Breaking On Through to the Other Side

"Garden of Eden," by Michelle Olsem

“Garden of Eden,” by Michelle Olsem


Confession time! I come from the world of journalism. For those writing creatively all your lives, you may (or may not) know that both worlds are more or less opposites.

Journalism is all about following a formula of getting the lead at the top of an article and then covering the details to the end, starting with the most critical and working down in priority.

When I studied journalism, late last century, the rules were strict and we got marked down in class for errors, such as spelling, punctuation and grammar – basics you would assume professional reporters and news editors should know and strictly practice. And back then, at least, we did. These days, based on the newspapers and websites I read, not so much, even with spell check.

At first, it was a challenge to adapt to the world of creative writing using journalistic standards. The most difficult part has been proofreading, because I can drive myself into the looney bin double checking my spelling, punctuation and grammar, along with making sure my you-know-whats are dotted and my other you-know-whats are crossed. During that stringent process, of course, the creative juices are not flowing and the focus is not on the plot or story line.

Another big difference is that journalism and news reporting needs to be factual – ha, go figure. For some reason, making things up is frowned upon, as they expect you to research what really happened and talk to witnesses. It’s all about facts, and quoting sources with such phrases as “according to” or “the police sergeant said.” And, if one little fact is wrong or a word or two in a quote is inaccurate, you’ve got to go back and correct it, even if it requires a phone call back to the source.

Compared to news reporting, creative writing is like stepping out of a jail cell into a boundless Garden of Eden with flowing rivers and playful animals frolicking over lush rolling hills (music please). Even so, I tried fighting the change at first by sticking to my high and mighty standards. That, obviously, did not work. So eventually, it has come down to a gradual process of personal evolution, as I aim for what seems like a mythical sweet spot between the cookie-cutter parameters of journalism and the free-flowing world of creativity.


5 responses to “Breaking On Through to the Other Side

  1. I considered journalism as a career when I was in high school, but I never knew what the difference was between it and writing in the first place. Now I do. This was a great article, David!

  2. Journalism has always fascinated me, the awe of following a lead and researching the ins and outs of a story but then the idea of talking to strangers for each story stops me dead in my tracks. This was a terrific post! I like how you tied in the picture at the end in comparison. Well done!

  3. Thank you both. I love what we’re doing with Twisted Writers!

  4. I knew there was something about you. You’re a journalist! It’s about time you confessed. How long were you going to carry that filthy little secret around….hmmm?
    Great post, though. Considering the journalist thing and all.

  5. I studied journalism a little in college, I had both English and Communication majors, but I fell into the creative side pretty quickly. I think those Who, What, When, Where, Why and How come in handy in both, though.

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