Cutting open a vein
It was only recently that I began to understand my favorite quotation about writing.
“Writing is easy,” it begins. “You just open a vein and bleed.”
The sentence hit me hard; a welcoming start and kind words with such poignant meaning leading to a hard ending that made me read it over and over (mostly because I didn’t understand it).
A correct definition of these 10 words probably exists, but I had to find out what meaning it held for me.
Biases are treated as sins in journalism. In a way though, I use my own to help write stories.
A double standard is at work in interviews where we, as journalists, hope people share pieces of themselves and their lives without us doing the same. Like a sponge, we walk around holding the stories of so many, while maintaining virtual anonymity. One sponge is just like another.
Unless you’re a columnist, that reluctance to share who you are is for the best. Naturally, those whom you speak with will think differently of you –for better or worse- the more they learn about you. That could translate to altered interview responses and straying from the truth for fear of being judged.
But to cut open a vein and bleed means to use past experiences in your own life to better understand those who you are writing about. Think about how you felt in similar experiences of those you are talking to and ask questions based on that prior knowledge.
See yourself in your subjects. To cut open a vein and bleed, to me, is to leave a part of yourself in stories.
Going through the human experience brings the extremes of joy and pain. Not all of us have gone through the same to get to those points, but we know what those emotions feel like. Tears are tears.
Although personal experience is being used to relate internally, those parts of your own life stay on the inside. People being interviewed did not sign up to hear somebody else talk about themselves.
The best interviews are conversations. Whether it’s with a high school running back or a millionaire pro, people feel comfortable talking with those they can relate to. Find a thread and weave it into something bigger.
There’s more to leaving your mark on a story besides the byline. Your blood should be on the page –even if you’re the only one that can see it.