A friend who liked my last post told me I should send it to the Guardian. I knew it wouldn’t do – just another disaffected Baby Boomer complaining about the state of the world – but I have to say the idea appealed to me. I’ve always secretly fancied having a go at journalism – putting out the odd article, reviewing a few books, or maybe having a regular column where I could witter on about anything and everything like I do here. In fact I’ve always thought it was something I might be able to do quite well – in so far as I can do any sort of writing well. Obviously a lot of people have the same idea, since here we all are blogging away and trying to attract a readership.
In reality I know that being a journalist takes an awful lot more than that. Not only does your writing have to be of a high standard – I’m not talking red tops here – you have to know how the newspaper world works, be flexible about what, when and how you write, work to tight deadlines and word limits, and above all treat the job in an utterly professional way. When I was an undergraduate I always had the idea that I would like to write for one of the student papers, but I had such limited confidence in my writing and so little idea as to how to go about it that it never happened. Compared to young people now I was unbelievably unworldly and un-savvy, and in those days, even though I knew I wanted to write, the idea of becoming any sort of writer was still a far-off dream. After university I wondered about trying to become a journalist, but the main qualification for getting a foot on any sort of ladder was that you should already have been published somewhere. As I couldn’t see my way to doing that, and at the time there was an age limit for getting into journalism courses (26, if I remember rightly), my prospects seemed to be virtually nil. In any case I wouldn’t have been equipped back then for such a demanding career; now, at an age when people are thinking about retirement, I could probably handle it much better.
So the overcrowded world of journalism lost another not very likely hopeful. My journalistic aspirations didn’t completely go away, though. At work I found myself editing newsletters and writing pieces for them, and outside work I wrote book reviews for a humanistic psychology journal and took on the editorship of a network-cum-newsletter. In fact there was more of me in my editorials than there ought to have been. I found them again recently and saw I had given people the benefit of my opinions about the Gulf War and the American healthcare system, not to mention some of my quirkier comments about life and – on one occasion – a whole article about something I shouldn’t have been meddling in at all. In other words I was writing what should have been a column, or of course a blog, if such things had been invented then. Inappropriate as it was, I grabbed with both hands the opportunity to write directly for an audience and say things that (often misguidedly) I thought would be of interest. By my standards now the pieces were not bad, and the tone and style were quite fitting for a certain sort of journalism. But journalism they weren’t: they were just me play-acting at being a journalist.
Perhaps it’s obvious now why I’ve seized on this blog with such delight: it’s the forum I’ve always wanted. The journalist manquee in me has come to life and is having a whale of a time writing and publishing whatever I want, in a style that I like to think is suitably journalistic. What more could I ask for? Not a lot, except that it would still be nice to be published properly in one of the papers. Perhaps a Fairy God-editor might think there’s potential there and declare, waving a magic ruler,”But you shall be given a column.” Well, we all have our dreams.