Don’t Wait to be Inspired to Write

I once read this great story about a young writer named Amanda Hocking.  Hocking writes fantasy stories and became a guru of self-publishing (translation: financially successful) before getting a pretty sweet deal from a publisher for a couple million dollars.

But that’s not what I like about Hocking. What’s cool about her is that even as a young writer, she was smart enough to work as hard as possible on her writing and sell it in any way she could. She said in the story I read about her with the NYTimes that she treated writing as a job, and wrote even when she “didn’t feel like it.”

That mixture of old school and new school is a magic combination these days. The new ways to get ideas and information out put the power in the hands of writers. If you really want to write and publish something, nobody can stop you except you. You could still flop, but at least you’d be writing and trying to sell your writing. It reminds me of street musicians. They are out there, performing, doing their thing, even though it’s just on the street. They might be making $50 or $100 a day, but at least they are practicing, performing, and getting better (hopefully) at their craft.

Personally, I love street musicians just because of that. They overcome who knows what to get out and perform for strangers. Writers have to do the same thing. It’s easy to write in a journal and be bold about what you are saying when you know nobody is going to read it. It’s easy to write any old thing on your blog and post it for the entire Internet-using world to potentially see. But to write professionally and with a purpose is different. To write as a writer, regardless of external forces that might make it seem unfeasible for you to work.

There’s a great TED talk by a guy named Gary Vaynerchuk, called Do what you love (no excuses!). My favorite line in Vaynerchuk’s talk goes something like this: “If you love Smurfs, Smurf it up!” Well said, man.

Jerusalem’s Confusing Geography

Tensions at Jerusalem’s Old City’s Damascus Gate

Reporting on any story involves a bit of geography; often a bit of map reading. For those of us not naturally skilled at reading maps and taking directions, this can be….well, tough. But Israel is a particular challenge.

The capital city, Jerusalem, even though technically and officially united, is still mentally and emotionally divided between east and west by an invisible “green line.” There are sometimes disputes about what is on which side, and sometimes disputes about what belongs to which side. The City of David is a perfect example of one of the many controversial points in Jerusalem.

Even inside Jerusalem’s Old City, residents of east Jerusalem can sometimes find it difficult to do something as simple as go to the mosque at Al Aqsa to pray. The Old City has ancient territorial divisions between different religions, and when there are security concerns, the Israeli authorities take control and make it harder for everyone to move about.

The key to understanding, navigating, and enjoying Jerusalem is to navigate around major landmarks. As with many things in Israel, it’s seriously complicated.

In Journalism, Photographers and Writers on Unequal Footing

I have often wondered about the difference between photojournalists and reporters. Aside from the obvious differences of the medium that they use to convey information, it seems that in the shifting media industry, photojournalists are more equipped to succeed professionally and financially.

While writing a recent article for Quill, the magazine of the Society of Professional Journalists, on how independent and emerging journalists are shaping the future of the industry, this difference became very evident. Photojournalists seem to be, in general, more aware of the resources that are available in terms of training, funding, project work, client work, and potential career pathways. Reporters (writers) seem more at the mercy at the industry, less certain about how to proactively create and exploit existing opportunities, and more naieve about available resources. In short, as freelancers and independent business people, photographers seem to be on more solid footing.