To do good writing, read good writing. Here’s the good writing I’ve been reading this week:
Writing in first person looks easy but it’s not. It’s just that writers who are good at writing in first person — the “I” point of view — don’t let on how difficult it really is.
This week, I came across three examples of excellent use of first-person narrative.
A girl’s eye view of the Tour de France
I’ve written about Heidi Swift before. She’s the Portland freelance writer and cyclist who’s part of a six-woman Reve Tour team that’s riding the Tour de France one day before the men. Here’s my post on why Swift decided to do the Reve Tour.
So far, Swift and her teammates have made it through 12 stages and 1,400+ miles. If that wasn’t hard enough, Swift is also keeping a daily blog on Peloton, the cycling magazine. The posts she’s writing about the daily grind of their endeavor are honest, inspiring and make you feel like you’re watching from the side of the road with the old Frenchmen hollering “Allez! Allez!” Here’s today’s post, on gutting it out despite tension among teammates, and yesterday’s post, on a monster stage cycling up steep mountain grades.
A grim inside view of assisted living
Journalist Martin Bayne was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s disease at 44. At 54, when he could no longer take care of himself on his own, he moved into an assisted living facility. Now he’s 62 and ready to share what life is like for himself and other nursing home residents. It’s not pretty, as he recounts in this first-person essay in the Washington Post. He knew he’d be living with people decades older than he was, many with debilitating illnesses. What he didn’t realize was how emotionally fraught such living conditions would become:
What I hadn’t calculated was what it’s like to watch a friend — someone you’ve eaten breakfast with every morning for several years — waste away and die. And just as you’re recovering from that friend’s death, another friend begins to waste away. I can say with certainty that the prospect of watching dozens (at my young age, perhaps hundreds) of my friends and neighbors in assisted living die is a sadness beyond words.
Two Wes Moores
One Wes Moore was a college football player, Rhodes Scholar, served in Afghanistan and is now married and works in the finance industry. Another Wes Moore is serving a life sentence in prison for felony murder. Both grew up in Baltimore. Both grew up without fathers. How did two people whose starts in life were very similar end up in such different circumstances? One Wes Moore sets out to discover the other and ends up learning about himself, in his first-person account, The Other Wes Moore. I’ve just started this book, which was published in 2010, but am already intrigued.
Here are other good reads for writers I’ve discovered this week:
- The Freelance Strategist (Contently) – New-ish website for professional freelancers and entrepreneurial journalists, from a new-ish freelance writing marketplace and network. Read more about Contently.
- Piecemeal existence: For today’s young freelancers, what will traffic bear? (Columbia Journalism Review) - Can freelancers survive on page view bonuses and other commission structures?
- The fissures are growing for papers (New York Times)
- Letter from the Pulitzer Fiction Jury: What Really Happened This Year (The New Yorker)
- Twitter rolls out revised search functions (Wall Street Journal)
- Reuters social media maven gives up Twitter (AdWeek)
- Monetizing digital attention (Seth’s Blog)