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.