Thursday, August 26, 2010

Getting it wrong

Sometimes writing interesting stories is so hard. You go out to an interview, the conversation is stiff, uninteresting. Still, back at the office, you have to figure some way to finagle a readable story out of something that nearly put you to sleep.

Other times, someone is so interesting that you have no idea where to start. Last week I met a woman, an air pilot, who was just so hilarious and full of life, so full of stories, that after 10 minutes I knew I'd have a rough time trying to boil her down to 15 single-column inches. You should be a book, a movie, I told her. She said Lifetime had approached her about doing a movie but it never worked out. And for a second I thought a Lifetime movie sounded about right (She was orphaned then became one of the first female pilots in the US. She restored her own plane and on her first trip, the battery compartment exploded, spraying acid all over her. She's still a total knock-out -- blonde, tan, youthful in her 60s).

But the more she talked, the more I couldn't imagine anyone else playing her but her. The next day I had the unfortunate task of trying to translate her. Nothing came out right. To top it off, I was trying to write the story on a laptop (for some reason, writing on laptops really stunts my writing ability) at an air show while planes thundered loudly overhead. After I'd turned in my article, I felt sad all night, knowing I hadn't shown readers how truly amazing this woman is. I'm still regretting it. So I just wanted to put down, somewhere, that I know I didn't do an adequate job, that sometimes this job is hard in different ways.

But I still got to meet her, and I'm grateful for that.

Here's the inadequate story I wrote: Air show pilot defies more than death

1 comment:

John said...

On a lighter note...

The show is so grand -- thundering noise, imposing machines, death-defying tricks -- that dreams of ever manning your own plane can seem out of reach. More than one act ended Saturday with an announcer's warning, "Don't try this at home."

"...womaning your own plane..." might have been a good touch!