A Little Bit of Wonder is where I journal about the somewhat roundabout way that I have been working to establish a career and a strong sense of self--I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about "direction" and "identity." I have a Master's Degree in Literature, but I'm no longer working as an English Professor; I'm starting the next step in my life as I work to establish a career as a writer in the non-profit sector.

At my companion blog, Little Wonder's Recommended Reading, you will find reviews for both books and other blogs that I enjoy. The two blogs are inter-linked, so you can access my reviews and reading challenges from the sidebar on the left.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

It's Not Easy Being Green

She had gotten used to the byline, “Lois Lane, Investigative Reporter,” which looked real sweet on the front page of The Daily Planet. She worked her way to the top on her own – and she was used to getting all the credit for herself.

“It was nothing,” she tells her colleagues as they applaud her. The newsroom erupts in cheers after her latest exposé breaks, but despite her modesty, you can tell that she’s eating it all up from the wide smile on her face. She loves the attention, the notoriety. She loves the solo recognition.

Then Clark Kent shows up.

From a small town in Kansas, he might as well have been fresh off the boat, as far as Lois is concerned. But even though he only has a few articles from the Borneo Gazette to his name, he somehow wins over Editor-in-Chief Perry White – and suddenly the displeased Lois finds that she has a new partner. “Kent is a hack from Smallville,” she tells her boss, refusing at first to work with the handsome but inexperienced boy from Kansas. “Smallville. I couldn’t make that name up.”

When Lois finds that she can’t avoid the pairing, she gives Clark a huffy speech: “Let’s get something straight. I did not work my buns off to become an investigative reporter for the Daily Planet just to babysit some hack from Nowheresville…. You are not working with me, you’re working for me.” She pointedly informs him that he is way out of his league before they ever hit the streets together. No way she wants to share the byline with the guy she calls Mr. Green Jeans. "I am the top banana," she tells Clark – and with good humor, he confirms, “You like to be on top. Got it.”

But even though Clark Kent may have been “green” when he first arrived in Metropolis, having secret superpowers helped him climb the ranks faster than some of the Daily Planet’s less fortunate employees. Jimmy Olsen, for example, was always pitching story ideas and being told to go back to writing obits or fixing the Chief’s golf clubs. If someone wanted to hide information from Clark, he could always melt the locks on their file cabinets, listen in on their conversations with his super-hearing, or use his X-Ray vision to see what was going on behind all those closed doors. And presto – he has a career as an investigative reporter, without working nearly as hard as Lois had. Clark didn’t spend very long taking crap as the “junior reporter.”

It’s probably going to take me a little bit longer to adjust to the “reporter” part of my new job as a communications/public relations person, though. I have the enthusiasm – just no super-powers. I feel a zillion times more vulnerable than Kent when he first arrived in Metropolis.

In fact, I feel more like Deb in the first few episodes of Dexter. Deb is a cop assigned to vice at the start of the series, but desperately wants to work homicide. When she stumbles in to a serial killer case, she wants Dexter to help her figure out her next move. “Can I bounce some ideas off you later?” she asks him. “You know I always get smarter when I’m talking to you.”

“You just need a little more confidence,” he replies, a little insensitive despite his best efforts to help her reach her own potential. I’m not sure that I can define the look on her face when he says this – I think it’s a combination of disappointment, hurt, uncertainty, and even fear.

This is a mix of emotions so confusing and powerful that it can throw many of us for a loop, so you have to feel sorry for Deb. She remains hesitant, continues to stutter and stumble even after she is reassigned to the task force on the serial killer case. She asks for Dexter’s help several more times, then embarrasses herself during a meeting when she can’t clearly express the strategy for investigation that she and Dexter put together.

I know that feeling – that uncertainty that holds you back, that keeps you from acting on your gut and doing your job.

Last Friday, we held an event on the campus of our organization, and I had two main roles: to help take care of last minute details so that the event would run smoothly and to “report” on the event so that I could later write it up for our email bulletin, website and print newsletter. While the guests arrived, I was running around hanging parking signs, xeroxing extra fliers and getting coffee for the speakers. No problem. That’s the easy part.

But once all the guests had gone through the buffet line and were enjoying their breakfasts, I wasn’t quite sure what to do with myself. It wasn’t time for the speakers to begin their presentations yet, but I couldn’t think of any questions for them. I had stood with one lobbyist for several minutes, making small talk about the buffet and wracking my brain – but I didn’t come up with a single question of substance.

But even though I wanted to sit down for a moment and rub my aching feet, I had the nagging feeling that I should be going out and talking to people in the crowd. Wouldn’t Lois Lane be asking questions? I thought. Wouldn’t she be gathering background information and looking for an angle?

I stood up and surveyed the crowd. Being new to the organization, I had no idea why any of these particular people had been invited to the event or who I should approach. The best idea I had was to ask my boss who from amongst the guests might be a good person to interview, although by doing that, I risked creating the impression that I couldn’t take care of my job independently.

I decided though, that since I had only been on the job two weeks, asking for a little direction would be okay. My boss was gracious – but distracted. “Oh, I know who you should talk to – you should talk to Betty…” she said, pointing across the room. “The woman with the short hair and the red sweater.” But that was the only description that she managed to provide before an important donor claimed her attention.

At that point, I had two options: I could either wait for my boss to finish with one donor and hope to get more of an explanation before someone else needed her for something, or I could simply go interview Betty cold turkey. Be like Lois Lane. I told myself. Wasn't that what you were just blogging about? Be bold. Go ask the woman questions.

“Excuse me,” I said, when I reached the woman with short hair and a red sweater. “My boss suggested that I come interview you for the piece that we’re writing up about the event, but honestly, I’m not sure why.”

That opening line ended up working much better than I expected, and I learned a lot of interesting things from Betty. None of those things made it into the short article that I wrote for our website, but I’m hoping that I can include some details from our conversation in the (longer) print newsletter that we will put out in July. Betty also introduced me to someone with whom she works, who likewise was very interesting to interview.

I haven’t tried to write a journalistic piece or report an event in years, but even though I felt more than a little bit rusty, I’m pleased with how the day went and the kinds of details I was able to jot down in my little reporter’s notepad. And yes, I got myself a little notepad. If I’m going to pretend to be Lois Lane, I’m going to go all out and accessorize. With those props in place, I feel ready – and that feeling is absolutely the same as being ready to do a job, right?

So here I am, notepad in hand, ready for the next story. I’m looking forward to the day that I’m not so green, though, and not so hesitant. I’ve got to plunge right in and ask questions – just like Clark Kent and Lois Lane.


Tara said...

Way to be brave :) I had to write an article for a Seattle event recently and asking strangers questions still gives me little butterflies.

Heart said...

Wow, that's a great ending. So often we blow things out of proportion so that they seem nearly impossible. I have presentations coming up this year (as an art student) and public speaking really freaks me out! But your post has given me a bit of courage. I like that you use Lois Lane as a role model. Keep up the good blog:-)

Dapper Daisy said...

As a student journalist I feel like this *all the time!* Most of the time I have to tell myself that opportunities to move forward in life open almost exclusively in these uncomfortable moments where you have to choose between taking the plunge and holding back. Glad you're going for it!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...