What I love about what I do

Last night I attended the Robert Novak Fellows award dinner. This program awards fellowships to young journalists to undertake big projects, generally on topics of interest to a right-of-center audience. If people are looking for trend ideas, two of the winners proposed projects related to prison and criminal justice reform. This cause is getting surprising traction on the right side of the political spectrum. For whatever else it might do, jailing people costs a lot of tax money and disrupts family structures. I will be interested to see how that plays out in politics over the next few years.

Anyway, any journalism event will feature conversations on the future of the business. I’ve been thinking about my future in the business as well. I really love writing books, and yet I still spend a reasonable amount of my time writing short articles for various places. Is this wise?

I’m sure career counselors would give me different answers, but over the past few weeks I’ve been reminded of why I enjoy it. Fundamentally, I have lots of questions. Writing articles gives me an excuse to call up people and figure out the answers.

So, for instance, I wondered if there was a good way to take notes in meetings. It turns out there is! Now I know. This is very useful knowledge. This week, I’m working on a post on how people build their email lists. I’ve talked to people who have all sorts of great ideas, some of which I may incorporate myself.

Writing articles also gives me a way to test out topics and see what people think. The Fortune big jobs/big family piece is coming along, and while it’s related to other things I’ve written about, it’s a subtopic that might be worth writing more about. I have a history of enjoying writing articles about big family life (that one is from 2002).

The other upside of shorter articles is that you’re in and out. While I’m fascinated by the topics in my books, there’s something to be said for learning a bit about a lot of different things too. It keeps me from getting bored. I’m still trying to figure out what the right balance is for my time, but it’s good to be reminded of why we do what we do.

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