I spoke to a group of students tonight about interviewing. I told them a secret: I’m a super shy extrovert. I know, weird. But that’s me. I want to talk once I get started, but until then, I’m terrified.
I ended up talking about way more than interviewing. The whole “write a crappy first draft, don’t wait for the muse” thing, the whole “no butt-reporting” (trying to write a story while sitting on your butt in the newsroom-ahahahahaha) thing, the whole “have a conversation, don’t interview” thing. But the most important thing I said–even bigger than read a lot and write a lot–is to just do it. Just do it and keep doing it and fail a million times but just keep doing it and then one day, you wake up and you’ve figured it–whatever it is–out.
You can’t be afraid of failing, of falling on your face, of doing life wrong if you’re ever going to find success.
That little gem applies to everything in life.
Ira Glass says it better than me. (Click the link for an awesome Ira Glass video. It’s only a minute. You want to click the link–promise)
Reporter and screenwriter Skip Hollandsworth spoke to student journalists at the 2012 Gloria Shields Publications Workshop in July. He gave GREAT advice.
- Learn the rhythm of a good sentence.
- Type of famous writers’ work to learn that rhythm.
- I don’t have droughts. I’m not allowed. The insurance man doesn’t get to have droughts and neither does the writer. There’s a lot of writing that’s not inspired. I get a first draft, then I know where to go.
- 1st draft is crap. (He used Hemingway’s quote)
- Challenges? I still feel fear. I still write a paragraph and say who do I think I am? I’m not a writer.
- The way to beat the fear is to write a sentence and then another. And then another.
- No matter how bad it is, keep writing.
- I don’t ever try to write a cluttered sentence.
- Hollywood always looking for the next teen movie that captures the teen zeitgeist.
- Start taking notes in a journal. It will be gold one day.
- How to get ready to write: wake up early, drink a lot of coffee, try not to get distracted.
- The great goal is how to shut out the outside world.
- Your life (as a writer) is a lonely, miserable, pain drenched life. And you’ll love it.
- Don’t be safe. Don’t write the predictable story.
- If the quote goes on too long, you lose the reader
- I love getting the detail that makes people gasp. That’s reporting.
- Readers want to be moved
- Why he’s a reporter: Because I couldn’t do math. (His father loved to tell stories) If you’re surrounded by good storytellers you pick it up.
- People love to talk about themselves.
- Here’s where you get the best stories: don’t be afraid to ask a stupid question, but ask it sincerely. I would interview anyone who would talk to me.
- Never stay with the one quote. Follow up. Ask more.
- A lot of journalism is pedestrian work, but that teaches you to write tight. Just because you’re writing a boring story doesn’t mean you get to be bored.
- ALWAYS LISTEN, follow up, don’t even look at your notebook.
- Don’t red your questions to your source. Have a conversation.
- I’m still never comfortable with my work. Never happy with it.
- Don’t think of writing as an art. Think of it as a craft.
- Get them to tell a story that’s important to them–and you
- He tells them “I’m not here to judge you. I want to try to understand what got you to this place.” Then he tries to make them comfortable.
- Make sources feel like they have a sympathetic ear
- Where he gets his stories: I read. I look for funny stories. Stories that I read and think “that will make a really good twist”
- Start a conversation. Don’t let them think it’s an interview.
- When you’re interviewing someone and they pause, take a breath too. LET THEM SPEAK. (STFU)
- I believe it’s very important to get banter going.
- If you get the forum to write about people, don’t get the hot head when they criticize you. When you enter the public arena, you ask for criticism.
The other day Gena Showalter offered some of the best advice ever on her blog.
Do unto others.
If you’re feeling neglected, upset, etc, chances are your spouse, SO, is too.
And actually the advice applies everywhere in life. It’s something to remember, especially in this time of long hours at work and a yearbook staff that refuses to meet their deadlines. 😦