Some Thoughts on a Career in Print

June 16, 2009

Some of the best people I have met, and some who moved me deeply, have been people whose lives I’ve been prying into.

It’s really amazing.

During one of the worst times in my life, I gathered a lot of strength from a family whose oldest son was fighting leukemia. He eventually died, not from the disease, but from the cure. They, especially Joyce, the mom, helped get me through a long heartbreak.

You hear a lot of talk about objectivity in the news. Too many pundits have talked themselves hoarse defending, repudiating, or redefining the concept of objectivity, and I’m not going to add to the fog.

The average Joe takes “objectivity” to mean that a reporter is unaffected by the stories he is covering, that the reporter is to be sort of a junk-food-powered recording device.

Well, without getting into the whole business of what “objectivity” means outside of the basic concept of reporting accurate information, I can tell you that the best writing is not objective at all.

Objectivity in the sense of the reporter as bionic recording device kills good writing. If your heart won’t break, or quail, or sing with the people whose lives you are stepping into, you have no business writing about them. These are not wrigglies under a microscope, they are all of us, bleeding and fallible, saintly and joyful, and trying to figure it all out.

That doesn’t mean that a writer’s powers of observation and analysis should be tossed out, but those powers must be wired in to his feelings, or he might as well be writing an accident report or reporting the results of an autopsy: “the subject was ejected from the vehicle…cause of death was severe blunt force trauma.”

That tells you everything that happened in the sense that it tells you that the subject hit the ground hard, and nothing about who he was and who had to go tell his mama that her boy wasn’t coming home, and it doesn’t let you hear mama sitting on the couch holding the boy’s photo against her flower-print dress and talk about how proud he was of that car that killed him.

Sometimes I suffer from a kind of over-exposure.

I have been at this so long that it’s hard to remember that when I first got into it I loved to make the words in every story sing, and make readers sit up in their chairs and say “Damn!”

It comes of trying to weld that lyrical impulse to the daily slog of deadlines, “feeding the beast,” as we call it sometimes.

I wish I had wise things to say about what to do about that. I have this blogsite so I can take my soul out for a walk from time to time, but I would really love to be able to make my stories sing, every day. Silly, I know. Sometimes, a simple police report is really all that’s called for. And yet….

Everybody out there is a story. I say all the time that there is no such thing as a boring person. There are certainly writers that might fail to make somebody interesting, but that is a failing of the writer.

I keep promising myself that I’ll pull the strings tighter, make that sucker hum when I pluck it. I know it won’t always happen. But I can remember hitting those notes before. I know that music is in there somewhere.

© 2009 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
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4 Responses to “Some Thoughts on a Career in Print”

  1. Lauri said

    Amen, sir. And Happy Bloomsday.

  2. valwebb said

    Bravo, Terry. Believe me, you hit those sweet notes more often than you are willing to admit.

  3. Terry said

    aw, shucks, ma’am (Thank you!)

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