Wednesday, June 22, 2016

And now for something (almost) completely different

I haven't been a reporter for a week and a half now, and I do not miss it.

For a while, reporting, I was content with actually being able to write every day, but over the past -- too many -- years, it has become increasingly more obvious that it isn't the type of writing I wanted to do and was, in fact, keeping me from being creative very much at all. For the few who've read my sporadic posts at all regularly, I'm always wanting to write more, but haven't done very well meeting that goal. I've just been stagnating...

But I digress.

I'm not unemployed, and I'm still with the paper, but I'm doing something almost entirely different: layout and page design. And before I started on the copy desk last Monday, I had no idea what I was doing or whether I would even like it.

First, a quick(ish) recap:

Back in mid-February, my editor took a public information officer position with a nearby city, and pretty much everyone (coworkers, the high school principal, Chamber of Commerce executive director...) expected me to be moved into her slot, especially since I've basically been an assistant editor for six-plus years. Well, that didn't happen. They hired someone from outside, a man from Indiana (with whom I have no beef). I was a little deflated, even though I hadn't considered it a lock. A few weeks later, my friend Nathan, our copy desk chief, offered me a job on the desk that would come with a small but significant raise (i.e., larger than anything I'd received in nearly 11 years as a reporter).

I was skeptical. "I have no idea how to do that," I told him. He countered with the fact that since I already knew how the paper looks, what goes where, can proof on the fly and already write good headlines, that I'd learn quickly.

Being me, I vacillated and over-thought it for more than a month. Part of me felt that taking it would be almost a cop-out, a giving up on pursuing something elsewhere in another area. I have wanted to leave, so badly, for so long, but am too practical to just quit with no job/safety net, and have made too little to have any savings of note. I have applied for so many jobs and mostly heard nothing. In March, I scored an actual, in-person interview for a job I really wanted, as an internal senior writer at Valencia College in Orlando, but didn't get it (obviously. Maybe someone else needed more than I did?). I was frank with Nathan about the fact that I've been with the paper and in Port Charlotte too long, and want to leave. His reply was practical: "Why don't you learn a new skill and make a little more money before doing it?"

I made pro and con lists, and prayed about it, prayed some more, and while the pros outweighed the cons, I still couldn't seem to decide. What really clinched it, finally, was a chat with our executive editor (about whom I have many opinions but which I'm too polite to share). He had heard about the possibility of my leaving editorial, and "wanted to know where my head was." I told him I was seriously considering it, and not just because of the money. When he asked how much of a raise I would be getting -- small though it is -- he sort of dropped his head and basically said "we can't do that for you in editorial."

The moment I really decided, and told Nathan I'd accept the job, I felt so light.

I agreed to stay as a reporter until the middle of this month, when I would complete the special graduation section I've produced for the past six years (the new editor was beyond relieved he wouldn't be stuck with it). My last story for the paper wasn't some spectacular piece, but a rather anticlimactic advance of a free community education event about an archaeological site in the city. Cleaning out my desk was strange. My coworkers bought me balloons and flowers.

And so, I started on the desk last Monday.

It has made for a change in schedule, too -- it really only dawned on me the Thursday before that I'd basically be working second shift, going in around 12:30 p.m. or 1 and then working til about 9 -- and I was a little trepidatious about learning InDesign. I did a fair amount of observing my first day, but picked up on some of the basics pretty quickly, even flowing in a story and a photo or two, editing copy down to fit the space and helping with proofing before the pages were sent to be plated. By day four I was doing photo pages. I haven't messed up anything too badly, and I'm moving a bit faster than last week, although I still have lots to learn, and am definitely slower than those who've been at it for a while. It's not second-nature yet.

My view these days. On day one, I designed the page on the left.

I'm getting used to the new personalities I'm working with, too. Everyone's nice (both our proofers, two women, tend to wear hats, oddly. They favor fedoras -- a nod to newspapers of old? -- and trilbies). Yesterday, one of the other copy deskers brought in cheesecake. Speaking of the proofers, I take pedantic pleasure in finding errors in copy they miss. :) Even more of a change is my commute, now 10 minutes in the opposite direction, as opposed to about 25 before (although I don't have enough time to say my morning rosary while I drive now, so I'm saying it earlier in the day), which is sure to save me buying gas so often.

More of a night-owl anyway, one thing I am enjoying is easing into my days. I'm still up at 7ish (the dog won't let me sleep in much beyond that, lol), but can take more time with morning prayer. I'm washing the dishes in my sink more promptly, and cooking more frequently (I stewed tomatoes down for sauce the other morning, and can't even remember the last time I did that).

And I'm writing in the mornings. Nothing noteworthy, as yet, but last week I journaled four days in a row, something I haven't done regularly in too long. Hopefully, not spending my days writing about scintillating topics like school district budgets will save up brain power for an idea I've been kicking around in my head for a bit -- disparate thoughts that keep whispering at me to connect them. I'm trying to persuade myself to get back to the gym regularly after too long an absence, and want to go to daily Mass several times a week now that I'm able.

Do I love it,? The jury's still out, but I don't dread going into work every day. That's obviously a change for the better, and learning something new is always a good thing. I can't see into the future, or know how I'll feel in six months, but I can say without a doubt that, while not a drastic alteration, it's a challenge I needed.