Posts Tagged ‘Writing’

5 things this cover story I wrote says about me as a worker

In Blog on February 13, 2013 at 12:17 pm
This is a still from "Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu,” a Tollywood comedy of which I understood, like, four lines of dialogue total. Still courtesy of AMC Theatres.

This is a still from “Seethamma Vakitlo Sirimalle Chettu,” a Tollywood comedy of which I understood, like, four lines of dialogue total. Still courtesy of AMC Theatres.

When I was 20 — not as newly minted to the age as I am right now to 22 but still pretty shiny — I laughed about freelancing.

To me, freelancing was a blanket term for unemployed-but-I’m-a-free-spirit-so-I-get-work-when-I-can-but-really-I-should-be-a-full-time-worker-and-also-I’m-not-lazy-it’s-just-this-economy — hm, the way I remember it contained far less political commentary, but the shadow of that sentiment existed.

I began my rite of passage as a freelancer in December, and the largest vegetable of my labor dropped today. It takes the form of this cover story I wrote for Folio Weekly, an alt weekly of which I’m fond and have been for, you know, years.

Anyway, I decided to break down some of my process of this piece and comment on what different skills I had to engage, to make it all work. Because, on job applications, “strong verbal and communication skills” fails to fully encompass the routine of producing written content.

In no particular order, I’ve come up with:

1. I meet deadlines really well.
Much of the joy I got from working on this story came from the two editors with whom I worked. I had a deadline set weeks in advance that allowed to form a complete story, off of which we edited, mended, reworked and further developed as time went on.

2. I’m ace at having phone calls and emails returned — mostly.
There are occasions in the story that I note I didn’t hear back from a source, but, for the most part, I have one of those hey-I’m-not-a-terrible-journalist-let’s-have-a-conversation personalities. That also really encouraged me. In features and enterprise, much of the success of a piece relies on the ability to make a connection with the folks you’re interviewing. One source I pursued for a month returned my call just as I almost hit “Send” on my final draft. Now that’s a testament to my persistence.

3. I don’t load sentences with gobbledygook, for clarity, but hold on to creativity.
One of my writing flares is extensive use of em dashes, which a classmate in Advanced Reporting sophomore year inferred may be a little too extensive. But creative use of punctuation is a great way to hold to your distinct voice in pieces in which you’re largely aiming to be disinterested. I exercised most of my bogus diction when I reviewed a musical in January, which those editors thankfully had me change. It more closely fitted an overly chatty high schooler’s newsblog writing than a more tightly knit alt weekly. (I stole “gobbledygook” as a descriptor for hyper-stylized writing from this interview with Diablo Cody, whom everyone knows I admire.)

4. I’m a level-10 AP stylist.
Speaking of gobbledygook banter. … But really! Even though each publication uses its own guide for style, I crafted this story entirely in AP style and noticed that, throughout the process, my editors shifted it into a style that matched their product. I never had a note that said, “Translate this to AP style,” which is a type of note for which I built a reputation during my three and a half years of editing.

5. I’m willing.
Lastly, I’m simply willing. I’m willing to take on a story out of my comfort range of story length. I’m willing to take on a story outside of my comfort range of source count. I’m willing to take on a story that’s going to cost $30.25 in ticket sales. I’m willing to experience something that I’ve never experienced before and did not understand at all. I’m willing to stop using repetition, at this point.


An Inspired Column

In Blog on February 12, 2012 at 9:37 pm

As a journalist, you’re supposed to be able to write anytime within the 8 a.m. – 6:30 p.m. spectrum.

I’m a bit nervous as how I’m going to make it as a daily or online journalist because I think the best kinds of writing comes from being inspired.

Lately, I’ve loved the work the staff at my university’s newspaper has been doing. We’ve seriously been killing it this semester — from pre-debate, debate and post-debate coverage to the couple of other papers that didn’t mention the nationally spotlighted event.

I haven’t felt this proud to work at the paper since my freshman year.

As the well-seasoned — or as I described in a class, old and decrepit — member of the crew, I’ve worked with myriad personalities, and I’ve spent countless Tuesday nights in the same office until weird times in the morning grinding out the news for our student population.

And, in the past, there are always a few standout issues and some ones that completely flopped. But this semester, we haven’t flopped, and I don’t think we’re going to.

We’ve developed a new system that converges all the departments in the student media to the real benefit of each outlet. I’ve been enjoying the news broadcasts more, and our print publications have been outstanding and Pacemaker-worthy. The radio station continues to flourish, and the digital team is adding members to make it more diverse and well-staffed.

With that level of inspiration and energy, I’ve enjoyed working this semester, and needless to say, I’ve been inspired.

After a conversation with a couple of my fellow staffers about a column in the Feb. 6 New York Times, I decided to write a rebuttal — and not just write a rebuttal but totally kill it.

So, I’m here to share the product of that inspiration: a column I wrote about why Facebook users shouldn’t except compensation for their use of the website.

Make sure to read Nick Bilton’s original column before reading mine, for added context. You can read my rebuttal here.

I really hope we can all continue to work in a way that produces our best work. I loved every day of working on the paper my freshman year, and I’ve gotten that love back again. Sure, this year means more meetings and time spent in the office than ever before, but it’s all beneficial to a great print product of which I have been proud weekly since our Jan. 4 issue.

And I think if I keep working on something of which I’m proud weekly, I’ll be able to churn out an inspired piece of work weekly and — who knows? — maybe daily, too. In some form or another.

Writers Gotta Write

In Blog on September 16, 2011 at 10:09 pm

I enjoyed a wonderful Friday afternoon exhaustion nap and woke up with drool on my pillow.

I’d let a Sufjan Stevens live recording from YouTube carry me into other realms, in a way that no artist can do just like he. I mean, why else do any Stevens listeners invest their time in his music?

Exhausted because it was the end of a week. A standard for someone like himself, Ivan put it best in his “now now” vlog: I’ve been pouring all of my energy into everything because it’s the beginning of the semester instead of, you know, not doing that.

Excuse me as my eloquence spills onto the floor. I can promise Ivan’s prose is much more precise, and you can find that out for yourself when you click that “‘now now’ vlog” link.

I drove a great-yet-manageable distance today to interview a college professor and his students about their set designing work. We’re writing stories for hyperlocal community newspapers in one of my journalism classes, and, of course, I got matched up with the one that boasts the highest-mileage-away-from-campus award.

Of course, the experience was entertaining — I even interviewed a Nerdfighter, and we had a beautiful moment.

When I got home, I snacked on a cookie and thought how fulfilling it was to be home at the end of the day. And then I had a realization that I definitely want to work somewhere where I don’t have to bring work home with me at night. Which is what I’ve been doing in my past few semesters in college.

I like to come home and just enjoy being home. Watch some videos — well, that doesn’t happen as much anymore. Obsess over “The Social Network.” Pretend Andrew Garfield and I are working on a groundbreaking film. I love my pipe dreams.

I wake up, get to campus early — because, if I don’t, there’s no hope in parking — and do homework. It seems routine, and over the course of these blogs, you’ll understand how much I dislike routine, even though I find it evilly necessary for, you know, life. But it’s how I can make the separation between work mode and relax mode.

So, with my morning library trips in mind, tomorrow I’ll be making a special edition Saturday one to write an essay that’s due Tuesday. I’ve already planned an outline, so the worst part is writing the thing. Anyone who’s written critical literary analysis knows that the worst part is the initial draft because you truly have no idea where the paper will end.

It’s all a part of the crappy American institutionalized essay-writing I’m studying in my other English class: We place our conclusions — the thesis — at the beginning of the paper, but we’re expected to write that part first. It makes no sense, but we’ve got to do it because if we don’t, we won’t get a good grade, which, after all, is the point of school: to do everything passable enough to matriculate.

When I was driving home from Small City, Fla., I was thinking in my head about how I should write the story. What details should I retain, and what words I should use to add more flavor, texture and color to the piece. The editor told me he wanted me to “paint a picture with words,” which, of course, is the point of features writing.

I thought about the script I’ll need to write for the podcast I’m turning in on the same day this story is due. I thought about the blog post I’d need to write to improve my blog, this blog. I thought about the story I’m writing next week for the paper.

So, like the point of my new blog project, I came to the conclusion that writers gotta write. Aaron Sorkin didn’t write “The Social Network” as his first work. He wasn’t born shooting out “The West Wing” dialogue. He had to practice. Diablo Cody didn’t write “Juno” after graduating with a math degree. John Green didn’t push out “Looking for Alaska” in a week.

I was talking with friends about my situation with all of the papers and stories and every other small bits of writing I have to do slash complete before the weekend’s finished. Of course, Lizzie hit me with, “Well, you’re taking a lot of writing classes,” so, of course, I have a lot of writing homework. Duh.

But I’m taking these classes because I want to, as embarrassing as it is to admit, get a good grade (point average), so I can land a writing career one day. One that’s, you know, not for a kittens fanatics magazine that sits on the nightstand of every geriatric.

Although, that doesn’t sound too bad.

Unrelated video that helped me finally write this blog post: 
(Please let me be a jerk a clarify that I watched this video at its actual link on NPR’s website but am sharing the YouTube link for the embedded feature. You should go to the NPR page to watch it. Also, this video will help you appreciate Foster the People. I left it surprised that it’s the same band whose lyrics I crazily sang and danced to on a beautiful beach day toward the end of the summer and whose song airs on crappy Top 40 radio stations in My City, Fla.)

Song suggestion: “South Carolina” by Lulu Mae off the Tennessee Americana band’s on-iTunes EP, “Everything in the Whole Wide World.” The folksters are friends with Ivan, and he mentions them in that video I linked to earlier. I just heard this song this morning — because I watched that video this morning — and it stole my heart, obviously.

Click all of my links for helpful supplemental material on why I’m so crazy.

Versatile or Equally Poor?

In BEDA 2011 on April 18, 2011 at 5:11 pm

The former editor-in-chief of my campus’s newspaper told me several months ago that he used to be very good at writing English essays in college, but he lost the skill once he started writing news stories more often.

He said a person only excels in one kind of writing.

Last semester, I had an essay meeting with one of my professors for an English class, and she reminded me that English essays are very different and journalistic writing.

I know. (Please read this in Adam Scott’s voice from “Party Down”‘s second season’s second episode.)

However, I disagree strongly that a versatile and enthusiastic composer cannot branch out to the different types of the writing word — journalism, fiction novels, poems, analytical essays, etc.

Even within the journalism field, writers should be versatile in their field; they should be able to construct clear opinion pieces and editorials, color feature stories and thorough news stories.

And while I’m not positing that everyone has to be equally good at all of the different writing forms — I, for one, am not a strong hard-news writer — I think it’s expected that they should not only dabble but be efficient in these various forms, as well.

This past school year, I’ve written in journalist, analytical and fictional styles, and I think they’ve all helped me grow as a writer.

Now, while these informal blog posts don’t display the type of writing over which I slave for hours at a time — they’re mainly just 15-minutes blurbs of my daily life — I find that adding this extra blogging style of writing has helped me differentiate between the types even further and help me become a better idea sharer.

And I know that sometimes these concepts in which I believe are nontraditional — in the sense that I doubt most people sit around thinking about whether the different types of writing aid or deter from their writing abilities — I still think conveying these strange ideas in a way that makes sense betters me as a general communicator.

In January, I made 31 videos, and in my head, I’ve been calling them my 31 mini-speeches. Most were impromptu, and I turned the camera on and started making words — which lead to interesting things such as discussing sandwiches and whether wearing a poncho when it rains is acceptable or not.

This semester, I’ve been taking a journalism writing class, a film analysis class and two research-based analysis classes.

I’m reflecting on the different types of writing because I need to finish an eight-page research paper about net neutrality, and I have a major research project/micropage due in my other class, as well. Last week, I had to flesh out a paper analyzing “Coming Home. And when am I not writing journalistically?

John Green graduated Kenyon College with a degree in English. He then worked for Mental Floss magazine, most likely writing in a journalistic manner. While there, he wrote one of my favorite fiction novels, “Looking for Alaska.” He still writes fiction novels, and he also blogs, vlogs (four-minute speeches, if you will) and tweets (which is not only a discussion for another time but its own form of writing), and, you know, I’m sure does more than about which we know. Emailing, to me, is a whole different type of writing totally.

I can expound on all of those last points another time, but I really need to finish this paper.

My question: Does a person’s ability to write different styles of writing play a favorable or unfavorable role in their writing? Is there such thing as being a versatile writing, or can we as communicators only excel in one type of writing communication and not do the others as well as someone who focuses solely on them?

Hopefully I’ll be able to switch gears from blog-writing Ryan to research-analysis-paper-writing Ryan.