I was on an evening walk with my son when the Google Alert came in on my phone, and though I was tempted to see what it was all about right then and there, I had a strong sense of priority that night, knowing how meaningful these walks are becoming to my children. I felt that, no matter how tempting to peek, I needed to wait.
But it tugged at me anyway, so by the time we rounded the corner to our little cul-de-sac, I was eager to read the email that had come in, not once but twice.
For those not aware of Google Alerts, you can sign up to be alerted whenever your name or another name appears somewhere on the Internet, as detected by the Google search engine. As a writer whose work appears online, I find it helpful to have these alerts. Sometimes they bring me to my own work, but other times, they simply show me articles online where I’m mentioned. It’s good to stay in the know.
Get Religion, the source of the alert, wasn’t a familiar website, and I was curious why it had reeled me in. As I started reading, I braced myself. More often than not, a Google Alert points me to something someone has written about my work critical in nature, such as a letter to the editor of the daily newspaper for which I write on a regular basis. Writing at times about controversial issues, this is par for the course.
So as I plopped down on our front steps, still sweaty from our long and vivacious walk-and-talk, I read with an interested alertness, and by the end of the write-up, felt like I’d just received a giant hug from above.
The mention wasn’t negative but a very positive account by one of the website’s contributors. Apparently the site dedicates itself to two goals: scrutinizing how religion stories are covered, particularly by mainstream media (the fair and unfair, balanced and unbalanced), as well as rooting out stories that have a link to faith and religion and highlighting some of the better finds.
The writer, Julia Duin (pronounced Dean), had found our daily and some of my features. She’d then done a little research on my work and complimented some of my efforts. You can read her thoughts here.
So what’s the big deal? Well, to me anyway, it’s that I do take my work seriously, and believe passionately in writing grounded in truth. Even in some of my more mundane assignments, I try to bring in the humanity of the subjects and the story to life in a way that engages the reader, often through focusing on the inner workings of the person I’m interviewing or featuring; namely, their psyche and soul.
Sitting with people and hearing the stirrings of their spirits inspires. Through their stories, I often become transformed in some way. And if I’ve done an inadequate job of relaying those stories, I’ve failed as a faith writer.
As a freelancer in particular, however, I don’t always get feedback from my peers like one working more directly in the heart of an organization. From the outside, though I am very blessed to receive a lot of positive feedback through email and other, it can become a bit muddy as to whether one’s work is appreciated to the full. And I don’t always have a sense of the impact on a wider scale, either.
We all want to feel appreciated and to know others view our work worthily. We all need encouragement to help keep us going day to day. And that is what I’m most grateful for about this little piece — which truly invigorated me.
After learning more about the writer and her own credentials (see more here), I felt even more honored. Duin isn’t some lightweight but a true professional who has written in some noteworthy publications and even has taught the craft of religion writing. Her written impressions of my attempts have inspired me to keep trusting that these stories I’m intent on finding and sharing are valuable, and that is something indeed.
As I’ve gone about my work in the days since this discovery, I have found myself filled with even more purpose and drive to embrace this beat and search even more diligently for stories that will stir the reader, leaving him or her changed in some small but important way, and to be as astute a journalist as possible.
Additionally, being led to this site has introduced me to a treasure trove for ideas of future columns. So I’ve gained both encouragement and thoughts for future pieces. Not a bad find, I’d say, and one I’ll happily receive as the small golden-sticker star that it seems to me to be.
Q4U: When were you encouraged? What was the means through which it happened?