My byline has changed. Instead of “Michael Althouse, Colfax Record Intern,” it now reads “Michael Althouse, Colfax Record Staff Writer.” A promotion? It sure feels like it. My editor said in an email to me today that her boss felt that they could not call me an intern because I was (wrote) the whole front page. The way it all happened was odd, to say the least.
Sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good? Sure, but nothing beats being lucky and good.
Of course my goal is to be a better writer, to be able to create my own breaks and opportunities. I will also acknowledge, albeit reluctantly, that I am a good writer. In fact, I’ll even say that luck, though perhaps necessary, is never enough. Without the work I have done over the past several months and years to get positioned, the breaks I received of late would be absolutely meaningless.
In hearing the personal accounts of how some journalists got their breaks, it is rare that it was just hard work and education. They all had that “lucky break,” or several. However, equally universal is that they were driven, motivated and in position to capitalize on the breaks as they presented themselves. Such was the case, on a smaller scale, this past weekend.
Colfax had its annual Independence Day celebration on Sunday, July 2nd. Being the small town that it is, many of it’s 1,600 residents had a part in putting on a party that would increase the towns population tenfold for one day. Such was the case with my boss and the other full-time employee – they were participants and it was up to the part-timer and me to “cover” the entire event – the biggest shebang for the entire year.
I was up for it. Scared? Hell yes. The weight of the world, or at least this small piece of it was on my shoulders. Friends would ask what I was doing for the holiday and I responded, “working.” Why would I have to work on the holiday? They didn’t get it. I didn’t have to, I got to – and it was a choice I made. Would it have been covered if I didn’t do it? Probably. As completely? Probably not. Add to the mix that, for whatever reason, the part-timer had little to contribute.
On Monday, July 3rd, I had class in the morning (no, it was not a holiday and no, my friends didn’t get that either) and Monday afternoon I wrote. Monday is usually the deadline, but this week, Tuesday was acceptable. Tuesday, Independence Day, I wrote in the office. Now my friends were just baffled, especially since I was not even getting paid for it. In fairness to them, they could not see what I saw; could not feel what I felt; they had no way of knowing that this is not “work” to me.
The end result was unexpected, but in retrospect not exactly surprising either. I worked my butt off. I walked through the fear. I faced a challenge armed with skills and knowledge that I have been working equally hard at honing. Opportunity knocked and I answered. Now, not only am I a “Staff Writer,” I am even getting paid – at a very, very entry-level amount – for my writing. The amount is not relevant… what is relevant is that I have been paid to write – I am, by definition, a professional writer. Game, set, match.