1000 Wasted Words

I recently got another story published— exciting as usual. This time though, I learned a bit of a lesson. The first idea of it was that this 15 year plan had been finalized for the Big Muddy Wildlife and Fish Refuge and I should process the document to see what was in store for Columbia. Soon after doing that and talking to my befuddled editor, I realized that something like that wasn’t really a story. I had burned a lot of time and effort into writing a bland, uninteresting, confusing and useless story. After shaking off that realization, I deleted it, rewrote it in terms that someone might actually be interested in and called my source again. Reworking it in its entirety was somewhat cleansing– this shorter, more specific article felt a lot better than my earlier mess of jargon. I know I won’t ever completely shake it away, but I kind of see reporting through a haze. My judgement is still kind of shaky and unsure and I’m almost never sure of where to go with an idea. But this story cleared away a little bit of that haze. I got a few conclusions:

  • I really, really want to write research-based stories. Just dive into 800 pages of jargon and nonsense to try and find something good. Really lose myself in it and truly understand it.
  • The way I want to write is not the priority. The right way to write is the priority; tongue-twister or not, my vanity and comfort have to come behind the story. Not my story– the story. Columbia’s story, the residents’ story.

Learning is hard. I’m not good at it. I’m not quick to understand or question a lot of the time. But I got a nice piece of the journalism puzzle with the story and I’m going to hold on to it.


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