One of the students in my J463 class mentioned that these blog assignments had been useful to him because they helped him find his voice as a writer. I guess since I’m an older student and have been writing forever, I didn’t feel like that.
I started my first blog in 2001 and wrote every day until 2009; after I started at UO I wrote a little less frequently, maybe an average of twice a week, continuing to the present. I got a devoted group of readers pretty quickly — maybe 100-150 people, which isn’t a lot, but 100 people dying to read your next post is better than 1,000 people idly reading something on their phones. My readers would freak out if I didn’t write for a day, thinking I had died (which probably had something to do with my life choices at the time). Many of the readers became IRL friends, including my current boyfriend of five years.
I learned to write in that blog, starting with extremely short posts like, “Today I got coffee and rode my bike to the park” and within a couple years graduating to long, complex narratives about my travels and (mis)adventures. About five years after starting the blog, I realized I really loved writing and started thinking about going to school for journalism, which leads us to the present day.
One thing I have learned from this journalism blog is how useful it is to write freely about my thoughts on journalism, specifically. I guess having a bunch of people who desperately want to hear my latest crazy stories has kept me from exploring the less-personal stuff I think about. Most of my readers have some interest in writing, but only a few are journalists, so I don’t go into detail about my (future) (I hope) career.
I already knew writing was an amazing way to organize my thoughts about whatever was bothering me, but I guess it never occurred to me to apply that to journalism. Meta-journalism, kind of. I read plenty of articles about journalism and have plenty of opinions about them, but having to write them down helped me crystallize my own beliefs… and actually gave me a lot of ideas about how to approach my writing and my future job search.
In a way, the non-writing aspects of journalism have been the hardest for me to understand. I started J School already thinking of myself as a writer and already loving to write — and thinking it would be smooth sailing for me because I already felt so comfortable with words, grammar, sentences, and expressing my thoughts via writing. But I vastly underestimated how difficult “the rest” of journalism would be — thinking of story ideas, conducting interviews, finding documents, approaching people on the street for quotes, figuring out how to deal with controversial topics, figuring out what readers want to read about, and most importantly, how to get a job in the first place.
I used to think, “I’ve been reading the paper for longer than most of my classmates have been alive,” thinking that would make things easier for me because I had a feel for how a good story was structured and written… but journalism is a lot more about “the rest” than it is about the writing. The writing is just the last part. Having to put my thoughts about journalism into writing, in this blog, has helped me get a handle on some of those non-writing aspects that have been difficult for me.