Friday is my Monday as I embark on a substantial project to write several articles for the newspaper before the county seat makes a mass exodus for spring break. The paper expects to be shorthanded, so my editors want articles in the vault.
Today will be gathering information, with four scheduled interview events and a few followups. Tomorrow will be writing the first article and organizing to write the rest.
In part, it’s what being a writer means.
The rest of writing is varied and elusive. It is one thing to write for a newspaper, and quite another to compete for readers in the media jungle where their eyeballs reside. At some point writers decide whether to actively join the competition, or to focus on improving writing by cranking out work as quickly and as well as one can. It makes sense for me to choose the latter, and here’s why. Writing is a craft that requires practice. The only way to get better at it is to do it—often and regularly.
One of my projects is to create an anthology of past writing in book form to sell at public speaking engagements. When I review pieces written 40 years ago, a lot of them are pretty rough. My style has changed, and improved, even since I began blogging in 2007. Even more so since I began newspaper writing last year. The reaction to such editing of the past is to rewrite them all, or to let them stand warts and all. I have been unable to embrace either—the project is stalled.
Here’s the hard part: it’s easier to focus on paid work with an editor because there are specific demands to be met in a fixed time frame. When taking a drink from the fire hose of what’s possible, the rush of project ideas is hard to tame. Combine that with required attention to economic security and it is easy to see why many writers don’t get beyond the idea, outline or draft stage.
In a way, the short piece, around 1,000 words, is a great opportunity to improve stylistically without a big commitment. Writers miss an opportunity if they don’t create in short form because people are simply not reading that many books. According to the Pew Research Center, an average American reads five books per year, with 24 percent reading no books. Why spend the effort to produce book-length work if the chance of finding readers is remote?
Maybe it’s the full moon, maybe it’s threats to economic security, or maybe I’m just arriving, but as we cope with life’s busy-ness, it is important to consider where we’re bound and why. Becoming a better wordsmith to present short, meaningful pieces is never a bad path to take.