Shelley Widhalm

Getting Inspired by Interns

In 52: A Writer's Life, Shelley Widhalm on June 30, 2013 at 11:00 am

Shelley gathers notes at an annual toy show while working as a reporter. (Photo by Steve Stoner)

Shelley gathers notes at an annual toy show while working as a reporter. (Photo by Steve Stoner)

I moonlight as a poet and writer, but during my day job I work as a reporter, writing features articles

My problem is I experience the occasional burnout or writer’s block.

I get burned out because news writing involves a great deal of brainwork.

There’s critical thinking, numbers analysis, writing, explaining, putting difficult concepts into simpler terms and organizing notes into something logical and readable that follows the structure of news or features stories.

The burnout comes when I can’t think of how to be creative or tell the story or figure out what to do with my notes.

So I look to the interns in our office.


They are excited about the fact they are in the newsroom. They are eager to cover each and every story they are assigned. And they want to work, and for free.

If I’m feeling a little tired from the daily grind, I pretend I’m an intern with that same level of enthusiasm. I get to cover this or that, how lucky for me!

I pretend I have not experienced the fire or the event I’ve covered a million times.

What is different that I have not seen, heard or felt before? Is there a new way of looking at the story’s setting, a detail I hadn’t noticed before or a question I didn’t think to ask? Is there some angle I haven’t covered, or a story I haven’t told because it wasn’t immediately apparent?

Telling myself this is new, as it is for interns, opens my vision so that I notice and experience things in a different way.

I become curious and questioning, explorative and wondering.

In other words, I become a fully engaged reporter, loving the process of interviewing, researching, learning, reporting and writing.

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