Being wet behind the ears

For a week now, I’ve been working with a fresh new writer. If I had to describe him, I’d say he’s someone full of enthusiasm, completely ‘into’ his work – someone who does not hesitate to ask questions and make corrections whenever he’s wrong. So what’s the problem? Okay, not to split hairs, but he is a little too enthusiastic – if you know what I mean.

For instance? When I asked him to write some content for a website, he mailed me back a CorelDRAW file containing his “vision” of what the site should look like. This would still have been fine if, in his enthusiasm, he hadn’t completely overlooked the ‘content’ part of it. The design of course was no use – by his own admission, he is not much of a designer. Luckily, things moved fast once I’d called him with the news that it was quality content delivered on time – and not his vision – that would get him paid 😉

The incident left me thinking about the perils of being a newcomer to your field of work. People view you with suspicion, expecting you to trip up at any moment. And more often than not, you oblige.

I remember the first time I met a Times of India editor to pitch a story idea. I prepared for the interview for a week beforehand, compiling a file full of my previously published articles in kiddie newspapers and college magazines, collating diary entries that seemed particularly interesting, digging out old class essays with such groundbreaking themes as ‘Global warming: The final solution’…even a humorous piece on dealing with unwanted guests.

Armed with a thick file, I donned my most grown-up, journalist-y outfit of the day – a khadi-cotton kurta paired with a severe white churidar – and tied my mousy hair in (what I thought was) a professional-looking bun.

My ‘interview’ lasted exactly 37 seconds. The editor I had arrived to meet was “out for a smoke,” said his colleague, demanding to know instead what my ‘broader ideas’ for the paper were. Now this I hadn’t much of a clue about. I’d been browsing a magazine article on genetic engineering in their office lobby, and this led me to say that I’d like to bring a whole new scientific tilt to the paper. Seeing her eyes refuse to come unstuck from the monitor, I added that the said scientific tilt could be achieved by publishing a series of articles about new advancements in genetic engineering. Yeah, right.

Something about my earnestness – or my naiveté – must have made an impression on that assistant ed, for I left the place with a mandate to work on an article on ‘Genetic science & advancement in India’ – to be researched & submitted within 48 hours (!)

I still don’t know whether it was euphoria or panic I felt more of. And the best of it is: after working night and day over the next 2 days, I spent the next 3 weeks twiddling my thumbs (also using them to dial the editor every 20 minutes) while they tried in vain to find space for my 500-word article in their 16-page newspaper.

So yes, I do have some idea of what is to be all wet behind the ears. And I guess my new writer now has some idea of waiting around to get served…after all, it’s been 45 whole minutes since he last called!