When I first conceived the notion of working in the news business, I was employed by a book publisher in New York. I really didn't know much about how the news business worked, so I called up a guy at the newspaper Newsday and asked him. He was generous enough to fill me in.
First of all, he told me, New York was the communications capital of the United States, but if I wanted to break in, I would first have to get three or four years of experience outside the city, then come back and apply with one of the big boys. He gave me a bunch of other pointers but concluded with words I have never forgotten. They related to the news business ... or any other walk of life:
"Just remember two things," he said. "It's a craft, not an art. And ... be yourself."
A craft is a function. It may have a goal, but it has no frills. Frills just get in the way of practicing an artful craft ... of which news-gathering is one ... just like carpentry or, come to that, playing piano or painting a picture. Whatever it is, let others call it art ... and practice your craft.
Be yourself is likewise imperative -- and initially daunting as hell. Who the hell am I? Am I my opinions or skin color or sex or passions or income or tastes or education or beliefs or agreement with others or ... who the hell am I? It's a daunting question which is so daunting that papering it over is easier than answering it ... or so it seems until papering it over just doesn't work any more. It's easy-peasy to say, "I know who I am" right up until the moment that anyone might admit with some sheepishness, "I really don't know."
And how can anyone know? How can anyone fulfill whatever imperative there is in "be yourself?" Well, my best guess is, practice your craft. Practice and pay attention. Set aside the trip wires of "art" and "beauty" and "virtue" ... and practice the craft that is your life. Practice and pay attention and one day you will get out of bed and know how to tie your shoes.