Thanksgiving break means too much time to reflect

As I’m guessing you can gather from the title of this post, I’ve been home on Thanksgiving break this week. And as I’m guessing you can also gather from said title. I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting.

I suppose that means I could end the blog here, right?

Wrong. Although that would probably be the most concise blog post I’ve ever written.

While I’ve been spending a substantial amount of time on my break eating, catching up on sleep, seeing people and trying to catch up in my online class (mostly that last one), I have been doing a bit of journalism over break. My profile is currently on hold as I wait to see what I need to do next, so I’ve been spinning my wheels on another, shorter story that I’m doing for intermediate writing in the meantime. Unfortunately, there is only so much I can do from halfway across the country, but I’ve managed to get some phone interviews in, and I think I have enough to make it through a first draft before I go back and can do more reporting.

And while I realize this shorter piece will probably have a ways to go after I get the first draft in, the fact that I realize that has helped me see how I have grown this semester.

When I started this class in August, I was fighting with a couple of things as a journalist. I was looking to build some confidence after a season in which certain aspects of my life outside the classroom had made it difficult for me to trust my own capabilities. I wanted to grow in my writing and reporting capabilities. And, in a strange way, I had a lot of pride.

Basically, this resulted in me being in a place where I didn’t know how to take criticism.

I’d turn in a draft and get it back covered in suggestions. Then I’d respond by getting angry at myself and believing that I just wasn’t good at this. Or I’d get defensive and try to pass the blame onto the situation (not enough time, not a good enough story topic, etc.).

But after writing a couple stories that have received many, many edits, I’ve started to learn a lot about what it means to grow as a writer and reporter. I’m learning that edits are part of the writing process and especially part of the improving process, both for the story at hand and in the long term. When I get all defensive about my stories, I really rob myself because instead of learning what I can do to make them better, I get stuck in trying to make myself believe that my first drafts are already good, when honestly they usually need some improvement. That’s not to say that I think I’m a terrible writer, because I don’t think that. It’s just that sometimes I get so caught up in feeling like I have to defend a draft that I cut myself off from being able to learn from my mistakes.

I guess when I look back on the semester, that’s one of the big, overarching themes of what I’ve been learning in the classroom. I should never settle for less than my best, but I’ve got to remember that I am learning, that I can always be better, and that’s okay. If I can learn on one story ways I can improve my craft, then I can take that into the next story, where I’ll add something new to my repertoire for the next story, and so on. I should always push myself to give what I have the first time around, but if it takes a second (or third or fourth) go, then I can learn from that just as much as from the first draft.

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