“You don’t suck.”
So said my old Missourian editor, Liz Brixey, on a few occasions last spring. This is legitimately one of the best self-encouragement lines I found during my time at the Missourian, and I mean that in total and complete seriousness. In fact, I’ve told myself this multiple times in the last week, as I’ve stared at a draft of my first story for intermediate writing, which is filled with suggestions and things I need to improve; as I’ve taken AP style quizzes and remembered why I had such a hard time in J2100.
I remind myself of this a lot when I look at my own work, whether it’s because I’ve decided that it’s less-than-adequate or because it really does need some help.
And what I’ve been realizing over the last couple of weeks is this: I don’t suck, but I have a long way to go. And I’m trying to make my peace with that.
I spent the majority of my time at the Missourian doing hard news writing. That’s not to say that I didn’t make my foray into feature writing. I wrote a few longer-turn pieces that I’m rather proud of, pieces with voices and individual stories and vignettes.
But for me, intermediate writing feels like a whole new ball game.
Stories that would have taken a few hours in the newsroom take a couple of weeks and multiple visits to the same places. A draft that might have gone up as a quick-turn piece is not even close to ready as a magazine publication. I’m becoming painfully aware of the details I miss, the questions I forget to ask, the ways in which I have to grow.
And it freaks me out a bit. I’m wrestling to grow as a writer, to stretch myself and get over the persistent fear that begs me not to ask that last question that my reporting brain knows I need. I’m fighting with words that come out on a page without sounding particularly original, that lack details I wouldn’t have even thought to find.
Right now, I’m trying to find that place that accepts that it’s okay that I’m still a beginner as far as journalism goes, but that always pushes myself to continue honing my skills. And it’s a tough balance to strike. It’s hard to accept where I’m at, but it’s also hard to keep striving when how much I have to grow looms over me.
But I’m growing a lot. I’m being pushed to improve both my writing and reporting. I’m learning to observe, really observe what’s going on around me. I’m trying to find my voice as both a writer and a journalist. I’m cramming interviews into every possible space I can find in my schedule. It can be kind of hard with a pretty demanding course load on top of a writing class, but it’s definitely pushing me to manage my time in ways I didn’t expect.
While it’s been tough, I’m starting to see that it’s a good place to be. I’m starting to get a rhythm to my schedule, and the things I’m doing are beginning to feel less like trying to keep my head above water and more like growing as a journalist.