In college, the days somehow go by slower and you suddenly find yourself with more hours in the day to do things. When you live at school with the freedom to move around without your parents’ nagging, you are faced with choices about how to spend your time.
This week, I decided to spend that time scrambling across campus, frantically charging/re-charging/dialing my phone on the way. I interviewed probably a cumulative 15 people in person, on the phone, and over email. I could only budget relaxation in the form of hanging with friends Saturday night (blame extreme extrovertedness, I regain energy by hanging with people) that eventually led to me running around today on two hours of sleep as well.
I basically moved heaven and earth to do what was ultimately the impossible: taking on five different Maneater stories toward the end of the work week, all due before Sunday ended. On top of that I had two more to edit and finalize.
Here is exactly what happened, for the record, so I never again think to myself, “I can totally write this issue by myself!” Because I actually cannot. And I’m suffering a lot of physical consequences, and not dealing with the root of the problem.
In retrospect, I got lucky. My sources managed to be flexible and I ended up scheduling seven interviews on Friday. I got through all of them fine by jotting down time stamps and sectioning my audio into 10 minute sound bytes.
I was too burnt out by the end of Friday night to even think straight, much less transcribe hours of dialogue. I was also at a dead end for planning the biggest story I had yet to write by 11:00 p.m.
On Saturday, I also had three more interviews to do, and that was on top of the untouched longform story.
Luckily, a friend came through and gave me advice that not only improved the writer’s-blocked story, but how I approached writing in general. After that I wrote better, and faster. I attribute his tips to the reason I not only did relatively well with the longform, but my other stories as well. And now I am finally getting through everything. I made it through the woods.basically thanks, MM).
And I learned a lot on my own, too– at least I saw the forest for its trees, no matter how bad and dark that forest was.. I figured out that my memo book is the best way to take notes. I found out that you can tell a story objectively without depending only on quotes– on the contrary, too many quotes diminish the value of the ones that actually enhance the story. Your transitions build up to that. I’m pleased with my work.
But once again – it was due to dumb luck. If even one thing had fallen through, I probably would have been chewed out by people in the newsroom, seeing as I wrote stories that are actually going into print this issue.
The only reason I took on so many is because I want to succeed and somewhere along the way, I started testing my limits by gauging how much I can juggle. Learning how to write things I get paid for now (U-News) and learming how to write things that will help me get paid for what I want to do in the future (longform and MOVE).
I tried to balance MOVE writing (entertainment writing) with my professional beat, which I am not as interested in as I am with entertainment, but which has given me invaluable experience nonetheless. I write more concisely now, I can assess situations and I think differently about angles for stories that would otherwide be boring.
But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. The same applies to journalism.
I don’t think I really realized the magnitude of reporting and interviewing I would have to do for all the stories. But at the time, I’m pretty sure I had some idea that I was about to go through hell to finish everything.
Why didn’t I stop myself? It doesn’t matter cause I will never do that again. Like, ever. My eyes are about to close as I write this and finalize a few edits and sift through interview quotes obtained over Facebook (social media is becoming more legitimate, guys).
The Atlantic recently put out a theory about procrastination, and in the article they make the point that writers shirk when they have to write until the perfect inspiration hits them. Ultimately, I’m a textbook example of McArdle’s case that some people believe talent is fixed, and if you fail any opportunity you have to write something good, then your talent is gone forever and you’ve been exposed as someone who actually, in reality, sucks at writing.
I jump at every potential MOVE clip, thinking that I need to write this because what if it’s the defining clip of my (freshman) career?? I want to get as much experience as possible, and despite this terrible weekend, I do still enjoy journalism.
I just need to learn to relish everything I do as an art, rather than think quantity is somehow going to prove that my writing is quality.
Cause it is getting there already (I think–yes, yes it is.). Slowly, but surely.