It all started in eighth grade, actually. That’s when I really knew I wanted to write. My English teacher was the first to point it out.
She read an essay I wrote — to the entire class — about a short story the class had read together. To this day, I still remember writing it. I had arrived early at my grandma’s home for a family reunion. Since my cousins had not yet arrived and I had this to write, I sat down and wrote.
Toward its completion, there was one word I wanted to use. It would give the essay that extra you-know-what. But, being brought up in a Catholic household, using the word was frowned upon. Plus, this essay was for my eighth grade English class. Would the teacher send me to the principal’s office or send a note home to my mom? The word in limbo was Hell.
In the end, I said the Hell with it. It went in. My teacher didn’t call my mom or issue me a detention. She read my essay along with two others to the class. I believe the difference was my choice of words. I took a risk.
To me, the success stories in the creative world are all about taking risk. Those creative forces — writers, filmmakers, actors, photographers, artists, designers, stylists, painters, chefs, etc. — who inspire me all push the envelop to evolve, develop their talent, and achieve their goals.
At the start of my freshman year at Western Michigan University, I took another risk, which was to write for the student newspaper, the Western Herald. Originally, I planned to stay away from the newspaper’s office in the basement of the bird cage until sophomore year. The rational, safe side of my brain said to get a grip, focus on studying, and adjust to “college” life.
My intuition said, go for it! Why wait? So, I went for that initial orientation and picked up my first story assignments from the entertainment editor and then progressed to writing news and feature stories. The risk taken afforded me the opportunity to meet and work with some of the finest, creative forces spinning our planet today.
received freelance writing opportunities at a community newspaper in my hometown;
attended campus and sometimes city events (sports, cultural, concerts, etc.) for free;
watched — with active engagement — my more esteemed peers cover a student-lead, campus-wide protest and sit-in;
learned not to mix fruit-based alcoholic drinks with grain-fed brew;
went trick-or-treating at the then-university president’s home;
covered the 1992 elections;
influenced slumlords renting to students living off-campus to take complaints about horrific living conditions seriously; and
admitted to the guilty pleasure of wanting to know what was happening around me before anyone else.
Here’s a shortlist of links to some of my j-school peers…
My inspiration for this post all started from viewing a photo a former Herald colleague shared on Facebook. See the vintage Mac below? We all used to write our news copy on dinosaurs such as this.