a fear of rejection, and a nagging voice that tells me I have to be awesome at everything came up to me on the street corner and slapped me on the face. It freaks me out, because I can’t seem to get over the fear that my ideas suck.
But I reminded myself of what I learned at the Missourian last semester — if your editor likes one out of ten pitches, you’re doing a good job — and got to work. I did some research and learned a lot about buying a gun, shooting a gun and getting a concealed carry permit in Missouri. I made a couple of phone calls and sent out some emails. I typed up some quick proposals and brought them to class Thursday afternoon, repeating to myself that everything would be fine.
And as life would have it, I got to be the first person to pitch my ideas.
Here’s the thing though. I probably didn’t have the most awesome ideas in the class, but I realized pretty quickly that my ideas didn’t suck either. Everyone listened and talked about them and brainstormed what directions they could go.
So as it turns out, pitching stories isn’t the horrifying ordeal my over-thinking mind half expects it to be.
As small as this seems, this experience was definitely a good way to help me get back into the swing of things now that I’m back to “normal life,” and it really helped me start to grow in my confidence as a journalist, not just in writing, but in realizing that I have ideas that I can communicate to others.
I’d say not bad for my first week.