It was all going so well. A few weeks ago I had just been told that I would be getting paid to write, which in many ways is the holy grail of young journalists. My Twitter profile was actually getting some attention, thanks to two articles I’d had published on Comment is free, who emailed to say that I am free to pitch them ideas whenever I like. I submitted a piece for Prospect and sorted out the practical arrangements for my summer placement at the Guardian.
And then the ideas stopped coming.
It’s been two weeks since I wrote anything, and even in writing this, I don’t know what it is I am saying. I have a sneaking suspicion that the pressure of thinking up really, gobsmackingly good ideas for the Guardian (who I am just in awe of) taking a subconscious toll – so much so that I can’t even come up with mediocre things to blog about here. And the more I can’t think of anything, the higher the pressure mounts, and the cycle continues. If hell had a circle just for journalists, this would be it (with unresponsive email contacts thrown in for good measure).
I’ve done what they tell you to do. I’ve read, a lot. I’ve trawled Twitter. I’ve even listened to a few podcasts and chosen completely random playlists on Spotify, trying to break myself out of the familiar. And it’s cost me, too. Last night I finally succumbed to buying a New York Times subscription so that I could continue reading back entries of the Modern Love column once I’d hit the paywall (proof that people – even students – will pay for good writing if they have to). Of all the luxuries in life, my subscriptions to top publications are the ones I feel least guilty about buying. We shouldn’t expect quality for free (maybe there’s an idea here?).
And finally, I am just putting words onto paper; black against white. Forcing my brain through its normal processes of choosing sentence structures, selecting vocabulary and playing with punctuation. Maybe in concentrating on the nuts and bolts of writing, I’ll cease to overthink the content and just do it.
Yes, there it is. There’s the idea: the nuts and bolts of writing. I’ll assemble it tomorrow.