Staying in touch with your creative side while keeping it separate from the hard news side can be challenging for journalism majors, who spend their college careers writing articles for classes or the college newspaper or outside gigs. Your assignments (which you thought were lovely little stories) are handed back to you practically bleeding from all of the red lines that cross out “unnecessary” words or suggest that you simplify your wording. And then there’s the inverted pyramid, which requires you to rank the information from most important to least important, usually giving away all of the good information in the first sentence (and you had such a good idea for a lead-in!).
And yes, if you were wondering, the inverted pyramid never goes away (and neither does AP Style, so go invest in a copy and update it every other year, at least), so use it
because you will frustrate your college newspaper editor beyond belief if you turn in a submission that looks like an essay. Basically, what you learn in class will carry over to the real world, so study it. Pick up a copy of a newspaper. Unless the story is a feature story, chances are it begins with something to the effect of: “On Sunday, Sept. 11, thousands gathered at Freedom Memorial Park in Pleasantville, Pa., to remember those who died 10 years ago.” One sentence. Who (was there?). What (happened?). Where (was the event?). When (did the event take place?). Why (I have no idea what the “why” is, but I thought I’d include it, anyway).
As I was saying.
For journalism majors, the simplicity of news stories can drain creativity. For creatives in other majors, the lack of focus on writing in general (except for essays or lab reports or what not) can be an imagination killer, too. In general, college can really take its toll on your creative side, unless you make time to write.
+ Check out DeviantART (or Flickr, or Tumblr), if you haven’t already. Find a submission and write a random story about it. One of my friends suggested this last semester. If you’re a journalism major, write a news story and pretend the image is the feature image for the story. Practice both writing styles.
+ Keep a personal journal (or blog). Write in it (or post) every day. I keep sheets of paper in my planner, so I can always write (this is especially helpful if I know I won’t have time later in the day). Especially because my blogging has lately fallen by the wayside.
+ Buy a notebook and use it specifically for jotting down story ideas, characters, poetry and anything else creative.
Write in it during class if you sit in the back, because you can pretend you’re taking notes. Find somewhere comfortable between classes and people watch. Use them as inspiration.
+ When writing an assignment, write the creative story, first. Then, pare it down to the essentials needed for a journalism story. It will take you longer, but may save you time in the long run, since you’ve already eliminated most of the “fluff” (because your professor will always find more).