Monday, August 9, 2010

Writing + Pregnancy = a little bit too similar sometimes

Today I gave birth to a 20-kilogram feature. That’s what it felt like anyway. Every word seemed to be dragged out of me, kicking and screaming. When it was done, the relief was so palpable that I felt lighter and brighter, giddy with joy.

Like most features, it began well. There were no particular signs that this one would turn toxic. As with pregnancy, there was joy and excitement. I was genuinely looking forward to writing it, as it was an idea I’d pitched myself and I had several leads ready to go.

It was about the halfway point that things changed. I got led astray by a new contact, lost my direction and ended up with a couple of useless quotes and a case study I hadn’t counted on. At which point, I put my hands over my eyes and prayed the whole mess would go away.

It didn’t, of course. The deadline passed, I was still looking for an interview to save it, hoping for a miracle. Nothing happened. So I turned to a trusted source, one who knew what I needed, one who would give me some solid foundations on which to balance a structure that was looking decidedly wobbly.

As I sat down to write it today, I felt sick. I’d left it until the last possible moment, waiting for The Muse (who, as we’ve discussed before, is beholden to no woman and clearly had a blow-dry appointment this morning). Through sheer persistence, I found an opening, a way in to the story, and from that it flowed. I managed to construct a frame that allowed me to wedge my material into the brief. And it worked.

I have no doubt that every journalist has stories like these, that grow into millstones around their necks. I also have no doubt that most of those stories would involve case studies, the finding of ‘real’ people to fit a niche in the story. One day, when I’m feeling stronger, we’ll talk about case studies a bit more.

But not tonight. Tonight I’m pouring a glass of wine (I know, on a Monday, outrageous!) and toasting the Muse (who is no doubt out dancing and not sitting at home waiting to hear ‘cheers’ from suckers like me) as I wet that story’s head.

And then I’m going to get started on the next one.


  1. See? You are a proper writer, with deadlines and deals.

    I am a strange one, one that actively loves the birthing process, with a passion.

    And let's face it...once you start, you have to is gonna have to come out sometime......

  2. Ah, wine... the journalist's epidural. Monday Schmonday. Konbe!

  3. Al if you really want I'll let you do my assignments for uni.

  4. Ahhhh. You did it.

    And there in lies your talent. The ability to get to the end in time and still manage to fit in a glass of wine (not to mention holding off the glass of wine until you finish).

    And you top it off by still having time for us.

    You're the package :)

  5. congratulations on getting it all done...Enjoy your glass of wine, it sounds like you deserve it..

    Monday night is a GREAT night for a glass (or two, perhaps?!)

  6. I feel so good when I finish a piece I'm writing. So good! It's a natural high!

  7. Well done, you've pulled it off yet again! I never doubt that you'll get there - I hope you don't either. Did you learn something new this time around? The crazy tips you have picked up as a features writer over the years would make most people's head spin!!

  8. I have had a few of those- features that turn on you, that rear up on their opening paragraph and suddenly, surprisingly announce that they're not going to unfold the way you'd planned. I agree with the other commenters that it's a mark of your professionalism that you could wrestle it into submission anyway. I would also add that that features like that are one of the reasons I left freelance journalism and became a novelist. Mind you, it's pretty horrible when a whole BOOK turns on you...

  9. Yeah, hope it was a nice wine in the glass...something suitably drinkable!!! You deserve it!

  10. I want to see that 20kg baby ...

  11. Good on you LIAPF! Notch another one to your belt. I'm surprised I didn't get a desperate email requesting if I "know someone who wears red undies on the outside of their pants" or something? Either your stories are getting more 'grown up' or I have lost my mojo!

    Tee he - word verification: redda!

  12. I once commented to my wife that writing essays for Uni was like giving birth and referencing was the afterbirth. I have since learnt that unless I have passed a bowling ball through my nether regions I am not allowed to make such comparisons.


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