How to be a recovering journalist

When it was my time to pick what I wanted to study, it was easy: I wanted to write. I wrote all the time; I was addicted to words, and creativity was celebrating parties in my head. A big plus was that I was never bored, but I shared my head with the stories in my head. They were like a fire that could not be contained. Spilled into journals, onto the blank page and filled my childhood dreams. 

And then I became a journalist and killed my creativity. 

Yes, I got to write stories all day. I wrote about inspiring people doing awesome things. I interviewed famous authors about their inspiration for writing. Christopher Paolini, Chelsea Cain, John Flannagan, Lauren Kate, Chris Bradford and many more. I got to question them about how they made a living telling stories. I drank their inspiration feel excited knowing that one day I would be like them and then wrote their story in an upbeat tone that said others ‘see if they can do it, so can you!’ 

I wrote about animal rights, about papercraft companies using inspiration to help people do their hobbies, about blogging, about planning, staying inspired, about libraries. And all the time I told myself ‘this is awesome, I get to write every single day’. But I didn’t see I was recycling stories that weren’t my own. And as I tumbled further down the rabbit hole of writing about other people’s passions, I lost sight of my own. 

The stretches of not writing the stories floating in my head grew larger. There were still intense bursts of writing stories, but it became harder to connect with that voice in my head. Harder to connect with the part of me that liked telling things that weren’t based on facts. Suddenly everything needed to have an audience. It needed to be based on facts and needed to be structured around ‘how, why, what, where, who and when’. Being subjective got beaten out of me. Now even fiction needs to have an audience, a niche and a goal. 

My path journeyed down to becoming an editor for serval magazines, to the editor-in-chief, to becoming my own boss and blogging for other people. I got outlines that needed to be turned into cohesive stories that focussed on teaching people. I needed to tell myself daily that this was what I wanted to do. I wanted to do what I loved. 

But it didn’t fill the creativity gap that was growing larger. 

I stopped painting

I stopped crocheting

Until finally, I stopped using my journal to write and started using it as a planner. Writing became a chore. Sometehing that needed to be ticked off the to-do list. 

It took a long time to realise where my journey has taken me. Don’t get me wrong. I love where I’ve ended up, but there is such a big disconnect to where I used to be, to where I am now. I feel like somewhere along the way I lost a piece of the puzzle. And although I want to blame something for this, I can’t. The simple fact is I got wrapped up into making a living for myself that I forgot the part that makes me feel alive.

I forgot what the pure joy feels like when fictional people come to live under my fingers. 

I forgot how much I love the tapping sound on the keyboard.

I forgot how much I love when characters run with the storyline, and I can only stand by, watch and record. 

The irony is that while I became a storyteller that captured the story of other people in order to share it with the world. I forgot how to write stories that mattered to me. And I forgot to enjoy it. 

It’s true that a lot of journalists start that way because they want to be better at writing and sharing stories. But the digital age has forced everyone to become much more niche-focused and focused on teaching, that the creative part dissipated to the background.

So now I chose to be a recovering journalist. I choose creativity over niches, over text for the sake of writing, or worse for an SEO rating. 

Because despite everything I AM a storyteller, and I have stories to tell. But this time, they will be my stories. 

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