Citizen journalist alert: Beware the Kryptonite

Clark Kent, the mild-mannered crime reporter for the Daily Planet who often appeared as Superman, spent his career avoiding kryptonite, the radio-active element from Superman’s home planet, Krypton. Even the slightest exposure to kryptonite would drain Superman of his strength and leave him as vulnerable as any normal human being.

If you want to be a super citizen journalist and “leap tall buildings with a single bound” in your career, you too must beware of kryptonite. In your career as a citizen journalist, kryptonite can come in many dangerous and nearly invisible forms.

Beware the kryptonite of instant gratification.

Citizen journalists want to make a difference. They want to see the world informed and even changed because of their reporting - and they are impatient! They expect their feature article in a magazine, their news item picked up by a widely-read news website or their video posted on YouTube to be seen by millions to launch their career from an unknown citizen journalist to the latest version of Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein.

Problem is there is little instant gratification in being a citizen journalist. The antidote to the kryptonite of instant gratification is steady reporting, constant interviewing and ample writing. A super citizen journalist knows that it’s not what you do once in a while, but what you do every day that makes you successful.

Beware the kryptonite of fleeting innovation.

New ideas can kill you. One writer called it “the idea avalanche.” There’s no easier way to get me off track than to start brainstorming some problem or ask me to chase after some beguiling idea. I love new things, new ideas and novel techniques, but they can easily be the kryptonite that takes you away from the fundamentals of your writing career.

Anything that relentlessly distracts you from creative and productive activity must be avoided. Just today someone tweeted, “10 Ways to Get More Re-Tweets.” I almost clicked on it, but I knew it would be one more kryptonite moment that would weaken my writing agenda for the day.

Beware the kryptonite of perpetual procrastination.

“I’ll finish it tomorrow” are the words of a procrastinator. We put off things because we don’t want to do them or because we have other projects or assignments that are more pressing or more fun to do.

Writing takes time. You can’t finish a 500-word story without investing significant, uninterrupted time seated in front of your computer actually composing meaningful sentences into complete and well-ordered paragraphs resulting in a useful and readable story. Write when the words are hot. If they are not hot, write until they become hot, but don’t put it off until tomorrow. Someone once said, “Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder.”

Beware the kryptonite of habitual accommodation.

Citizen journalists can suffer from the kryptonite of always saying YES when they should say no. Super-achievers and super-reporters know their limitations and when they must say “no.” You know what is important to your writing career, but you must work to keep the main thing, in fact, the main thing.

When someone asks you to do something, don’t be afraid to say, “Thank you for the opportunity, but my writing agenda for this week will not allow me to accept your offer.” Or in much simpler terms, “No.”

Beware the kryptonite of unreasonable interruption.

Things happen throughout a day to compete for your immediate attention. I used to have my email client set so whenever a new email came in a little screen would pop-up on my computer. It seemed like it always happened right in the middle of a creative moment.  Finally I shut it off and my focus improved dramatically.

When things distract you, always ask:  “Is this urgent or important?” Just because it’s urgent does not mean it is important. Think about all the totally unimportant, useless and even stupid emails, texts, telephone calls and drop-by interruptions that yank you away from doing what you do best. Those unimportant, yet seemingly urgent, interruptions are kryptonite to your high-value priorities. Resist them.

Being Superman is an important role to play in society. Being a super-reporter is also important. Clark Kent, crime reporter for the Daily Planet, knew enough to avoid kryptonite. So must you.

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