As a student at Yale Divinity School, I am more aware of emotions than the average graduate student. We divinity students are feelers. We spend hours discussing the proper way to self-care and entire semesters determining which tone of voice is best suited to ask the tough questions.
Our obsession with emotion may seem a bit misplaced. Why, in a university community filled with movers and shakers, do we spend so much time thinking about ourselves and our needs, wants and desires? For many of my friends, it’s a line of inquiry that will lead them to a healthy career focused on taking care of others, whether in a church or school or hospital. In my case, however, as I work toward a future in religion journalism, the way my classmates talk about getting in touch with themselves often seems like a silly side note to my other, more important, experiences. Just the facts for me, friends. I left my tissues at home.
Preparing to be a professional journalist often feels like an exercise in forgetting myself. I bottle up my extra emotional energy and deposit it on my personal blog, approaching freelance projects with wrinkles between my eyebrows instead of a smile. I was amazed, then, to discover in Follow the Story an insistence on self-reflection. Stewart emphasized that, at the end of the day, it is the writer’s relationship to herself that matters most. By paying attention to curiosity, amazement, queasiness or surprise in oneself, Stewart says, anyone can discover the stories that are yet to be told in the field of journalism. He closes his book by reminding writers that they are their own most important critics. Stewart writes, “You know whether you were accurate, fair, thorough, honest, and whether you worked to the best of your ability. You know whether you are proud of your work.”
I am a writer, but I’m also a feeler. And James Stewart says that’s alright.