Absolute Zero

It was then that I realized that I should stop trying to meet the standard.

Riley Letendre

“It was then that I realized that I should stop trying to meet the standard.”

Riley Letendre, Entertainment Editor

I love to write. I wake up every morning and find myself typing one of many stories on my phone before I get up and take a shower. Before I leave my house to drive to school, I have time set to write. I arrive at school and I write. I write in class. I write at lunch. I write in the car after school. I write when I get home and intermittently until I go to bed. I write, I write, I write. 

But writer’s block still hits without fail. I can write for fun all I want, but when I have to write for something important, my desire to try fades away. At least, that’s what has been happening to me recently. Knowing that what you’re writing is important can make it all the more difficult to get right. Working to get this Best of SNO writing excellence badge is killing me.

‘I’m supposed to be able to do this,’ I tell myself.  ‘For me, this is supposed to be easy.’”

If it wasn’t already glaringly clear, writing is everything to me. And not being able to find the right topic and the right words makes me feel like I’m deeply lost in a void – a brown and orange 1970s void where only oddly orchestral disco music plays. It’s a really bad limbo to live in, especially for a self-proclaimed 1980s fanatic.

It started with attending a webinar on the badge with my Editor-in-Chief. While it was a very nice and eye-opening presentation, I just found myself wanting to curl up and die. Write in AP style? Interview people? That isn’t me or my niche of journalistic work…not one bit. 

After learning of these tips, I moved into my writing phase. I tried to write about eating disorders and the internet until my advisor told me he wanted “charts and graphs” – you know, whatever that means. Then I had a rush of inspiration as my sister turned fourteen, wanting to discuss Brandy Melville and size inclusivity. But my trail of inspiration left just as fast as it came. I figured I had found the right idea when the editor-in-chief offered an opportunity for an article on nostalgia – “anything I could spin 80s would be great,” I thought. But I wrote the introduction and that was as far as I got. I even started an article on Dire Strait’s song “Money For Nothing” and how it reflects masculinity in the 1980s – not like anyone would read that or it would be relevant enough for SNO to publish. I only worked on it because I wanted to avoid the stress that this story has caused me.

At this point of writing, I’ve sat for hours, simply trying to come up with the perfect thing. Spending days trying to find out what has been so wrong with every story my classmates and I have submitted that we cannot make their publication. My last straw came when another editor submitted a feature on American coins. We thought it was perfect – it was written in AP style, used fair use photos, included hyperlinks, and had an interesting layout. The story was timely, unique, and of course, amazingly and passionately written. Yet it did not make the cut. 

It was then that I realized that I should stop trying to meet the standard. All I have done is work around the qualities others want my work to have, attempting to be seen as good enough. I think it’s important to note that not everybody has to do the same thing. Some people’s “thing” does not fit in an AP-style paper with multiple interviews on a topic that precisely balances between hyper-national and hyper-local. In high schools, student journalism should be far from relying on conformity and instead promote creativity and originality – the arbitrary judgments of SNO on my work should mean nothing. Who says an article can’t be good enough if it doesn’t have hyperlinks or interview people? Not all articles are the same – different newspaper columns exist for a reason! 

I’m going to stick to what I do best, and SNO can continue on with their cherry-picking of articles. Journalism, especially at the student level, should be all about working on what you love and loving what you do, rather than simply working to fit the mold. Just because an article hits all the points on a checklist doesn’t mean it’s good – sometimes, the best articles come from the heart, and come in a form unlike any you’ve seen before.