Bozen – As usual, time passes, delivery deadline draws closer, and there is still little sign of a compelling idea. It is always like this. I knew of the job three weeks ago and now it is ‘lift off - minus 1’ and I am still struggling in my mind. ‘1000 words for X euro’ is the general instruction of the Editor, just as if I am some sort of machine and will produce beauty at the stroke of a pen. Little does ‘Editor’ know that days of uncertainty lie ahead for me, mulling ideas round in my head, composing scripts by memory … and then dismissing them as falling short of the mark. Perhaps a walk will help, or how about a beer, or why not just sit down at my desk and the words will flow. No such luck, for I know only too well that I must go through the process and in the most unexpected circumstances inspiration will come and the whole thing, the complete topic on what to write about, will jump out at me and all that remains for me is to capture the moment. After an age of trying to come up with something original, something which will appeal to the public, may, no less, keep the Editor happy, and even mean something to myself, the magical moment has come. So much thought has been dedicated to half-ideas but which have sadly been auto rejected after realising that they would remain incomplete as a piece of prose, not appeal to the public in the slightest, or be dismissed as being superficial and irrelevant by ‘you know who’.
That moment of capturing what one is going to write about is akin to a revelation and takes a whole weight off one’s shoulders. The writing will be the easy part as the germ is now firmly fixed and the growth and the production of the article is merely a step in logic, an unravelling of a thought process, a confidence that all will go for the best and that the conclusion to the article will take care of itself. I guess it is the same in many forms of writing, be it poems, short stories, or longer novels. History is full of examples of writer’s cramp where the pen literally ceases to write and any idea is as far away as a shooting star. ‘Writer’s cramp’ it is known as. It might even be the same in business when one is struggling for solutions, or one’s private life where domestic issues are in need of an answer and the solution may seem a million light years ahead.
The paragraphs above serve to illustrate that the topic of this article, principally at least, is the drama of feature writing. After all, “a feature story is not hard news and is distinguished by the quality of the writing”, is how Wikipedia defines what I do. Furthermore: “stories should be memorable for their reporting, crafting, creativity and economy of expression”.
So, for the sake of example, let me make a little analysis of how the idea for this present feature article came about. Two days to go to delivery deadline and bereft of any exciting theme to write about (who am I to comment on the migrant crisis?; what do I know about political coalitions?; I can’t even claim expertise to write about the latest fashion trends for autumn!) I turned to reading my novel so as to empty my mind a little. Ironic really that reading is often a form of escapism – to get away from a pressing problem or two. Having read for a couple of hours I was about to retire to bed when ‘it hit me out of the blue’. Yes, I would write about the drama of feature writing – how the very experience I was undergoing materialised and how it both worried me and excited me. There would be so much to tell and I could describe the many aspects – the happiness of having a task to complete, the initial excitement of playing around with ideas, the realisation that nothing was really convincing me as being a suitable theme, and finally the satisfaction and relief when the crazy unprompted solution came. It’s like a ‘rain of thought’ about what feature writing is all about, the stress it creates and the bliss it gives, and hence we are where we are in this article. The moment of discovery, the moment the idea convinces you is like a car engine slipping into fourth gear – you slip through the gears as the paragraphs come to light and you begin to purr as the vehicle cruises along. Now all there is to do is to keep calm, make a few quick notes as paragraph headings, jot down an adjective or three which will brighten the article, list the verbs which are surely to be included, add those idiomatic expressions which are already running through your mind – and breathe a sigh of relief which quickly turns into a cat-like grin. It has all been worthwhile, the minutes and hours which have been dedicated to the process, the playing of ideas which have accompanied me in recent days – perhaps for a week or more – have now produced a result, and one which gives me a sense of fulfilment and even a sense of victory. Sleep is now not a problem but welcome hours of happy dream-free relaxation. And what does the morning bring? Yes, the pen flows, the paragraphs lead on easily one from the other, and it is as if writing is the simplest of activities. My task is done and the conclusion is simply a reflection on the highs and lows, the emotions and concerns of producing a piece of work which can be presented to the Editor, surely sitting with coffee in hand and critical eye ready to evaluate and to pick out the words to include in the glossary.
lift off minus 1: Eins vor dem Start
to mull: überdenken
to fall short of sth.: etw. unterschreiten
akin to: verwandt mit
to come about: zustande kommen
escapism: Flucht aus der Wirkichkeit
to purr: schnurren, surren
to jot: schnell niederschreiben