Thursday, February 12, 2009

The write stuff

Until recently, writing was easy for me.

As a newspaper reporter, I could look at a blank screen and attack it fearlessly. The words came effortlessly. Once I wrote the lead paragraph, everything else flowed freely like water from a spigot. I rarely ever used an outline. My writing style was conversational, even when it never directly addressed the reader. Paragraphs were short. Sentences were short—except for the occasional long sentence that added tone and texture to the story.

Today, writing is much more difficult. The materials I produce for my new job can't be conversational. I fumble for the right words to describe ideas clearly. My inclination to start writing with a lead paragraph is counterproductive, and my outlining abilities are rusty. My documents feel poorly structured, too long, too short, too broad, too focused.

Now that I have nearly a year's worth of experience, I can compare the difference between writing at the newspaper and for my new job as this: Newspaper:Firm::"Peanuts":Shakespeare

It's maddening to realize that you're not as brilliant as you thought you were—especially when the talent at stake is the one around which you've built your identity and staked your career. This is one of those frustrating reminders that I'm getting older and I'm not able to adapt to new challenges as quickly as I once could.

The situation isn't nearly as dismal as I'm describing it. I'm doing good work, but it takes a tremendous amount of conscious effort, whereas I used to do a lot writing on autopilot. I've talked to my coach, and she agrees that the transition from newspaper work to the more formal writing expected at my job now is difficult. And I'm trying my hardest to learn new skills and hone old ones to help me become a better writer and organizer.

Of course, it helps to have a sense of humor to deal with situations like this. Whenever I'm completely daunted, and can't seem to translate a concept into words, I like to remind myself that I is a good righter so everything will work out in the end.

No comments: