How journalism ruined my writing

Hi fellow writers,

Wait. What? That’s a weird headline, isn’t it? I absolutely agree, it makes no sense. Since stepping out of the journalism industry a year ago, I have had a lot of time to reflect and collect the remains of myself, left by the wayside. The greatest hurdle, oddly enough, has however been to force myself to write and read books.

Journalism. Aaah you sing in your mind as you raise your nose to smell the fresh-printed stack of morning-delivery-newspapers. You give yourself a massive pat on the back after posting a quick blog of breaking news to the company website. A layer of importance and accomplishment added to your already very healthy ego, for being the first to inform the general public of developing current events. But see, you’ve been groomed and you’ve been contained; plomped into a small cardboard box – one easy enough to arrange next to the other cardboard boxes, and easy enough to get rid of, at the economy’s whim. You have been guided towards the most boring and factual sentences you will ever encounter. You have come such a long way since starting as an intern, now you get praised for your accuracy and conciseness and ability to come across as someone who really does not like people. Welcome, to journalism.

My earliest memories of the shaping of my identity, involves writing. I used to write poems on napkins under restaurant tables as a kid, chose books and pens over toys and was never quite able to express my deepest feelings without the help of a piece of paper. Words were a world to me, a place with no rules. A paradise where words of hope held epic sword fights with the depressive words of fear. In this world however, it was also okay for the bad guy to win sometimes – because it was considered art and something to be admired in silence.

With another drop of a newspaper on my desk, with circles made around sections of articles, instructions as to what I should deem to be important news, I decided that I did not like to read anymore. With not reading, came a half-decade marathon writing drought. I had lost the thing most precious to me, in pursuing what I thought I wanted most. Yes, I was working with words all day long – and that’s what I kept telling myself whenever I felt my fingers hovering in uncertainty above the keyboard before having to write anything. There were just too many rules. Rules I respected and lived by and would have died for. But they broke my creativity and imagination for a very long time, and boy, has it been a hell of a journey to reclaim.

I often find myself writing and suddenly, being greeted by one of those instilled rules. It used to be an awkward side-hop, not knowing how to pass or avoid, but I have learned that I can just wave. I can wave and remember. Not wrapped in bitterness or hate, but in appreciation of where I came from. I needed those rules to do the best job I could. Today however, I say screw the rules – writing and reading is all that matters – and there is no right or wrong way.

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