The Sabbatical Chronicles

The public journal for my six-month writing sabbatical in 2018

After the previous week's non happening, I was able to jump on the horse and get get moving on the sabbatical. For the next seven or so weeks, I'll be focusing on honing my writing for radio.

Why radio? I see radio as being a great model for tight, concise writing. I've done radio work in the past – at journalism school, and as a freelance feature reporter early in my career. And, to be honest, I've missing writing for the ears.

It's been a while. It shows. That doesn't mean I'm backing down or giving up. I really believe that learning and relearning this particular type of writing will help me develop a more relaxed, conversational approach to my writing. An approach that I think has been missing from my work for a while.

For the next couple of weeks, I'll be focusing on writing radio news reports. In addition to the materials I've been going over, I've been doing something I haven't done for a while: listening to radio news – mainly Radio New Zealand, Radio Live, and BBC News. Why listen? To capture the tone and pacing, to try to pick up the cadence of the spoken word.

After that, my focus will be on writing longer, more expository radio-style pieces. I don't expect to reach the level of the late Stuart McLean or Studs Terkel.

As I mentioned a couple of paragraphs back, it's been a long time. The techniques and the practices, though, are slowly starting to come back.

Well, they were more than speedbumps. Thanks to a bunch of little things that cropped up in my personal life, I wasn't able to get underway. At least, in the way I wanted to.

So, on Wednesday I called an abort to week one of my writing sabbatical.

It's not the way I wanted to get started, but then again it's not a bad omen either. I started week one the other day, and I'm going to use the two extra days to catch up and gain some momentum.

What's happening this week? Let's just say it involves listening to the radio ...

If you follow me on Twitter or Mastodon, you might have seen some recent posts about the writing sabbatical I'm taking in the first six months of 2018.

Since I posted about that, a few people have asked me why I'm doing this. Read on to find out.

A Bit of Background

Before I get into the whys, you should know a bit about me — even if you know me, there are a few things that you should know.

I'm not someone pecking away at a keyboard in the corner of my home. Well, I am but I've also been writing professionally since around 1990. You do the math ... In that time, I'm written over 500 published articles, dozens of essays, a few ebooks, millions of words of documentation and marketing material, and thousands of blog posts.

As you can see, I'm standing on the shoulders of a pretty large body of work. A body of work that I should be proud of.

The Reason for the Sabbatical

You know what? I've never been happy with a large chunk of what I've written. I'm not a perfectionist, not by any standard. I've just never thought highly of my writing. Sure, there are a few pieces that stand out and of which I'm justifiably proud. I just don't feel great about most of what I've written.

While my confidence in my abilities as a writer has never been high, in the last 18 months or so that confidence has taken a beating. It's been dashed repeatedly against the jagged rocks of inadequacy.

I'm taking a page from the book of legendary jazz saxophonist Sonny Rollins and will be taking the next six months to hone my writing chops.

I've chosen three areas on which to focus in those six months. They're three areas that I'm interested in learning more about, and which also I think can help my writing as a whole.

What are those three areas? Check back next week to find out what I'll be tackling in the next two months.