on writing – a column


This column was inspired by my summer spent in Washington, D.C. where I reported for a news service hosted by my journalism school. I worked up to 12-hour shifts under the shrewd hand of Steve Crane – my editor. Crane is an intense, brilliant man with a short fuse. He is the master of brevity and has little patience when you can’t tell him things straight. Every sentence he speaks is like the lede at the top of a news story – never too much, always interesting, occasionally abrasive and eloquently brief. I never saw him eat lunch once. In fact, the only thing I ever saw him consume was a steady stream of coffee – black, probably 6 cups a day – and jelly beans.

An assortment of jelly beans taken straight from Crane's endless supply sitting in the newsroom.

An assortment of jelly beans taken straight from Crane’s endless supply sitting in the newsroom.

Naturally, I was determined to please him. I yearned to learn all I could from this crazy, bold, gray-headed man.

Sometimes, after some edits or hotheaded remark, I would have to sneak off to the bathroom, take a deep breath and hold back some tears. But I never left the bureau feeling unintelligent or unproductive. Not once. And walks home at midnight were no fun, trust me, but I craved the opportunity every week to sit down with him in his office while he editing the hell out of whatever I wrote – sometimes more lightly than others – and combed out all the kinks. At first it was traumatizing, truly, to watch him edit. I took every rephrase, word-change and rearrangement very hard. But I started to realize he wasn’t taking anything away from the stories, he was wringing out the excess and hanging up that would dry and catch the eye of other papers and get published. One even made it to the front page of the Arizona Republic.

And again, naturally, I am inclined to share some advice he gave me and the other three summer reporters – both directly and indirectly – but I am even more inclined to just start giving bits of information, tips etc. On Writing. So here’s the first of a mini, personal column.



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