Being a beginner and bridging the gap

When it comes to writing, I am a beginner. I mean, I’ve been writing on blogs since I was 14 and making up stories since I was very small and writing in some sort of journalistic mindset since I was in my mid-teens, but make no mistake, I am still a total beginner.

I didn’t realize how much of a beginner I was until I started my internship at the National Post last week. I work in the business section, the Financial Post, surrounded by incredibly smart, wonderful people. Some of them have been working there since the mid-80’s, well before the National Post had even come into existence. There are former lawyers, very established columnists and many excellent beat reporters with more than 10 years covering one particular topic. Some have been at the paper longer than I’ve been alive.

The senior intern is a wonderful woman who has already done two daily newspaper internships, turned down an MBA acceptance and is going back into her second year of law school in the fall.

Then there’s me.

So far I’ve written two, small online posts and both have been so heavily edited I wonder what wasn’t spackled and fixed. I have a feature due tomorrow and I’m terrified it will be awful and I don’t have enough quotes, despite it being a fun, interesting topic. I have another feature due next week and just thinking about the list of contacts makes me nervous.

I am terrified of being awful at this internship. Not being productive enough, annoying the other reporters and editors, not making the most of my time in the offices, not learning fast enough and generally becoming a big mess.

I’m already lucky. I know enough people in the newsroom I can frequently ask out for coffee and get advice from about how to be a better intern and reporter. But that doesn’t help eliminate the fear in my head that tells me I can’t do this, that I should give up, that things aren’t going to get better and doing all of this was the wrong decision.

When the video of Ira Glass’s words of advice to beginners came into my Twitter feed last week, I listened to it three times. It wasn’t the first time I had heard the interview, but in my moment of growing panic, listening to it reminded me what I was feeling was totally normal.

And I am ready to work.


1 thought on “Being a beginner and bridging the gap

  1. jlin

    Hey just enjoy the experience. My first internship was with VanMag – the entire crew was incredibly helpful and just being in the moment helped develop those “writerly instincts”. Becoming aware of how to write, what to do, why these topics matter, who to ask questions of, when to stay silent and let the subject matter and interviewees speak for themselves, where to add that comma, that semicolon. It comes down to those extremely basic questions. Keep you ears open and all of a sudden, there is no panic.

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