The title of this blog is a metaphor. While I do intend for it to document a career change, I am not actually making a bid for NASA to resurrect the Apollo program and hire me to chauffeur the second coming of Neil Armstrong. In fact, this is a rather nerdy metaphor, one no doubt indebted to a childhood obsession with science fiction and space travel, for the life project I am launching with this blog: making my first attempts at writing.
Let me explain by way of a confession: the only thing I’ve ever really wanted to be (besides Jean-Luc Picard, for a brief but passionate spell in the mid-90s), is a writer of some kind. Another confession: I have never done much serious writing on my own. Teachers have praised my writing from an early age, but I have never kept a journal, written for a school newspaper, or even maintained a blog successfully. I’ve failed a couple of times at starting these, in fact (third time’s a charm?).
Why a writer? Well, for starters, I love to read. A good novel and a copy of the New Yorker are sure bets on my desert island list. Like many who love to read, I get immense satisfaction from the power of words to capture our fleeting experiences and the elusive meanings they portend. I have also been told from time to time that I have strung words together in ways that admirably express what I wanted them to. I am also a bit of a nerd (this may be redundant, after the Picard confession). By nerd, I mean someone who is genuinely and endlessly curious about the world. Out of this curiosity comes an observant nature attuned to minutiae that others often miss.
Conceivably, these traits could be put in the service of the form of writing that appeals to me: journalism. My instinct for writing, nerd-like curiosity about the world, and attention to the trivia of life seem to be a good fit for such work. Also, as writing goes, journalism is a relatively useful form. This means that not only would I actually stand a chance to get paid for my work, I could also be relatively certain that my work contributed something of concrete value to society. Still, I have my doubts about taking the leap to pursue the field. Besides the seemingly grim job prospects, there is certainly a lot I would have to learn to be able to do good journalism.
And this, finally, is where the metaphor comes in. You see, my mind has always been a rover. The brief, caricatured biographical snapshot I posted previously hints at the wanderings I took as a student. The flip side of this roving tendency, and the curious nature I describe above, is distractibility. I have a tendency to jump prematurely to the next new topic that grabs my attention, sometimes before rounding out my understanding of the last. A key challenge that I face in this new undertaking is to learn to drive the rover, to take my mind for a ride rather than letting it take me. I have the range of abilities and interests that a journalist needs, but can I find the mental focus to follow a story through to the very end?
And if I manage to master the rover’s controls, will I be able to navigate the harsh lunar landscape? My roving has long taken place within the safe confines of books, newspapers, magazines and (perhaps this is where safe ends) the internet. Going out into the world to interview sources and observe events as they are happening will take me out of a comfortable, controlled environment and into contact with realities as forbidding and unpredictable as the moon’s crater-ridden topography. This is the aspect of journalistic work that I find most daunting. Will I be able to think on my feet well enough to follow the thread of a story in the field, navigating any narrative craters that come my way? Will I have the courage to confront potential sources and ask questions that may be unwelcome or uncomfortable?
These, of course, are questions that can only be answered by hopping in the rover and giving it a test drive. That, in essence, is what this blog will be. My goal is to use the blog as a space to publish pieces on topics that interest me that incorporate my own original reporting and research. I hope it will be a win-win for both author and audience: I get to hone my craft and see if I’m cut out for this sort of thing; you, if nothing else, get to relish the schadenfreude of watching me hit a bright orange cone when I attempt to parallel park the rover. But, I will do my best to ensure you enjoy reading it too.
I don’t know where the drive will ultimately take me, but, whatever the outcome, I believe that this lunar joyride will bring me closer to where I want to be. And I’d love to have you along for the ride.