Today, most people know me for my professional demeanor and cool charm (yeah right). But I wasn’t always this way.
When I started training as a professional journalist at the Daily Lobo, one of my big fears of sounding stupid would rear up when I’d call someone. The phone would ring ring ring, they’d say, “Hello?” and I’d panic, freeze and hang up fast. Too nervous to talk! Afraid of not knowing what to say, afraid of sounding too unfocused, or sometimes I’d just erupt into unstoppable laughing fits. I really had to work on that whole thing, too. Spaz.
So I kept hanging up on people until I could pull it together. Sometimes I’d write down what I was going to say, take a deep breath and call back.
I once had a phone interview with artist Patrick Nagatani. The day arrived, and I received news that a nice member of the Quaker Friends Meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida had been chopped to bits by violent people in Nicaragua, where he sometimes went to help rebuild communities. This really freaked me out and I felt sick all day.
When I called Nagatani that evening, the first thing he did was announce he was watching some violent movie, and he sounded happy about it. I got upset and started telling him about the perils of violence, and the murdered Quaker. He wondered why I was telling him this; I pointed out that maybe his Japanese lineage made me feel comfortable to freak out—cause, like, Zen and all that—and so we decided not to do the interview. Off on a foot too upsetting to continue.
I probably made up some reason for my editor as to why I couldn’t complete the article.
One common fear for writers is learning to write with an editor.
I remember being REALLY ANNOYED when an editor would go, “I don’t know what this means” and I’d think “WELL IT SAYS IT RIGHT THERE, I DON’T KNOW HOW ELSE I CAN HOLD YOUR HAND THROUGH THIS, JESUS CHRIST, AREN’T YOU A WRITER?” Out loud I’d explain what I’d meant, and I’d inadvertently clarify it. My editor would be like, “Oh!” type down what I had literally just said, and I’d see how writing clearly was so much more effective than reaching for some muddy poetics in my news coverage. Spaz.
Part of the joy of being a journalist is the little snap of fear associated with your author-name-byline standing at attention at the top of an article; the fear of being held accountable for your research and words. There are some who feel indifferent, but generally, if it doesn’t scare you, it thrills you. It thrilled me. I knew I would be forever hooked the first morning I woke up all early just to walk up the hill to check out my name at the top of my first real article.
Later on, when I was Editor-in-Chief, I wrote an editorial in which I used the word “bullshit.” The next day we ran a letter to the editor, or maybe it was just an online comment, but the guy was all, “I hope Eva is not indicative of the type of students we have here at UNM,” or something like that. I didn’t feel bad. I didn’t care. Yeah, I got the point, but I had evolved below or above the idea of not using “bullshit” in a newspaper editorial. You can’t let every whiny person get to you—you just can’t, or you’ll never write anything worth reading.
That’s with journalism, though. When it comes to personal writing, I have a built-in censor that keeps me from writing from the deepest regions of my soul. Because it would be nothing but embarrassing, incriminating, and what if my mom reads it? That sort of thing, which I debate with myself over whether it’s good to have a healthy sense of self-censorship and privacy or if I’m neglecting a potential audience by treating my life as an experimental joke. I don’t wanna front, I wanna dive!
Of course, that could be my need for connection talking. There are risks to exposing yourself and not exposing yourself. Ask any pedophile on the fence.
Photos by Will Miller.