Read Klara’s story, The Making of a Polish-American Club Star
The beginning was difficult.
Of course, you could say that nobody knows where to start, and that you don’t necessarily have to start at the beginning. I certainly didn’t! In a way, I had before me endless strings of observations, thoughts, and feelings that I wanted to incorporate into my article in some way – however, it took me a very long time to think of a “concept.” I’m still not sure if that concept is there – but the framework of the piece is a journey, it’s something concrete. It’s about my job. I wanted the article not to be about my job, however, but about Poland.
One of the biggest psychological blocks I faced, was both over-familiarity with a subject, as well as the feeling that I have very little basis (right!) to write about Poland. The more familiar you become with a place, the more difficult it is, sometimes, to write about it – everything seems more natural to you, less observable. I ended up giving myself the job of observing myself as much as I ended up observing Poland, and asking myself questions based on those observations: when are my reactions different than what I’m used to? Why does something seem different or significant to me? Where am I coming from?
And then of course, fitting in all the points of view that I wanted was difficult. I wanted a well-balanced approach – one that would give the reader a good idea of the complexity of the subject. But what I realized at some point, was that I shouldn’t be ashamed of having my own point of view. With travel writing, it’s very difficult to balance an objective sense of place (you’re trying to describe a whole world and mentality to people who have probably never been there or experienced it before), with your own experiences (the people you meet, the impressions you have.) I hope that what I ended up with in the end was my story, and not somebody else’s. The article is not objective – and now, I am glad for that.
The editing process was rough for me, because I wasn’t always very good at cleaning up all the passages that needed cleaning. Switching languages back and forth was also difficult – grammar, phrasing, even punctuation (which is used differently here) made the editing process more frustrating. However, Sarah was very patient with me – something I am very grateful for!
What I like about Glimpse is that they give you the space to find your own style. They don’t pressure you to find certain kinds of adventures or certain kinds of stories – you have to find them yourself, and think about what you want to write about. This can be very daunting (it was for me!), but also more rewarding. The pressure is there to think like a reporter – think like a screenwriter – write stories for people. But you get the space to figure out why something moved you the way it did, and perhaps even find the right words for it.
In the end, I didn’t say all the things I wanted to say. We never can. Cutting the article was very difficult for me, because it seemed to me (even though it was over 10,000 words!), that every cut, cut out some important truth about what I was trying to convey. Sarah assured me, however, that sometimes not saying something is as significant as saying it. Now, with a finished article, I am even tempted to believe her.