Learning as I go-week 4

I started college almost 4 years ago knowing that it would be a challenge. Not because I wasn’t very smart, but because it had been a long time since I’d had to study, do homework or take tests. I knew that I had the brains, but did I have the drive and motivation to keep going?

I had been to college before when my kids were little. I had tried my hand as an executive secretary, which I found out later was just another word for slave; I went to school to become a veterinarian assistant, but the first time they euthanized a dog in class and pulled out his brain, I was done. I also went to school to become an elementary education teacher but I got sick and had to quit.

But this time was different. I had thought long and hard about what it is I wanted to do the rest of my life. I loved to write, but was I good enough? Did I have what it takes to be persistent, to get the story and then turn around and write it in half an hour? I wasn’t sure, but I knew I wanted to try.

School wasn’t as bad as i thought it would be. I found out that I really enjoyed learning about different things that I hadn’t known before. It was kind of tough at times, but not having to take care of kids freed my time to concentrate more on my homework. (I applaud those parents who can go to school while raising kids–it’s extremely difficult!)

So I found my niche. My time in college taught me a lot about myself, things I hadn’t known before; I was too busy taking care of other people to even think about who I was. I learned that I loved being a writer, an editor, and even deadlines.

I also learned that I learn as I go. Trying to learn from a book is extremely excruciating for me and I learn better hands-on. Give me a computer and I can mess around with it until I find out how it works. Give me five chapters to read about how to do it, and you’ve lost me.

There was a time when that frightened me. Being thrown into something I have never done before is a scary thought but I have found that that is how I learn best. Throw me in and let me learn on how to swim on my own. Fortunately, I have people around me in case I do flounder, but I know this is the way I have to do it.

Week Four of the Hiawatha Advocate has gone well.  I’ve written a few stories and decided to use WordPress (hiawathaadvocate) as an addition to my website and personal blog. I produced my first video, and even though it was not the best, it also wasn’t the worst. I am confident that I will get better as time goes on.

So I’m learning as I go, what works, what doesn’t. My website is starting to look like an actual news publication. I know it will keep changing until I come up with something I really like and really works.

I’m also getting out and meeting people in the community, handing out my business cards and learning more about the community.  Tomorrow I’m going to a children’s concert at the Hiawatha library and I’m actually excited about it;  a great story and a great photo opportunity! Oh yeah, I’m sure the music will be good too.

Deadlines and other myths

My staff and I just finished the second issue of our newspaper, The Mount Mercy Times. We can now let out that breath we’ve been holding and relax.  Now we can say that we know what we’re doing, for the most part.

When I was first appointed editor-in-chief of my school’s newspaper, I knew I had my work cut out for me. I had experience with the layout software, I had two years of experience as an editor, I knew the  AP style of writing, (though there are still of a few words that puzzle me) and I knew how to write.  Still, there was still that leadership role, something I had only experienced in small doses.

I’ve learned that the only way to learn anything new is to just do it. Jump right in the middle and “let’s see what happens” kind of thing.  Though I wanted to get a handle on my position before I actually had to actually do anything, it was almost impossible to do because I had no idea what to expect.  The more I thought about it, the more anxious I became.  I decided that I would take the latter approach and would deal with the issues as they came up.

When deadline for our first issue inched closer, I felt like I was thrust into another world, a world of deadlines and chaos.  I was used to deadlines, I was used to chaos.  But together?  I suddenly had to deal not only with my own story deadlines but all the stories that would go into the paper. I had to deal with headlines and leads and modules and photos and insets and all the other things that go into a newspaper. I knew a little about all these things, but I received a crash-course in the newspaper process. And I loved it.

Yes,  my life has become a three-ring circus.  Yes, I am being forced to be organized and manage my time more efficiently (something I wanted to do anyway…eventually).  And yes, my stress level is extremely high.  But I am gaining valuable information from each issue we put out. I am learning to delegate without feeling guilty about it.  I’m learning to be diplomatic and choosing which battles are important and which don’t matter that much.  I’m learning to speak my mind and be firm.

As editor-in-chief, not only am I learning the fine art of producing a newspaper, I’m also learning how to work with people, all kinds of people. I know I will continue to make mistakes, but how else will I learn?   The best thing I can do is to jump in and just do it.