Mostly, these days, I write about other people. I’ve written plenty about myself over the years, in essay form and even in one memoir about parenting, but essays aren’t an easy way for a journalist to make a living, and my own experience is by definition finite. Writing about other people gives me a nearly endless scope of options. Plus it’s more interesting than writing about myself.
So when my editor at the Boston Globe asked me to write an essay about my own five-yearrunning streak as part of a series on outdoor activities that he was planning for the month of May, I was surprised to find myself feeling ambivalent. As a younger writer, I would have jumped at the chance to write about my own pursuits, but in this age of constant overexposure through Facebook, Twitter, websites, blogs and numerous other forms of self-promotion (in truth, though, I haven’t even dipped a toe yet into the world of Instagram or Pinterest), it seemed self-serving to take advantage of the soapbox he was offering.
But being a senior editor at a major national newspaper, he did not ask me for my opinion of the assignment; he simply assigned it. And I wrote it, hoping as I did so that my friends and neighbors and acquaintances would somehow read between the lines and know that this time, the self-promotion actually wasn’t my idea.
And in the end, it was fun. I’m accustomed to opening the paper in the morning (or, more literally, booting it up, since I subscribe to the electronic version) and seeing my byline, but I’m certainly not used to seeing my own picture. It was even more fun to get emails and Facebook posts throughout the day complimenting the story. It was almost like my birthday: a day when I felt celebrated, instead of like the person responsible for celebrating other people.
Before the day was over, I was back to turning my focus outward. I was on deadline for two different stories and couldn’t squander too much time celebrating myself. Instead, I researched and interviewed and drafted, just like I do most work days. Today I turn once again full force to using my column space for exploring the good works and deeds of others. But it was fun to be Queen for a Day. And if I’m offered the opportunity again after I complete another five years of my running streak, I’ll take it.