It’s always so energizing to be among writers — and doubly so, when they are young, talented, and committed. So it was a total pleasure to spend time with the staff of The Middlebury Campus (https://middleburycampus.com). The occasion: a panel on “Careers in Journalism and Writing,” co-sponsored by The Campus newspaper and Middlebury College’s Center for Careers & Internships.
As a former layout editor, it was exciting to see that The Campus is in such creative and committed hands. It’s been a while since I painstakingly laid out its pages, piecing together article jumps like a puzzle, but The Campus is still going strong. Taking part in the panel, which included both young, up-and-coming journalists and seasoned writers, was enormously enjoyable and instructive. We covered the waterfront, but here are a few takeaways relevant to pursuing a writing life:
Damon Hatheway, an editorial assistant at ESPN, is well versed in social media and an project coordinator for a real-time online serial novel, 1927: The Diary of MYLES THOMAS (https://1927-the-diary-of-myles-thomas.espn.com/). Damon talked about the importance, especially for writers early in their careers, of “unplugging” and resisting the temptation to let social media drive their writing life. As Damon noted, reading widely has been far more beneficial in improving his craft than Twitter or Facebook.
Steve Early, a lawyer, author, and journalist with a long and diverse career, spoke about a pivotal decision he made to pursue labor journalism over a traditional legal career and the impact it had on shaping his body of work. Steve also highlighted the importance of unionizing in an era when opportunities in print media are shrinking and writers are increasingly viewed — and poorly compensated — as digital content providers (http://steveearly.org)
Greg Dennis, a journalist and consultant in Vermont, spoke about weighing the trade-offs of pursuing a career in journalism on a national vs. a local level and why opportunities for community involvement ultimately attracted him. He also touched on the benefits of adaptability and resilience in crafting a writing career and cited his own shift into medical and information technology consulting (http://dowlingdennis.com).
Kathryn Flagg, a journalist and communications consultant, advised writers just launching their careers to be flexible and pursue a low-overhead lifestyle in order to keep their options open. She also warned about avoiding the temptation to stay on a career path that isn’t a good fit just because it’s expected. As the mother of a young son, she discussed the perennial challenges of balancing a writing career and raising a family (http://pressforwardpr.com).
Rick Hawley, the author of 20 books and a writing teacher, observed that a strong drive to write creatively will ultimately assert itself whatever “day job” one pursues and how the experience he gathered in teaching has enriched his writing. He also spoke of choosing between steady employment and pursuing a full-time literary career — a “road not taken” moment he still finds himself reflecting on (http://www.richardalanhawley.com/).
And finally, I noted that my career path hadn’t been charted so much as discovered by being alert to opportunities that came my way and then stretching beyond my comfort zone to pursue them. I also suggested that aspiring writers explore niche opportunities in the nonprofit and corporate fields to provide a base for their creative projects and encouraged them to seek out supportive writing communities wherever they land.
It was truly inspiring to meet so many talented, enthusiastic young writers and to learn about the creative projects they have in the works, from serial novels to poetry slam submissions. Bravo, Campus staff — write on!
I’d like to read a column on the mindset you have to develop–or is helpful to develop–to stretch yourself beyond “your comfort zone.” It’s a frightening leap for some folks, who might be able to handle this challenge if encouraged to do it in small increments. You’re just the person to write it!
Thanks so much for your note — you’ve given me a great idea for a post on
just this idea — so stay tuned!