I used to be a newspaper editor and reporter. Lately, I’ve found myself missing one particular aspect of that career.
Working for small-town weeklies, you quickly become a Jack-of-all-reportage. Politics, crime, features, sports, property transactions, obituaries … chances are you’ll wind up doing at least a little bit of everything.
One of my favorite days was a Friday about 17 years ago. I started the morning with a development review board meeting and site visit. Then I interviewed a woodcarver who’d crafted a tribute to the victims of 9/11. After lunch, I met up with the very definition of an old-timey Vermonter to talk about his life before we went into the woods to track moose. That night I covered a basketball game.
Really great day.
The best part of that day – and in general my favorite part of journalism –was feature writing. I loved spending time with someone, having dedicated one-on-one interaction, the mutual understanding of respectful and honest inquiry. It was so cool to show up with the intention of learning about one things from a person and leaving knowing a million other things. Being able to write a more informed story and creating a more well-rounded word portrait of my subject.
Lately I’ve had repetitive anxiety dreams about my time in journalism. I’ll get assignments and feel like I’m incapable of doing them. I’m scared to seek out the interviewees because I know I’ll just be wasting their time. Most of the time in this dreamscape, I sit at my old desk, a ball of twisted panic growing and spreading through my body. I can’t pick up the phone, the interviews never happen, and the stories remain untold.
At the same time in the waking world, I’ve become hyper-aware of the amazing lives the people around me have lived. The individuals who present as your average 9-to-5, unassuming sort, but have experiences, lessons, and stories at the ready. All it takes is a little gentle chipping at the veneer to get them exposed.
It’s also probably no mistake on the part of my subconscious that as I’ve been working through this stuff, I’ve been writing about Lauren conducting an interview over in The Comfort Rock Chronicles on this blog.
Anyway, I decided I’m going to get back in the game and start doing feature writing again. Confront my anxiety head-on and reignite some of what I enjoyed most about writing for newspapers. And I’ll share it here.
I’m calling the series The Hidden People, and I’ll talk to folks who are doing whatever. And also not doing whatever. Or appearing to not do or ever have done whatever. I’ll peel back the layers again and share the incredible stories that go unknown as we live our lives right next door to them.
Sometimes – like the first interview I did for this – there will be a hook to hang the story on. Other times – probably most times – there won’t be. I’ll just talk to someone and see what comes up.
And I’m up for whatever. Subjects can be named, first-name-only, or anonymous. However the subject is most comfortable. All topics are on the table. I want this to be fun, interesting, and messy.
Look for the first installment of The Hidden People within the next week or so. From there, it’ll appear whenever I can fit it into my schedule. Hopefully more often than not.
Who are The Hidden People? Every day in different ways, we all are.