Growing Green (with disappointment)

As a writer, there is a time when you’re ready to let your piece go.

Often that moment comes well before you’re ready. “No, no, if could just change that last sent—” Press time.

Other stories drag, and it takes a crowbar to remove the story’s barnacle latch on you.

Such was the case of “Growing Green.”

It took five months and as many drafts, plus two full redesigns, and I’m frustrated. I gave the situation a few weeks to put some space between those aggravations and clear thinking.

The article was pitched/assigned to me on a relatively shaky premise: one earth-friendly store in Columbia left its lights on overnight. I disagreed with the pitch, wondering aloud if we were trying to fit a trend of exposing “greenwashing.”

Our writing coach helped me narrow the focus to something manageable for our readers, but the overall process tested my faith in our system.

Assigned 1500 words, I wrote 1800 with a note that I would cut it down. No, no, I was told, we now want it 1200. I wrote 1246.

“Much, much too long.”

“What? So what should the word count be?”

“We’re bumping it to the summer, and it needs to be 1500 words.”

Logic was barely holding in this exchange. I reported and interviewed and wrote more. Back to 1500.

Only to have six words cut without notice. The final line ended as a tie-in to my lead:  “a day when ‘Yes’ is not optional.” The words were present in the last PDF galley I received the day before publication.

Upon further investigation, the summer advisor informed me via email that the concluding phrase had been cut because it was “trite and predictable.” Furthermore, the ending didn’t need to tie back to the lead “after as long as the story was.”

by Nicole Malinowski, 2011

One final brick removed from the wall of reason to properly end the fiasco.

“Green Growth” was the first story where my pitched headline and deckhead had both been used. I’m proud of that.

But for me, the article was less about buildings, more about mold. Rotten. It was the first story where, upon publication, I felt unfulfilled, robbed even.

I know I’ll go on to write better articles; this one has already begun to fade from memory. Every event in life presents the opportunity for learning. The problem here is that I’m not sure where the lesson is located in this mess.

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