How my job — the entertainment writing side of it, anyway — works at The Stir is this: I comb through trending news items for topics that are getting a lot of attention, I pick something that I can try and cover in at least a semi-unique way, and I pitch my story angles to my editor. What they’re looking for are opinions, ideally, not just a basic rehash of existing reports. Pitching is far more difficult than the actual writing, because it’s not always easy to find a topic out of the relatively small pool of What’s Trending Right This Minute that I give half a damn about one way or the other.

Sometimes I write about things that don’t interest me at all. Sometimes (well, a LOT of times) I use a headline I normally wouldn’t touch with a fifty-foot pole. Sometimes I feel like a bottom-feeding hack.

I’ve been mentally churning on this lately, partly because of that ridiculously sanctimonious show that can’t figure out if it’s a zany comedy or a serious political drama or a microwaved version of the endlessly annoying Jim/Pam romance-that-wasn’t, Newsroom. If you’ve watched it, you probably have a pretty good idea what Aaron Sorkin thinks about gossip writers. I guess I fall into that category, at least part of the time, and I’m not sure why I’ve been watching an entire season of a show that annoys the crap out of me AND sort of makes me feel bad about myself, but there you go.

When I start questioning myself, though, I think back on every job I’ve ever had. Did I thoroughly enjoy every single one of my responsibilities? Of course not. Did I sometimes write things that I wasn’t terribly interested in, that weren’t presented in my preferred style, because that was what I was required to do? Of course I did.

I’d say for every Kristen Stewart/Robert Pattinson article that makes me feel like I should probably take a shower afterwards, I get the chance to write several stories about movies that look awesome, shows I enjoy, actors I admire, or things that just make me laugh. I get to work from the comfort of my home while my kids play nearby. I get to work with smart, friendly people who give me useful feedback.

It’s a good job. It’s a great job, actually.

Here’s something I wrote in 2008:

I believe in my abilities and I believe I am marketable. I believe that given the right set of circumstances I could take the big terrifying step into freelancing full time — and for once, fully owning my professional success. My career aspirations boil down to this: I want to get out of it what I put into it. I believe the path for me to achieve that goal is working for myself.

I could tell myself that I’ll pursue my dreams at some later date, maybe when the kids are older, but why? There is no better time for me. I am strong and capable and I can do it all — I can be a great mom and I can make a happy life for my family and I can delight employers and I can run my own business. I know this.

It took me a few years to turn that dream into a reality, but here I am. Maybe the picture isn’t always exactly how I imagined it, but what ever is? When I think about it — really think about it — I don’t feel like a hack or a bad person. I feel really, really lucky.


21 Responses to “Go f*** yourself, Aaron Sorkin”

  1. Becky on August 30th, 2012 2:32 pm

    I don’t think he hates all entertainment writers – which is what you are, not a gossip columnist – I think he hates tabloid writers. He hates those whose entire job it is to write fodder that does nothing but create drama – usually with little to no factual content.
    That’s the message I got from his depiction of that profession.
    I read your articles, and I have not noticed you dreaming up controversy out of thin air.You are honest, insightful, and funny in your writing. Is your stuff on The Stir going to win any Pulitzer? Unlikely, but that doesn’t mean it has no value. Be proud of what you do.
    Also, I’m pretty much in love with Newsroom and found myself cheering ay the TV every Sunday. When does season 2 start?

  2. Alyce on August 30th, 2012 2:47 pm

    You are good at what you do.

    You should also remember that long before Newsroom there was The West Wing and Television Without Pity. His animosity for online writers and websites that traffic in gossip (let’s recall his arrest for possession, shall we?) goes back years. It is unlikely to abate any time soon.

    He is excellent at what he does, and wishes he could do it in private without any outside voices.

    Keep on keeping on.

  3. Pete on August 30th, 2012 2:50 pm

    I haven’t watched the Newsroom so I can’t comment on that. Otherwise, I must say that Sorkin in by far my favorite writer. Anything of his I’ve watched has intelligent dialog. Something that’s really hard to find these days on TV.

  4. Elisabeth on August 30th, 2012 3:15 pm

    My biggest gripe about Newsroom is that every female character on that show is basically written to be a neurotic, overly emotional, twit. If the writers could develop strong female character (at least a few!) with flaws that aren’t so boring and typical, the show would be so much more interesting.

    The show has potential but there are big changes that need to be made.

  5. Amy on August 30th, 2012 3:55 pm

    We tried to watch it, almost got HBO again because it sounded like a good show. I watched one episode and it was like West Wing on steroids where people know exactly the uber-smart thing to say in a witty and really fast way and it just ends up making you feel stupid. People don’t talk like that. Geez!

  6. Christine on August 30th, 2012 5:22 pm

    I say this as a 4th generation Oregonian: I think Eugene is getting to you. First you sell us accessories for firearms and then you feel personally attacked by Aaron Sorkin’s snooty attitude toward tabloid reporters. Please, breathe deeply and remember that Oregon is a Blue state, and that sarcasm and irony are GOOD.

    Newsroom is meant to make us feel better about the abysmal state of journalism the same way West Wing helped us get through the horrifying reality of the Bush/Cheney presidency.
    I really like the show and I think it works on many levels, especially as entertainment.

    We all have jobs and job responsibilities that make us cringe. Your cringe worthy moments involve writing pieces of icky celebrity voyeurism. Then you get to write witty, funny, brave, and challenging pieces and share your hopes, hang-ups and fears with us strangers. You are a good writer making money at her craft. Well done.

  7. Aunt Linda on August 30th, 2012 6:39 pm

    Your aunt wrote ADS for thirty years. Many would say I should be boiled in a vat of Crisco for that. BUT. I am proud of some of those ads. They were way more honest than lots of the tripe that writers are often forced to do today in the name of being published. You’re an artist, kid. No reason you have to be a starving one.

  8. NancyJ on August 30th, 2012 7:00 pm

    Don’t have HBO – can’t watch Newsroom. Never watched West Wing. I wouldn’t know Aaron Sorkin if I tripped over him.
    I love what you write. Sometimes I say “Aw Geez, I can’t wait to read the comments on THIS baby!”
    Keep doing what you do!

  9. Maggie on August 31st, 2012 5:30 am

    I could barely get through the first episode of that awful show. Your job will always have some aspects that aren’t fabulous, as my dad always says, “That’s why they call it work”. I personally love reading your take on all the gossip articles!

  10. Kim on August 31st, 2012 5:49 am

    I’ve been an avid fan of yours since the old fashioned times when blogs were called web diaries (in fact yours was the first blog I ever read) and thought from the beginning your writing would take you to the next level (bad phrasing, because my writing talent is opposite of yours). I’m so happy for where you are now, both geographically, personally and professionally and I wish you continued success.

  11. Hillary on August 31st, 2012 6:08 am

    You do have a great job. God, I wish I had the nerve to try freelancing, but my husband is self employed and I provide our health insurance and I’m not sure I could take both of us having an unstable pay situation. But I admire what you’ve built for yourself.

    And not to defend Newsroom, which I’ve mostly found irritating (and yet I keep watching) but I don’t think you’d be a target of Aaron Sorkin’s wrath. You don’t write things that are malicious.

  12. Artemisia on August 31st, 2012 10:30 am

    I haven’t seen Newsroom, but I do love Aaron Sorkin’s writing. He is smug as hell, but I like it.

    I admire your courage to create the life you want for yourself and your family. My little family and I are trying sift out what it is we really want for our lives, and figure out the first steps to get there. It is hard as hell, murky, and scary as fuck.

    Bravo, my dear!

  13. Janet in Miami on August 31st, 2012 10:36 am

    Yeah, I’m with everyone else on this one. He is after the malicious gossip-creating types, not entertainment writers and family lifestyle writers like you.

    I always thought you were a sort of hybrid though – your subject might be Rob and Kristen, or corporal punishment, or kids lack of manners, but then followed by your thoughts / opinions / insights, which I found very valuable. I also like the comments from everyone else.

    And … I think Aaron Sorkin might like what you do. You are (sometimes brutally) honest.


    Janet in Miami

  14. Suburban Snapshots on August 31st, 2012 5:42 pm

    Girl, you’re making it. You’re doing it. Listen to your smart Aunt Linda. I know it’s weird to read comments from strangers gushing about what talent you have and how awesome you are, but listen: you made a brave step and accepted a ton of change.

    I work full-time for a huge animal welfare organization, but I don’t get down on myself whenever SNL parodies those Sarah Maclaughlin commercials.

    Also, you’re hardly that twat from TMZ.

  15. Erin@MommyontheSpot on August 31st, 2012 6:49 pm

    You are making the life you want for yourself – that is awesome! Seriously, you are inspiring!

  16. Taryn on September 1st, 2012 9:09 am

    Like Kim I’ve been reading since forever ago…..was it diaryland? anyway about 10 years i guess, and i have always thought you had a great talent with weaving together words. it’s so awesome you have found a way to make it all work!! you have indeed having your cake and eating it too! enjoy!!

  17. Taryn on September 1st, 2012 9:09 am

    haha.. you ARE indeed having your cake and eating it too…. :)

  18. sara on September 1st, 2012 1:59 pm

    Id just like to say that you are my favorite writer on the stir and probably the only one who has never pissed me off, lol. On a site where it feels like 95% of the authors are only writing articles with the purpose of pissing off readers, its refreshing to see an author who can write funny or poignantly without dividing its readers. So pat yourself on your back! On a side note, i loathe my job. Its soul sucking and only barely pays the bills.. So if this is only a tiny downside to an otherwise fulfilling and personally rewarding career, consider yourself lucky!

  19. jodie on September 2nd, 2012 8:11 pm

    The only reason I read The Stir is because of you! That is all :)

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