I have always believed that writing for the sake of writing is just a form of intellectual masturbation. I deeply believe that there could hardly be anything creepier when it comes to journalism and in general to creation of a written product than this type of creative self-sufficiency.
“Just write something! It does not need to be a masterpiece – just keep the blog going!” The executive director of the WPI Fellowship program Mr. David McDonald is repeating these encouraging lines on a daily basis. But I have several reasons to find them somewhat disturbing.
First of all I would like to make it clear that I love writing. This is what I do for living, this is what I do in my spare time now and then, and this is how I sometimes still manage to impress the ladies I am interested in (following the example of some of the masters in this craft). But I have one unbending rule – never write a single letter if you are not sure it would somehow enrich the reader.
I became a journalist to tell people stories. I believe that the very essence of the good quality journalism is storytelling. People love and need to read, view and listen to well told stories – just as grownup kids need positive and negative behavioral examples in order to construct their attitude toward every single aspect of live. I am also convinced that the details posses and hide the true spirit of the stories and make every narrative charming, colorful and full-blooded. According to my views, writing and journalism making are perpetual, conscious dive beneath the superficiality; they are purposeful pursuit of a sight beyond what is obvious, they are the likely result at the end of the chain, jointed by Scrutiny, Examination, Analysis, Investigation, Search, Exploration and Processing. All of them demand particular amount of time and unrestrained perception. Just a brief example of why the participants in this program are deprived of processing time.
The following is an excerpt of our everyday life for the last 6 weeks. On September 13th we visited Ron Brown Academy Middle School in Brooklyn, New York. Walking into this school next to the Roosevelt project in one of the most notorious parts of Brooklyn felt like a journey to the dark side of the moon. How often one have a chance to meet 13-year old kid, who says in a strange voice “Life is too short. You can get shot in front of the school every day”?! This student was expelled from his previous school because he was caught with two semi-automatic guns in his backpack during random police search last year. Once again – this is a 13-year old kid I am talking about. This same kid now acts in the school theatric group and attends dancing classes. Every one of these prematurely grownups and their teachers, who resurrect the times of the Enlightenment in the heart of Brooklyn, deserve their stories to be told. And these are great stories - stories of bravery, consistency, inspiring ideas and annihilating poverty. I know journalists who wait for such kind of opportunity during their entire carrier. We spent about two hours there.
We hit the road to Bloomberg news headquarter in downtown Manhattan - one of the richest media corporations in the world, which information database turns it into an economic and financial CIA, used by the most powerful decision-makers in the world as first-hand information resource. It was fascinating to put “Bulgaria” in their search engines – I felt like a character in a spy movie. It was that special scene when they enter the secret room full of piece-of-the-art technologies and futuristic gadgets. How about that, right?! We spent less than 2 hours over there.
And how about a visit and diner at the Harvard club of New York City later that day and a chance to interact with some of the people who rule this country for the last 350 years?! Exclusive club, excusive stories, memorable experience.
What was the time for processing all these images and information collected in one day? One night. On the next morning we did our pilgrimage to the morning meeting at The New York Times in order to continue this amazing program with the same rushing pace.
To the blog again.
I am convinced that some of the best articles will appear in this blog couple of months after the end of the program.
I do not enjoy the idea of “just writing” something first of all because we all can do better than that.
I do not enjoy the idea of “just writing” something for the blog because my name stands above every article. And people usually associate it with particular quality standards (especially when I do it in my native language).
I disagree with the “keeping-the-blog-going” approach, because people who read the posts deserve more than epistolary ‘small talk’. I consider all previous fellows of WPI, sponsors of the program, host families and all internet users to be possible readers. I am convinced that they deserve more that “I’ve been there, I’ve done that” pieces of writing.
I do not enjoy writing at piece-work because I consider all my latest articles to be in fact my best masterpieces.
I realize that this blog, just as all the other media, is a transmitter – spreading signals to all of the people who made this program possible. To all of them I would like to say that this Fellowship program is one of the most amazing things I have ever encountered in my life; it would definitely change me both as professional and person; it would most probably overturn my own notion of what is possible for me as a journalist and of where the limits of my professional aspirations are.
But nevertheless, I am convinced that writing for the sake of writing is cheap and superficial. It is a hypocritical way to deliver sense of praiseworthy activity.
All fellows should post on the WPI Fellowship blog. This is one of the rules and I will follow all of them to the last point. But what I refuse to stick with is the writing for the sake of writing. I refuse to enjoy it. And I will keep the right to doubt how writing something ‘small’ in the rush between all visits, meetings, travels, conversations, meals, laundries, showers, ect. would enrich both authors and readers if it is not delivered by true inspiration, love of writing, if it is not a result of processed impressions and if it does not contain a worthy story.