“Exercise the writing muscle every day, even if it is only a letter, notes, a title list, a character sketch, a journal entry. Writers are like dancers, like athletes. Without that exercise, the muscles seize up.” –Jane Yolen
People occasionally ask me what it is that I do for a living. They know I’m a journalist. They know I write for The Huffington Post. They know I work the graveyard shift from my home in New Hampshire. Still they wonder, “What’s a typical night like?”
Here’s one of the greatest things about my job: There is no typical night.
Working as a journalist on the graveyard shift is very similar to being a firefighter. Some nights you’re busy putting out fires and other nights you’re just sitting at the fire house, honing your skills, waiting for a fire to happen. The key thing is, you’re on duty when the fire breaks out. Or in my case, when news occurs.
During a typical week, I’ll cover one or two big breaking news stories. The rest of the time, I’m updating the homepage, checking wires, filing news stories/features, copyediting other people’s work, posting items to Twitter and Facebook, sending out breaking news alerts, scanning social media and competitor’s sites for interesting content, searching other sections of our site for stories that deserve more play, reading through more than 1,000 emails, coordinating content with other editors, handling any corrections that come in overnight and waiting for news to occur somewhere in the world.
Last week, however, was utterly insane.
Every single evening, a major news story broke on my shift. On Sunday, I handled the North Korean nuclear test and the United Nations’ response. Monday night saw the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Between the manhunt for Christopher Dorner, the former LAPD police officer accused of committing a series of shooting attacks on police officers and their families, and the State of the Union speech, Tuesday was beyond busy. On Wednesday, Paralympian Oscar Pistorius was arrested and charged with killing his girlfriend. In between all of these stories, I also penned a brief about the president doing an “exploding fist bump” with Sen. Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and an obituary for a man who appeared on several episodes of “Storage Wars.”
I would have covered the meteor that exploded above Siberia on Thursday, except I took the night off to spend Valentine’s Day with my awesome husband. Had I been on duty, however, my entire shift would have been dedicated to covering the 1,200+ people who were injured and the massive amount of damage caused by the space rock.
Light only knows what’ll happen this week.