It was late Friday afternoon and my editor at the Globe was calling to tell me that she’d decided the story idea she’d sent me earlier should be a full-length feature rather than just a short clip – and that she was therefore going to reassign it to another writer since I had two other articles on deadline for this weekend.
“No, let me keep it!” I exclaimed before I could give it much thought. “It’s exactly my type of story!”
And it is, too: a profile of a Boston-area writer who travels the country visiting major league ballparks so that he can then write mysteries for grade-school aged readers about the different parks and teams. Much as I lament the fact that I lack the hard-hitting drive of an investigative reporter or the tenacity of a political correspondent, I love the niche I’ve found for myself: features about not-so-famous people doing interesting things. Or, as I once put it after doing a story about the anomalously high number of twins in one grade in Carlisle and another one about kids with food allergies, “I do stories about twins, stories about food allergies, stories about twins with food allergies.” Or, as one friend has occasionally described my career, “Drawing water from a stone.” Of course, that was before I wrote a feature about him and his family that filled out three-quarters of a section cover on a recent Sunday.
But both of the other two stories I needed to work on this past weekend were exactly my type of story too, and my editor was just trying to lessen the burden on me.
Hearing myself protest to keep all three stories, I almost had to laugh. My editor didn’t know that we’d just moved two days earlier: my house was chock full of boxes to be unpacked, plus I had all the usual weekend responsibilities associated with kids and household; the truth is it was a terrible time for me to take on triple my usual workload.
But I just couldn’t say no, because I simply love writing feature stories and can never pass up the opportunity to do so. When I started freelancing for the Globe about six years ago, each assignment I received was a thrill beyond measure. Days I had an article published felt like my birthday, all day.
And that’s changed only slightly. It no longer feels like my birthday when I have a story in print, now that I’ve come to realize how few people actually read every story in the paper on a daily basis, and I no longer want to run around the house screaming with excitement every time an editor assigns me a story. But as witnessed this weekend, even now that I submit a weekly column and do two or three additional features every month, it still delights me beyond reason to have an assignment, two assignments, a whole pile-up of assignments.
I write features for a major city newspaper. What was long ago a dream and then later a novelty is now more like a regular job, or as regular a job as a freelancer can hope to have. But it still thrills me. And that, I have to believe, is just how a career should be.