I was once a journalist. Now I’m more or less not. It’s because I realised that journalism is not as compatible with writing as we’re led to believe. Still, the skills I learned as a journalist have been hugely helpful in my writing. Here are a few of lessons that our friends from the media can teach us.
Figure Out Your Story
Journalists are experts at identifying an angle, an ingredient that makes a story stand out. Before you write a story, you need to figure out what to say with that story. The angle you choose will be your guide rope, preventing you from drowning in your story.
Journalists have be able to make their points using as few words as possible – space is at a premium and their audience’s attention span is short. They quickly learn to spot words and sentences that are surplus to requirements. When you’re editing your work, see if you can cut down the length of your sentences, or if the sentence needs to be there at all. You’ll soon start to see the dead wood in your writing.
Don’t Be Precious
Journalists can’t sit around waiting for the right words to come along. They have a deadline to meet, so they can’t afford to be afraid of the blank page. They just put in the yards. You can bring that same discipline to your own writing. Write every day, regardless of whether you have an idea or not. To paraphrase Picasso, when inspiration strikes, it’ll find you working.