Last week, I started a new writing course. I've noticed a pattern when I take writing classes: I start out incredibly excited and eager to soak up everything. Then after a few days, usually spent comparing myself to my new classmates, I get shy and unsure about my writing ability and realize that everything I'm writing sounds boring / unimaginative / unthoughtful / etc. I hit the delete button a lot in those few days. I rarely pick up a pen.
I'm doing my best to push through this ugly self-doubt phase because this weekend I have a goal of finishing a first draft of my 3,5000 word assignment due next Sunday night. The class is narrative journalism, and since I'm not a journalist and I work full time, I've felt my limitations in collecting material for my story. And honestly, some days I think about the topic I've chosen for my first story, trying to formulate in my head where I'll start and what the story is really about, and it sounds just plain dumb. Especially when I compare it to what my classmates are working on. (Theirs will discuss issues of immigration, living as an artist in a restrictive society, etc. Mine is about a cat.). Still, I'm convinced there's a story in there somewhere, and though I may not get the interviews and face to face contacts that will make the story really come alive, I'm reminding myself that it's all a learning process. Is my story going to be award-winning material? Definitely not. Am I learning something? Yes, a ton. So there you go.
While we're talking about award-winning narrative journalism, I just finished reading this three-part series about a mother and her micropreemie (is anyone else tired of the prefix micro? but it may actually be applicable here, since the baby is the size of a barbie doll, if you can imagine). So many ideas and themes are explored in this story - the cost and worth of a life, motherhood, miracles, what is it that gives us the fight to live, and so much more. I cried at the end and at one other part, but if I tell you more it might give the ending away, and you need to read to the end. As the author's husband (also an award-winning writer) explains, "A story is a promise... It's a promise that the end is worth waiting for."
The author shares some of her process here, which is incredibly helpful as I try to understand what kind and breadth of research and reporting goes into telling stories like these. She worked for months and scoured hospital records as well as her husband's notes and her own journals. That was all before she started writing it. I love when she talks about the excel spreadsheets. I couldn't have thought up a better combination for a job for me - spreadsheets and writing. How can I also fit paid travel to destination locations in there?
I promise to let you know if I have any revelations about the cat story this weekend. In the meantime, if you can tell me anything about what makes somebody a "cat person," leave it in the comments. To me, this is like trying to understand French. (Huh?)