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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 having a field day with my imagination. A big bonus of this was that I was never bored, It just didn’t exist in my world. I had stories to tell, words to string into sentences. The stories created a fire that could not be contained. They spilt into journals, onto blank pages 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 who were doing awesome things. I interviewed famous authors about their inspiration and about writing. Christopher Paolini, Chelsea Cain, John Flanagan, Lauren Kate, Chris Bradford and many more were subjected to my questions. How did they make a living telling stories? Where did they find their inspiration? And how did they get where they were right now? I drank their inspiration felt motivated knowing that one day I would be just like them and then wrote their story in an upbeat tone that told 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 longer. There were still intense bursts of writing stories, but it grew 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, 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 until even fiction needed to have an audience, a niche and a goal.

My path journeyed down to becoming an editor for several magazines, to 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 were 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.

I stopped dancing to silly songs in the living room.

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

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 in 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 it when characters run with the storyline and I can only stand by and 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 most importantly, I forgot to enjoy it.

It’s true that a lot of writers start out as journalists because they want to get better at writing and sharing stories. They want to practise writing. But the digital age has forced everyone to become much more niche focused. Every piece needs to teach something and have a goal. Creating for the very act of creating is getting rare and as a result, the creative part disappeared into the background.

So now I chose to be a recovering journalist. I chose creativity over niches. I chose it over text for the sake of text, or worse for an SEO rating. I chose to create for the very act of creating.

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