About twice a year I have a dream where for whatever reason I’m back at the University of Chicago and I’m once again working on the student newspaper, the Chicago Maroon. Last night was one of those times; in the dream I’m the same age as I am now, and I was walking into the Ida Noyes building to go to a staff meeting, and I was wondering if it would be awkward for the rest of the staff to have 42-year-old former Editor-in-Chief and professional writer doing stories. In the real world, I think the answer would be “well, duh,” but in the dream it seemed to make perfect sense. Because, you know, dreams are that way.
I don’t really have any ambition to go back and write for my student newspaper; to the extent that the dream means anything other than the Maroon was tangentially on my mind thanks to that picture of me at 20 that I posted, I think it was a reminder that I liked working for a newspaper, both the Maroon and the Fresno Bee, when I worked there (and the San Diego Tribune, when I interned). It’s often said writing is a solitary profession, but that depends on what kind of writer you are. Being a journalist in a newsroom is not especially solitary; there are lots of other people, lots of activity and lots of back and forth and craziness, especially around the afternoon deadline.
That buzz of activity and working toward a daily goal is fun, or at least it was fun for me. And yeah, I miss it. I like my life now, and working from home; right now I’m typing away merrily on a laptop, in a recliner in the front room of the expansive Scalzi Compound, while cats doze all around me. It’s hard to complain when you’re living the writing life most writers would kill for. But I did like the daily contact high of being in the same room with other writers, everyone typing away and making phone calls and getting in fights with the copy editors (wait, that was mostly just me).
Every once in a while I daydream about going back into newspapers; it’s an idle dream, given the health of the newspaper industry, the fact my own career is fiction-centric at the moment, and because then I would have to trade hazy, halcyon memories with an actual day-to-day grind of work and office politics, which are bits of that milieu I can conveniently forget when I don’t have to deal with them. But it’s still nice to imagine from time to time, especially when I focus on being around other writers. I mean, there is Twitter, on which I can bother all my writer friends while they work, and they me. But it’s not quite the same.