For the girls

I want to talk about something I noticed a few weeks ago when Sam Freedman visited the journalism school. I would have written about this last week, as it was more timely with his visit, but last week I was too busy ranting about my writing process.

 It’s not something that was necessarily his fault, but it is something that I notice every time I hear a man speak about long-form journalism. For the first five minutes of his talk, Freedman mentioned only men when he talked about other writers he admired. He later threw in some names of women whose work he admired as some of the best longform he’s ever read, but men mostly dominated the conversation.

The reason why I’m not pointing to this observation as a fault of Freedman’s is that it’s not his fault. The man is simply reflecting his own industry. There are not enough women longform journalists. This is something that Joanna Diemkewitz and Kaylan Ralph, two 2013 Missouri journalism grads have tried to solve in the first year of their longform magazine, The Riveter, which features long-form stories by women.  

There are no other publications like this, and I think it’s an important part of the movement that women’s work is published and read.

This weekend I spoke with Julie Zeilinger, a junior sociology student at Barnard. Julie started a blog her sophomore year of high school called “The F Bomb” and published a book a few years later called “A Little F’d Up why feminism isn’t a dirty word.” Julie’s rubbed shoulders with the likes of Barnard alumna Anna Quindlen and says she has learned from the women who came before her about the importance of stories told by women for women.

She told me she thinks websites that vet news stories for women, like Women’s eNews, are setting a great example for journalism. The more prevalent women’s voices become in the industry, the more they will show up in longform journalism.

Julie also mentioned Anna’s encouragement for the new generation of feminists, remarking that this is not a trend she usually sees in older feminists who tend to get an “ego” about the apathy they see in the generation following theirs.

This mentorship might be the key to creating a journalism industry saturated with women’s voices. Anything will help. 

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My discarded class project

I read one of my other classmate’s blogs today. She took a picture of our class activity from Friday, when we charted out our writing processes in magic marker and posted them on the wall. She’d posted her photo of her sketch, drawn with a blueberry-scented marker. The sketch  had clouds and squares and squiggly lines with text outlining her step-by-step writing process.

I had drawn a similar photo with an orange-scented marker and had also take a photo. But I deleted it from my phone. Why? Because it ticked me off. I sat down to write today, and like all dedicated writers, flipped through my photos on my phone for the first five minutes of focused writing time.  When I came across that orange diagram, I was supremely pissed off at myself.

 My diagram, in mad orange, read “ Step one” Passion: find an idea I like based on things I am interested in and read a lot  about.” OK. That’s fine. Makes sense.

Then it started to get depressing. “Step two: Confusion: But… how do I write it? ”Step three: Panic: deadline is when?” “Step four: Meltdown: I don’t know what I’m doing!”

 Reviewing this sketch didn’t exactly serve as encouragement. Although it was honest, and it helped me to understand that panic is often part of my writing process, I didn’t want it on my phone. I didn’t want to think about it. Because finally, I’m at the point in my writing process labeled “recovery,” followed by typing and more typing. Click, clack, caffeine. 

Refrigerator counseling

I don’t really know what to blog about this week. So, that is going to be the topic of my blog post: what to do when the well is dry but you’re staring at a deadline and you can hear it swiftly whooshing by.

 I’ve been dealing with this thing lately where I write the story in my head and then never quite get to the of being seated with my fingers making clacking sounds on the keyboard.  Sometimes, there’s less clacking and more napping. The more napping, the more anxious I become about said looming deadline, and the more I question if I’m cut out for this field. After consulting my therapists, Ben and Jerry, and my psychiatrist, Dove Caramel Milk Chocolate (she’s sensitive about her complicated name), I decide it might be a good idea to start typing something.

 At this point, I’ve built the story up in my head to be this looming, massive worry and I don’t know what to do with it. Seeing that Ben, Jerry and Dove Chocolate are no longer available resources, I usually consult other writers for some advice by Googling “procrastination advice”. I am aware that reading also constitutes not doing what I’m supposed to being doing, but at least it isn’t worth any calories.

I’ve come across several articles that are actually quite helpful; they are from other nerdy journos like me, who generally care about their work but are plagued by its workload.  Jennifer Blanchard, a writing coach from New York, compiled a list of articles written by other procrastinators about why procrastinating is not fun and how to avoid it.

They are titled things like, “10 Ways of Thinking that Lead to Procrastination” and “Things Procrastinations Fear.” Try deadlines.  And editors.

As a disclaimer, I wasn’t always a procrastinator. I’m usually not. And when I say procrastinate, I mean I’m not following my previous standards of getting things done. I like to be ahead of a deadline by at least two days, but since I’ve started working on stories that affect me emotionally and personally, I don’t know what to do with them. And thus begins the cycle of visiting my counselors in my fridge. I’m OK when I have to write about art events and concerts or even a light fender bender, but when it comes to a tumultuous, heart-wrenching story, I’m paralyzed. The only problem is this is what I want to do with my life, and I can’t afford a lifetime supply of Ben and Jerry’s services.