I know it sounds a little paradoxical, but I’m both an aspiring journalist AND a creative writing minor. Journalism and creative writing sound mutually exclusive, right? I know I used to think so. For the first two years of my college career, I was a doubter. I worried that the two sides of my writing brain might start to dangerously intertwine as I strengthened my skills in poetry, fiction, drama, and reporting. With experience, though, I’ve come to learn that writing, any type, is writing, and practice is practice. Actually, to my great and satisfied surprise, honing my writing abilities in both genres has become an enormous asset for me.
Writing an article is an act of creativity. It’s an art form, no matter how formulaic AP Style Books and journalism schooling makes it sound. There are innumerable ways to craft a story, even a seemingly straightforward one about the economics of dairy farming or a book group for senior citizens (yes, I’ve had the honor of penning both of these articles). A reporter has the power to twist the information and quotes he or she has gathered into either a list of facts or, if the reporter has the writing skills, a story.
My creative writing classes have taught me similar lessons. I just finished a semester of Creative Nonfiction, for example. It was, without a doubt, my favorite creative writing workshop so far, and not just because I’m a journalist. I loved it because the nonfiction side of the class forced me to write about the truth, but the creative side encouraged me to bring that truth into my own, individual light. One of my first independent pieces, for example, was plainly titled, “Mood Swings,” and it was about, quite predictably, feelings. Everyone has feelings; literally anyone can write a three-page essay on the movement from happiness to sadness. But I made my story my own. Like any news article, I wove a piece of myself into what could have been a generically “emo” rant.
I was inspired to blog about the connection between art and journalism this morning as I was unpacking my notebooks from this last, exhausted semester. My first entry in my creative nonfiction composition book is, “Why I Write.” My professor told the class to use the topic as a vendetta, a medium to explain to our future readers why we do what we do. So here it is:
“I write because grown-ups thought my young love for reading was some kind of accomplishment, the mark of a prodigy, something worthy of a gold star; I write because before I knew it, I was reading more than I was playing with dolls or blocks; I write because I eventually forgot how to articulate pain or emotion unless I could recite it out of the pages of a book; I write because my scribbles are proof of accomplishment, and evidence of spoken word is invisible, mortal; I write because I can erase, cross-out, delete; I write because it gives me a blueprint of things I’m afraid to say aloud; I write because it reminds me to be sad, joyful, terrified; I write because I can get a grade for it, get paid for it, and I write because it feels so damn good; I write because I like the smooth surface of a pen against the side of my thumb and I love the slick sound my fingers make as they dance across a keyboard; I write because it’s quieter than talking; I write because I like talking to myself but I don’t like people thinking I’m crazy; I write because I’m crazy and I write because I like to pretend I’m sane.”