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Writing with impact vs. Writing for deadline/daily

Discussion in 'Journalism topics only' started by spud, Mar 26, 2011.

  1. spud

    spud Member

    I do not mean to imply that these are mutually exclusive items. They can be done in tandem well, as they are often. This is merely about the struggles of a humble sportswriter.

    What I mean to discuss is the notion of daily writers knocking loose of the bondage of daily writing. By this I mean kicking free of what's easy and gravitating toward what's good. I find that this is a harder and harder prospect the longer I write sports on a daily basis. The line seems blurrier than I've ever seen it.

    Here is the meat of my situation, and maybe you can relate, I do not know. I feel as though I have worn a groove in the English language. A very comfortable, deep groove, fairly successful (perhaps the most dangerous point of all), which I can go back to on tight deadlines and when the story queue backs up, which is always. Once upon a time, before I began writing daily sports stories, briefs, headlines, etc... I felt as though I had a grasp on a wider swath of the language. At the very least, I could branch out to things I had never done before, take my writing to newer, stranger, sometimes uncomfortable places. Sometimes it worked, sometimes not. I still do that sometimes. Most of the time, I lean on what works, because I'm strained sometimes, others because... yeah, it works. I find myself using similar phrases, borrowing from myself, taking more of my own story ideas and parroting them in different ways.

    I have read before about writers worrying about losing "it," that being the indefinable cloud of imaginative spark that gives us all the ability to transcend. I look at stories I wrote two years ago and wonder if I can reproduce similar magic, not to say that my stories are magical, but to say that I wonder if I'm losing a step, if I can make something that original or if I'm merely rehashing at all times. I look at stories from loftier heights, from better writers, and wonder if I will ever approach.

    Like everyone, I wish to write that which has not been written, to find not only a compelling story but also myself in something I've put on the page. For someone to go "I really liked that." But more than anything, I want to like it.

    I want to break the shackles of my own worn groove, get out of my habits. I read all the time, so I'm not sure that it's all that simple. Maybe I'm a simpleton and a manic worry wort, I haven't a clue. I'd be interested to know if anyone's struggled through similar worries, though. I cannot escape them these days, I'm afraid to admit. Perhaps my goals are too lofty, and this is just my "style." Still, I am prone to wonder.
  2. Rosie

    Rosie Active Member

    Spud, how long have you been in the biz?
  3. Liut

    Liut Well-Known Member

    Thanks for posting, Spud. No answers from this corner, but your comments hit home here.
  4. Johnny Dangerously

    Johnny Dangerously Well-Known Member

    You might consider another vehicle for finding a new swath -- poetry, haiku, free-form writing, a journal, an anonymous blog, letters to people from your past, short story, technical writing, or whatever sparks something in you. In your job, relax. Back to basics. Who, what, where, when, why. Clarity. Simple. Clean.

    Be patient. You might just find something you didn't expect but gets you out of the rut.
  5. WriteThinking

    WriteThinking Well-Known Member

    In this business, and especially in sports, the daily deadline trumps everything else, for better and for worse.

    Early in my career, a colleague who had been where I was for a longer period of time summed things up well in a way that, to this day, I remember and appreciate even more now.

    What he said was this: "At 10:35, nobody cares how good it is. They just want to know where it is."

    If you don't remain cognizant of that, it really is quite possible that nobody in the a targeted audience may see what you wrote, no matter how great the story.

    Conversely, if you make deadline with an accurate, readable and informative story, you have, in fact, done a good job and you can, and should, take pride in that.

    This reality is often the reason that writers with leanings toward the literary or the lengthy, or both, eventually move out of newspaper journalism.

    Although it involves writing, journalism at its most basic and its best is still more about reporting, about representing the reader and about collecting information than it is about writing.
  6. MightyMouse

    MightyMouse Member

    I think the best advice I can give is to avoid ruts. Monotony is anathema to creativity. I understand everyone has their fair share of mindless tedium that needs to be churned out, but that means we have to work extra hard to keep finding new stuff that will challenge us and keep us fresh.
  7. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    sounds like the post of a veteran writer hitting all too common struggles and the greater demands being placed upon us in recent years. I'm right there with you man.

    The best I can do to try and conquer it, is to handle the daily pieces in the best manner possible, realizing that some of the things lower on the priority list are going to get put on auto-pilot style-wise. I try to pick the biggest game/feature for each issue and put most of my efforts into that.

    I'm also picking out future features that I can work on several weeks ahead so that I can put the needed time into them.

    Unfortunately the days of throwing a once-through rough draft onto the page are upon us. I just do my best to limit how often that happens.

    But yes, I wish I had the time I used to so that I could study respected writers and their styles and delve further into my own writing. It's definitely a struggle.
  8. shockey

    shockey Active Member

    i'm another veteran geezer with no answers for this anymore. all i know is, that as someone whose 'peak/prime' as a beat reporter/league columnist was from '82-'02, i'm happy not be an up-and-coming hopeful in the newspaper biz any longer. heck, i always thought the daily deadline grind was crazy enough. now, between twitter and 24-hour web sites, i don't know how today's hacks keep up. and certainly understand why the writing seems to fall well short of the quality and thoughtfulness it did 'back in the day' (you know, like five years ago.

    used to be a young beat person had enough time to step up the writing food chain by impressing their editors with fresh prose. today, more than ever, seems like it's asking an incredible amount to expect young reporters to improve as writers right before your eyes. i'm impressed by youngin's who do. and glad i'm not one of 'em any more.
  9. BB Bobcat

    BB Bobcat Active Member

    I like the idea of starting your own blog and writing about whatever the hell you want, however the hell you want. You may discover something. Or, at a minimum, you may get the "self-fulfilling writing," for lack of a better term, out of the way so you can focus on the basics of your job at the appropriate time.
  10. albert77

    albert77 Well-Known Member

    No real ideas, necessarily, but I will say this. You'll know you've arrived as a sports writer when you win an award for a story you wrote on a game that ended 20 minutes before your deadline.
  11. sgreenwell

    sgreenwell Well-Known Member

    I did this full-time when I had a somewhat boring news job, and I found that it did help my writing out overall.

    My other suggestion if you find yourself getting into a rut writing - Read more. I'm busy as hell, but I still try to read at least one thing - a novel, a non-fiction piece, a good mag from cover to cover - every week.
  12. flexmaster33

    flexmaster33 Active Member

    true...good habit to fall into
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