It’s been over a year since I wrote my first installment on this topic, but especially with the events of this year, it’s time to open it up again. Especially with what’s going on with the U.S. citizens catching Ebola, one of which working for my organization, it’s definitely a relevant topic. Though, I won’t be talking about that situation. You can read everything you need to know about the Ebola outbreak on Samaritan Purse’s website here.
What really compelled me to write though, was this video:
I can relate, buddy. Boy, can I relate. Sometimes, what’s going on in the world can be too much. It can be too much for the general media consumer who is staying up-to-date on current events. But a lot of times, it’s the writers/reporters who really have the heavy end of the stick.
This week, there was one point where I just stared at the blank, white Word Document on my screen, watching my cursor blink rhythmically as it waited for me to put words down. And I couldn’t. I wished and willed and prayed, but an article I probably should have taken thirty minutes to write, tops, took a whole lot longer. Sometimes, the words don’t come easily, even for the people who are wordsmiths by trade. And you’re bombarded with questions like…
What can/can’t I tell people?
What should I tell people?
How can put this into words at all?
How can I convey the emotion this deserves without letting mine spiral out of control?
The first week the interns started this summer, I got the privilege to take one on a trip to a Disaster Relief retreat with all our volunteers, which is always great since it’s a time to see all these great people who I see fairly regularly– except this time we’re not surrounded by utter devastation and the smell of rancid meat or mold. We were sitting around dinner, talking to various volunteers, and some were asking me blogging tips since many raise support via blogs so they can take off work to volunteer with us. The intern turned to me and asked, “But how do you make sure you capture the real story?”
Without missing a beat while cutting another bite of food I said in front of the whole table: “Simple. I open my laptop and sob. THEN I write.”
Though of course, I assured her I wasn’t pulling one of these on the daily:
But, like I’ve said before, sometimes I just need a good cry to feel what my subjects are feeling, especially after spending a day in their shoes, to truly capture their stories. For this reason, when I’m on a disaster, I tend to want to write most of my stories while I’m still there onsite, that way, I can channel the feeling even more.
My last trip to a tornado zone, I didn’t get the chance to cry. Homeowner after homeowner– most of them knew someone who died, and their stories were devastating. One woman lost her mother next door. Another family lost a woman who was their sister/mother/aunt who owned her own day care. She was found outside her storm shelter as if she had been running to it. In her arms was a child wrapped in a blanket. She was gone, but the child lived. And standing in that pile of rubble that was her home after talking to her family, I felt like my entire heart had been ripped from my chest. I walked among her belongings, avoiding splintered wood with wayward nails and the scattered diapers and children’s toys.
But still, I was completely without tears that trip. I blame being sick while there. And it really messed me up writing wise. So much so that it took me three months to write this happy, little blog where I got to dance with the sweetest old lady in her driveway.
And so, sometimes when I’m really caught in a place where I’m writing about sad things, like I was this week, there’s only one thing left to do. And that’s pray and listen to stuff like this:
But also, it’s to remember that it’s okay to cry and the good journalists do it too.