Learn to labor and to wait

Though my words here become digital, I titled this blog “ink-stained life” because I have literally surrounded myself with words. Like most writers, my bookshelves overflow with work I admire and books I hope to eventually read. (I’m a book hoarder.) Magazines are piled in nooks throughout my house–on the coffee and end tables, yes, but also in drawers, nightstands and under a bookcase. Most of the art I own is letterpress, with messages I believe in: a line of poetry from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, a message of hope for a recovering community, a simple reflection on good coffee. My bedside lamp is even topped with a shade covered in calligraphy (though I think it’s in French–I certainly can’t read it!).

My point is, I firmly believe in the value of communication. It’s not just a job, it’s life. But tonight, my challenge is to condense one form of that communication into a 50-minute presentation.

I’m speaking Friday to a group of high school students at a journalism conference. I love this kind of thing, partly because I wish I had sought out more opportunities when I was growing up. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was 10 years old, and I feel like I’m a lucky one: I make a living doing what I set out to do.

So I’m thrilled to teach these kids about feature writing. But tonight, I’ve lost myself in Pulitzer Prize Feature Stories and tried to avoid The Best American Magazine Writing 2002 (simply because there are too many tempting stories within, and I eventually need to go to bed). I’m overwhelmed by all there is to teach, and all I have still to learn by reading and studying work by people like Alice Steinbach, Chris Jones, Anna Quindlen.

Then, that’s exactly why I agree to speak at events like this. I want these kids to know the joy that comes from reporting, writing and improving.

Today’s subject line comes from Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “A Psalm of Life.”

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