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I Am Not A Writer

Posted on 30 June 2011

I am not a writer. Which is odd, since I spend a good portion of my time being paid for my writing.

But the type of writing I do for radio is “get in, get out, and let the guest tell the story.” There is a skill to it, and there are people who do it that I would call writers, but I am not among them. I research, and I report. I try do it in a way that people can understand and makes them pay attention, but I don’t think I’m a writer.

On my blog, I write my thoughts. I try to do it in a way that can hold your attention and is easy to understand. But I still wouldn’t call myself a writer.

Over the past couple of days, we had a band staying in our house. Last night, we went out and watched them perform. And listening to the lyrics, I was reminded of what a writer is.

A writer can capture moments and feelings in just a few words. There were lines in songs that conjured up mental images of places I’ve not been and experiences I’ve not had and triggered images of places I have seen and experiences I have had. The best writers open up emotions and possibly even explore new ones.

When I write for radio, I’m trying to set things up so the guests will feel like sharing THEIR emotions and conjure up THEIR memories. But I’m setting it up, not doing it for them. And when I’m writing for news, I’m writing facts. Again, there are people in radio who can do this while still evoking strong images, but I don’t think I’m there– yet.

Over the past year or so my focus has been on “unlearning” academic writing. Being a student and later a researcher taught me a lot of things about being objective and laying out an argument but it did not teach my brevity. It did not teach me how to write in a way that sounded like a conversation.

I feel like I’m getting there. Twitter helps me be brief. This blog helps me lay out thoughts and arguments in a way that is reasonably easy to understand. And I think that’s helping me in my scripts.

But I still don’t feel like I’ve hit that magic of being able to make an entire audience remember a personal memory or emotion through a simple lyric. Maybe one day, but not yet. It was nice seeing someone who is doing that, because it reminds me of how far I have to go still. It’s why I listen to shows like “This American Life” or read blogs or listen to music by people who are better at what they do than I am. I find my best work comes from when I’m shooting for something.

Filed under: personal

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