The start of the meeting went something like this:
“Kev, you need to write some sweet stories.”
“Yeah, but I don’t want to do something standard. I want to, like, infiltrate a sub-culture or something.”
“Fine, yeah. I’m with you. What did you have in mind?”
“Ok. Be specific.”
“I dunno, but i bet some sh*t goes on in Cambridge.”
“What type of sh*t?”
“Uh… edgy, counter-culture type sh*t.”
“Yeah. That’s not a story idea.”
Eventually, joined by the other editor, things got more specific. The editors tried to convince me to do stories that required investigative journalism and phone calls and I tried to convince them that I should do (hilarious!!) essays with little to no reporting. (Note: story ideas have been changed to protect their awesomeness and ensure that someone else doesn’t pitch them, sign the contracts and get the money that I need to pay for the It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia DVD I just purchased off Amazon)
“What about you trying to take down this major Boston institution? I mean, that’s the type of story that makes a writer’s career.”
“Hmmmm. What about if I write a ‘Where is He Now’ profile of Rick Astley? But not even like a profile, more like an essay about where I think he is now…”
“Rick Astley? The singer from the 80s? Is he even from Boston?”
“I’m sure he’s been to Boston.”
This back and forth is a central part of the story-creation process. When I was younger I was so happy just to be getting paid to write that I would feign enthusiasm for pretty much anything, and come away with contracts for stories that I not only wasn’t very amped up about, but also didn’t really understand. Of course, unless you’re named Mitch Albom or working part-time for a hedge fund, the reality of the situation is you probably need money, and sometimes you have to do things strictly to keep your electricity/DVR working. But–as I’ve said repeatedly– one of my only strengths (aside from being devastatingly modest) is that I am now very aware of my limitations as a writer and no longer feel that familiar Catholic-tinged guilt of my youth when I turn down an idea that I know I wouldn’t be best for anyway.
Anyway, we did eventually come up with several story ideas to pursue that sated both parties and I left feeling productive and principled. Plus, being hypothetically flush with cash from my new contracts, I spent the rest of the day on iTunes, downloading the remaining eight Rick Astley tracks I had yet to purchase and poking people on Facebook. Win-f-ing-Win.
Stay tuned later on this week for a sweet very short but completely essential writing quiz.