I work as a journalist, for those of you don’t know. I edit and write a weekly newspaper for a small, bedroom community outside of Anchorage, Alaska. I enjoy my job, sometimes, though the workload is intense and the hours are long and the attention to detail does little to suit my nature.
This job naturally requires that I write. Since I’m the only person on staff (except for freelancers), I basically must dig up enough copy to fill a 16-page paper. Some weeks I see this as an exhilarating challenge. Others, I want to run screaming from my computer.
Yet, being forced to write each day, and everything from briefs to obituaries to features to hard-news stories, is a lesson every writer needs to learn. Because the truth be told, a writer can write even when she thinks she can’t.
Writer’s block? That’s a luxury most journalist haven’t time to pamper.
Instead, we write. We write when we’re sick and when we have cramps. We write when we’re tired and stressed and our hearts are broken. We write when our children have kept us up all night with ear infections or after we’ve had to put our aging dogs or cats down. We write even when we don’t give a damn about the topic (assembly meetings, anyone?) or don’t like the person we’re writing about. We do this because we have to, because we’re on deadline. Because the paper has to print and no one really gives a crap as to whether you’re in the mood to write.
Journalists don’t talk about waiting for their muse. We don’t have time to worry about our muse. We have to write. We have stories to file. Sometimes we write beautiful masterpieces and others ordinary journalism and still others, stories that are accurate and informative but don’t quite hit the mark, writing-wise.
Which brings me to this point: Writing news stories and copy all week leaves me little energy to work on my third book. In fact, on my days off I find myself taking long runs in the mountains and then collapsing on the couch and watching TV series on DVD (Friday Night Lights at the moment, and oh, that Tim Riggins!).
That’s the bad behind being both a writer and journalism. The good is that I know I can write. I can write even when I think I can’t, even when I’m tired or pre-occupied or stressed or totally not in the mood.
Yet, the clever voice inside my head my still uses all of those old excuses when it comes time for me to work on my “real” writing: That I’m too tired. That I’m not in the mood. That I just ran fifteen miles in the mountain, for Christ’s sake–how am I supposed to find the energy to work on my book?
All of those excuses are bogus, of course. And deep down they point to one thing: That I’m afraid that I’m not good enough, that my book isn’t good enough, that I still don’t have what it takes. That behind all of the awards and publications I’m still just a skinny little farm girl clutching a book in her hand and wondering why she feels so damned alone most of the time.
So starting in September, I’m using my journalism background to fuel my creative career. I’m making a pledge to sit my ass down at my desk each day and work on my book. Some days I’ll probably write crap and some days I’ll write almost nothing and some days I’ll write one or two astounding sentences that will bring tears to my eyes, but no matter, I’ll be writing.
I’ll post a weekly updates here, to hold myself accountable. I’ll let you know how I’m doing, how well (or not well) I’m writing along with the difficulties and joys of writing when I totally and absolutely do not (do not!) believe that I want or am able to write
Feel free to take a pledge of your own to fuel your work. We are all writers, after all, and we need to do what we do best: Write and release our words out to the world.
Happy writing, everyone.