Surfacing

For most of the last two weeks I've been living in my robe, eating dinner after dinner of shucked mussels, spinach, quick-chopped Kumato tomatoes (this is what happens to "readymade rations" if you live near a Whole Foods), Triscuits, and the occasional icebox vodka. Off Facebook, off Twitter, off anything that could distract me from the profile of a musician that I've been working on. 

Well, okay, I took a break for a trio of baseball games. This has been a revelatory season, and it's fun to be part of it. I have many memories of trekking up to Baltimore to watch the O's, and when the Nats first came to DC I accompanied my dad on some obligatory outings. But this year I've gotten to follow closely enough to recognize the tics (and fill in the bios) of individual players; this year the visiting team's at-bats is not the time to chat, but the time to watch Strasburg work his magic. I've always loved the game in the abstract, but this year I get to love it in the day-to-day.

Back to the writing. I'd be specific, but until the assignment feels like a sure thing I don't want to jinx it. I could hear a smile in my editor's voice when I called yesterday and told him he had copy coming his way. "Your job is done for a bit," he said. 

Nope. I wish hitting "Send" felt that way. Something I've noticed in journalism: there is no sigh of relief. Instead I am doubting last-minute cuts for length, concerned someone's feelings will be hurt if they are not mentioned, already thinking ahead to the first edit, aware I have to work up an annotated copy for the fact-checkers that requires re-tracing hours of tape. It is different when your source material is your life, or the imaginative well of poetry, or even the static object of a book being reviewed. With profiles or travel pieces, we capture people and places as a kind of permanent record. In spite of everyone's inherent quirks and myths, their inconsistencies, they trust us to dedicate reality faithfully to the page--and sometimes the more ambiguous the reality, the better the piece, which means we must both record and interpret. I take that responsibility seriously. I worry I'm not good enough. I lose sleep over it at night.  

I'm not saying this to whine, just being honest.  I have a feeling my friend Wright Thompson, who works for ESPN and wrote this amazing piece, would laugh at me. Loudly. This is part of the gig. But I'm an MFA baby--no one trains us for this. 

There are some good posts going on around the blogosphere. I loved Leslie's anecdote about interviewing for The New Yorker. I felt a sharp pang of sympathy for Jeannine, whose press has announced closure. People talk about blogs as a dying form, yet neither one of these experiences would have been told right through Facebook or Twitter alone.