Tuesday, April 7, 2009

On being an emotional journalist

"Writers have the schizophrenic ability to both participate in their lives and, at the same time, observe themselves participating in their lives."
— Edward Albee

This is what a girl who's crying looks like when running up the stairs: like she's vertically jogging, with swift, ballerina-rabbit hops, quickly alternating between high knees and feet that barely brush the steps. There is usually a sagging purse, indifferent hair, a nice outfit. She leaves behind wafts of perfumed electricity. You never see her face.

Last night I became that girl running up the stairs. Dethroned. Jagged, yet pulpy, at the same time.

I can get emotionally attached to my writing. Not to my writing per say, but to the subjects I'm writing about and the forum in which I write. I was meticulous about my 10-12 page print section as an editor, and now I feel similarly about my blog. It comes from the same place that tells me that if my apartment is messy then something negative must be going on in my personal life. I need to control my spaces so pieces of myself, my energy, can flow freely inside them.

And so, I thrive on using the research I've gathered to reply to someone's mildly negative comment, but then become a sobbing mess when my best male friend implies that I waste my time with social media that has in fact connected me to some of the very sources that inspire me. I am human. But I am so human sometimes.

I used to think I was too emotional to be a journalist. Then I realized I could use that passion and imbue it on others. Not only that, but it could work the other way around. When I worked at The Globe I would naturally, effortlessly, fall in love with the things that my subjects were passionate about. I would fall in love with them, too: with the woman who wanted to enhance elderly people's lives with her astonishingly well-trained dogs who could use their paws to call 9-11. With the Staff Sergeant's disabled daughter and her Sweet 16 wish to give all her presents to charity. All this, I fell in love with.

There is danger in that but there is wonder in it too, and I wouldn't trade it for a mild life, not for a second.

But now, I am a writer who is edited as opposed to an editor who writes and edits other people's writing. That is hard for me. It is extremely difficult to find yourself on a different path and then fall in love with it (i.e., car accident → Boulder), and come back to your original path only to notice that the seasons have changed and oh, not only that, but a bulldozer came by and tore up everything. The whole media landscape has changed. And I have my clips from, it feels like, 1973, and I'm like — here, look, this is a "goodbye" column I wrote which means something, because I had something to say goodbye to. I had people who asked me to write it and were touched by it and if you have people to say goodbye to then you must have made some kind of impact on that part of the world. Now, all I'm doing is trying to connect and "hello" everyone and it gets so frustrating sometimes.

But, this kind of thing has the effect of making me put myself out there even more. I just got a message from my best girl friend in Boulder, wondering if I felt "attacked" by my male friend last night. I don't know what I felt. I know I burst into tears later, but then from that, I generated this. And this writing to me is more valuable. It's how I work through things. It is a palette of my emotions, transferred into something useful. And it will always be mine.


  1. This is beautiful. I can understand your passion for connections...relationships...people. If you need to write it out...to sort through your thoughts and feelings, so be it. Ain't no shame in that, girl.

  2. @Akirah - Thanks, girl. I'm glad you can relate.