Reflections and writing tips from 'Distorting history invites an uneasy future'
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No, folks, this is not where America’s European settlers first made home. (Photo by Thomas Hawk)
Every political journalist knows about the stump speech. It’s that part of a politician’s public presentation that the reporter probably can recite by heart, because it gets rolled out for audiences from Albuquerque to Zanesville. The politician’s staff loves the stump speech, because it takes away the threat that a candidate may say something spontaneous that could prove embarrassing; a candidate who can adhere to the prepared script, or at least the agreed-upon talking points, is described approvingly as “disciplined.”
That’s not what “disciplined” means to a writer. And here’s my first point of writing advice this week. Our discipline shows up in two ways: First, in our habit of writing – that is, sticking to it even when life throws up barriers to reaching the keyboard and meeting deadlines — and, second, in bringing rich research or reporting to a piece. We can’t have a real writing life if we only talk about the writing, and don’t get it done, and we won’t deliver anything worth reading if we fail to do enough reporting and then fall back on the sort of rant that’s characteristic of talk radio or (same clientele) the dude on the next barstool. That is, we need self-discipline.