Tuesday, June 12, 2007

This morning I noticed an example of how my writing has changed over the past year. I'm getting ready to write the article about the graduation ceremony at the local high school, and that's a kind of story I've only written once before. So I went into the archives on the network and found the one I wrote last year, and I was struck by the previous story and how I think my writing has improved since then.

And by "struck by," I mean, "good God, it sucked."

For example, here's the first sentence of the article I wrote last year. "At commencement for Mid/dlebury Un/ion High School’s class of 20/06* on Saturday, speakers urged the graduates to take an active role in their communities and to make the world a better place." Make the world a better place? Wow, now that's surprising. Who would ever expect to see that happen at a graduation? And the rest of the piece doesn't get much better. I can imagine myself signing off on that story, because we write on deadlines and who expects great journalism on something like this anyway, but it's definitely not one I'll use as a writing sample.

Unfortunately... the current year's graduation story isn't shaping up to be much better, because it seems like I have less to work with in writing the story. But it probably didn't help that I was in a shitty mood that morning because I had just been told by a mutual friend that my ex-girlfriend was engaged — I screwed things up with her so thoroughly that I only found out that way, she's at that point in her life and I'm not, woe is me — so the platitudes fell on deaf ears. But it seemed like there were a whole lot of them, and so on.

Ah well. As long as I don't put writing it off until tomorrow morning, that seems to be the main thing. I'm not sure that's what I did last year or not, but it certainly wouldn't help.

* At the blog Unfogged, I learn clever tricks like Google-traps — that is, writing with a specific misspelling or turn of phrase that you can later search for to find anyone who quotes what you wrote — and Google-proofing like right here, breaking up words that someone might search for. While I've decided to be less paranoid about most of what I write, it could still, let's just say, reflect badly on me if someone tries to look up their own graduation and finds the local reporter complaining about how boring it was and how he did a half-assed job reporting on it. So I'm obviously still of two minds about blog security, and I'll probably continue to be as long as I'm at a semi-public job, working for someone else, etc. etc. etc. And, disclaimer: if one of the speakers reads this somehow, don't worry, you did fine. It's not you, it's me. Like I said, I was in a bad mood that morning.


Katye said...

Hey, he's still alive!

The first run through I thought all those / were supposed to be representations of word breaks for wrapping around the column. I'm glad you aren't turning out to be that anal.

I'm pretty sure platitudes are as much a requirement in graduation writeups as they are in graduation speeches.

Cyrus said...

Heh, I could act equally surprised to hear from you. What's up?

Sure, platitudes are expected. Some are more original and interesting than others, though, and some speeches have more non-platitudinous content than others, and so on. Here's a pretty representative piece of advice out of the four from one of this year's speakers: "Take calculated risks." Useful advice, yes, but you try to make an interesting story out of a speech based partly on that. (On a deadline. While taking the speech seriously. Despite being in, as I said, a bad mood at the time.)

Also, line breaks — in the middle of a year number? I'm offended. Besides, high-tech stuff like Adobe InDesign offers more elegant methods than hyphenation to make copy fit in the columns, like changing the spacing of a whole paragraph. In general, though, what you call anal, I call editing. Tomay-to, tomah-to.