Confessions of an Anxious Journalist

Journalism didn’t come naturally for me. I chose the degree of English Literature on my first day of college. After 10 weeks of classes it became apparent that I could basically use that degree for only two careers: teaching or publishing novels. I didn’t want to teach, and the prospect of making it big on a novel are slim, so my counselor recommended I try Journalism.

My Journalism classes were inspiring and exciting — I found my tribe of people who were likewise set on changing the world and toeing the line of overdosing on coffee!

There was just one not-so-small snag: interviews. It was difficult enough to get my participation points in class, let alone think of asking a person questions! Looking back, my fear seems bizarre, but I’d always struggled with being a shy, socially-anxious person. College was my first diversion from being home-schooled and I seriously lacked social skills. I just wanted to write without having to interact with anyone, was that so much to ask? Spoiler alert: it was, according to my professors.

My first interview was over the phone, shakily asking the owner of a bakery questions while desperately trying to take adequate notes. It was so terrifying that I remember dreading it for hours prior to the interview and internally picking it apart for days afterward.

I thought there was no hope for me as a journalist after college. Who would want to answer questions from a self-conscious newbie? So I did the only natural thing to do when faced with a dilemma: I turned to Google. The search “socially-anxious journalist” pulled up several narratives from people like me, people who desperately wanted to flourish in their career despite crippling anxiety.

This newfound knowledge coupled with some helpful tips bolstered my courage and inspired me to keep trucking along. Now I want to share some tips that have aided me through dozens of interviews.

  1. People love to talk about themselves. This is a fact and one that helps journalists immensely. Yes, there are occasional exceptions where you have to pry answers from your sources, but if you show interest in their specialty/company/story 99 percent of the time you’ll get your answers.
  2. Adequate research builds confidence. I ALWAYS research my subject and prepare a list of questions prior to an interview. It’s ridiculously easy for today’s journalists to do this. We have a world of knowledge at our fingertips with the internet, so feel free to use it to your advantage.
  3. Remember that people won’t ruminate over your mistakes, so you shouldn’t either! I’ve stuttered, misspoke, even had to apologize for completely losing my train of thought: nobody has ever minded and I survived — even when I have to hear the painful playback while transcribing!
  4. It gets easier. Really, it does. I still have my nerve-wracking moments, especially if my interview subject is difficult, but it’s infinitely easier now that I have practice and have learnt from my mistakes *ahem* fyi make sure your voice recording device has full battery charge before every interview…
  5. Try to keep your end goal in mind. Think of the incredible piece of Journalism you’re going to have the privilege to craft after your interview is wrapped up! Plus, you’ll always leave an interview with more knowledge than you had before and that’s pretty awesome.

worry

I hope this helps someone feel a bit more confident as a journalist! Happy writing! 🙂

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Resolutions or Intentions?

I used to go absolutely mental with New Year’s resolutions, making long lists only to inevitably fail after a few months of miserably trudging through my grand plans. Then I would tack those failed resolutions onto next year’s list and so on.

The initial excitement of setting goals always wears off and is replaced by a thick layer of guilt. For me, the appeal of resolutions are overwhelmingly tempting. I love the possibility of transformation and the New Year is a perfect fresh start, the cut-and-dry chance to start over. But is it healthy to want to overhaul my life every single year? I know it’s certainly not realistic to set sweeping fantasies like “lose 20 pounds,” “work out 7 days a week,” or “write for two hours every day,” yet that’s what I always do — go big or go home, right? Too bad I always end up “going home” because I haven’t allowed any wiggle room for that pesky thing called reality. Shit happens.

2014 was chock full of roller-coaster life moments. The birth of my son and ensuing baby-blues and sleep deprivation changed everything, including my approach to resolutions. I decided to set intentions instead, to be easy on myself for once.

Resolution: a firm decision to do or not to do something.
Intention: a thing intended; an aim or plan.

My only intentions for 2015 were to put my health (physical and mental) first, read 30 books and to get an article published. I’m happy to report I accomplished each one and experienced the best year of my life to boot!

intentions

I tapped into the transformation I’d always longed for: I began resolving past wounds, I discovered meditation and Buddhism, art made its way back into my life. Most importantly, I came to terms with the reality of my mortality and that life is so much more than my temporary appearance, the temporary things I own, and that my existence is much too temporary to let other people determine my happiness.

I’m not saying I’m perfect or that all my problems are fixed — far from it. Perfection would mean no more growth, and growth is what life is all about. I still slip back into old negative habits, because that’s good ole reality. But now when there’s a bump in my plans it just means I have to be flexible and open-minded instead of shutting down.  I just want to put it out there for anyone who similarly approaches the big, shiny New Year with rose-colored glasses.

My intentions for 2016 are similar to 2015’s but a bit more broad:

  • Continue practicing radical self-care. Emotional hygiene, if you will. That Hummingbird Life has a great archive of self-care inspiration.
  • Read, read, read. My intention is 52 books since I easily hit that this year.
  • Do things that scare me. More on that later.
  • Express myself through writing and art minus any perfectionism.
  • Be transparent. I love the definition:

Transparent: allowing light to pass through so that objects behind can be distinctly seen.

My transparency has so far earned me some odd questions and judgy looks and I’ve survived all of them without crumbling. 🙂

What’s your take on resolutions or intentions? Leave me a comment and let me know of any goals you have for 2016!

2015 Reads

Can you believe we are already in the final days of 2015? I’m thankful for many things that occurred this year, including how many books I was able to read: 52! My goal was 30, but it was surprisingly easy to surpass that number (which I consider impressive, but clearly varies person to person). I avoided my phone, reduced overall screen time and started bringing a book with me whenever I left the house. There are dozens of instances where I opt for a book instead of opening up a social network for the millionth time that day, or just sitting there absent-mindedly flipping through magazines in waiting rooms.

My toddler decided he can’t fall asleep unless I’m sitting in his bedroom, which became a blessing in disguise as I easily consume 50+ pages each night — after reading him his books first, of course. 🙂

This year was filled with nonfiction and a few novels sprinkled throughout. Goodreads provides a fun “My Year in Books” rundown of how many pages I read (14,874), the average length of the books (286 pages), and my average rating (3.7 stars). Screenshot of the review:

goodreads

My favorite book of 2015 is a toss up between “Women Who Run With the Wolves” by Clarissa Pinkola Estés and “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” by Sogyal Rinpoche. Both of the aforementioned books ignited a passionate transformation of my life and how I view the world — the ultimate goal of reading, I think.

What was the best book you read in 2015? Do you set a reading goal for the New Year?

 

Freelance Writing

My neglectful hiatus from this blog isn’t ENTIRELY due to procrastination… I’ve also been busy writing freelance articles for a few local magazines. So that counts for something — too busy to write here because I’ve been writing elsewhere… right?

Well anyway, after months spent applying to random freelance postings on sites that pay measly $ and sadly also don’t give credit to the author, I was offered an excellent opportunity in July.

It has been difficult to get into a routine of finding the time to interview, transcribe those interviews, write the story and then go through edits with clients  — all while watching my almost-two-year-old son.

The knowledge I’ve received from the various interviews is priceless, further solidifying my degree choice of Journalism (minor in English). It will never get old to have the “authority” to ask questions and in return people open up to you… as long as you ask the right questions.

I’m toying with the idea of blogging about my freelancing experiences, embarrassing moments and all, with some hopefully helpful tips sprinkled throughout!

Please leave a comment if you would be interested in freelance posts!

Overcoming Adversity

thepastI recently wrote an article for the website The Seeds 4 Life. It’s a great site full of inspirational quote-based posts about personal development.

If you’re in need of some motivation or a bit of encouragement, head on over to their site and take a look around.

Check out How to Change Your Outlook and Overcome Adversity!

Also, I had to share this photo — isn’t it great? I can always use a reminder to remain in the present moment. 🙂

What I’m Reading Wednesday: Wild Mind

wildmindThis past week I read “Wild Mind: Living the Writer’s Life” by Natalie Goldberg. I fell in love with Natalie’s voice with “Writing Down the Bones” earlier this year and had to check out the sequel.

Wild Mind is a collection of essays about the life of a writer. Most of the essays are about 3-4 pages in length and include a “try this” section at the end of each topic so you can apply what you read with a short writing prompt.

I love when an author is so fired up about writing that it becomes infectious to read. Each time I read a section from this book I became inspired to put it down and get some words onto my own page.

Writing is a lonely profession. We live inside our own mind for long stretches of time, usually secluded from distractions, and it’s refreshing to learn I’m not alone; other writers struggle with the same problems I do. It’s all in how you decide to overcome those obstacles and if you’re able to follow through with your passion.

Natalie emphasizes the importance of continuing to write even when you’d rather not, or when your inner editor is screaming at you — just keep writing. She says that like athletes in training, writers must use their writing “muscles” over and over without ceasing.

My favorite quotes from the book:

“A writer must be willing to sit at the bottom of the pit, commit herself to stay there, and let all the wild animals approach, even call them up, then face them, write them down, and not run away.”

“Let some of the good writing go. Don’t worry. There’ll be lots of it over time. You can’t use all of it. Be generous and allow some of it to lie fallow. What a relief! We can’t write well and let it go.”

“You have to let writing eat your life and follow it where it takes you. You fit into it; it doesn’t fit neatly into your life. It makes you wild.”

Now I’m moving on to “My Heart and Other Black Holes” by Jasmine Warga. What are you reading this week?

What I’m Reading Wednesday: Start

I just finished reading Jon Acuff’s newest book “Start: Punch Fear in the Face, Escape Average and Do Work That Matters.” It was a recommendation on my Goodreads profile and I’m glad I decided to give it a go.

start

First, I have to mention the cover of this book is kind of embarrassing. It gets the point across, but the whole “punch fear in the face” statement is a bit weird to have strangers looking at when reading in public.

It was a quick read because of the author’s enthusiasm — it really jumps off the page! Acuff uses a blend of motivation, personal experience and research to encourage the reader to pursue their passion.

Acuff describes his personal experience of wanting to become a writer, and that information was valuable to me since writing is my passion as well. The information is applicable to anyone, no matter what career is your dream.

Some takeaways from Start:

  • Our willpower is strongest in the morning, so if you start by crossing off a task it will create a snowball effect for the rest of the day.
  • Start by claiming just 30 minutes in your day to REALLY pursue your dream. He recommends waking up at 5:30 to do this, or whenever you’re sure to not be interrupted.
  • You have to be brutally realistic about your present circumstances and wildly unrealistic about your future circumstances.
  • Admit that you can’t possibly get it all done, and some work beats no work.
  • In order to really believe it’s not all about you, you have to believe that everyone is more interesting than you. Instead of spending time trying to be interesting, invest more time being interested.

Those points may seem like common sense, but it was inspiring for me to read and I realized I need to pour a significantly larger amount of energy into my passions to make them a reality.

One of my favorite quotes from this book:

“You will work harder at something you love than at something you like. You will work harder than you have ever worked when you start chasing a dream. You will hustle and grind and sweat and push and pull. You will get up earlier and go to bed later. But that’s okay.”

Next on my reading list is “Wild Mind” by Natalie Goldberg. I’ll post my final thoughts next week.

What are you reading? Let me know in the comments!