“There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” — Ernest Hemingway
Last March, I sat down at my laptop and bled out a list of goals for 2020. Near the bottom, between “get fit” and “be better with deadlines,” I wrote, “apply to write for the Daily Cal.”
Most of those resolutions were discarded in the 2020 hellscape. Yet, a dozen or so published articles later, I’m curious to see what made this particular goal stick.
I still have yet to step foot into The Daily Californian’s physical office. I’ve been building up that moment in my head since I was hired: a space bustling with energy, papers flying up and down the food chain, monitors along the wall scrolling through the headlines we’d be reporting on shortly.
I want an article thrown back in my face for toeing the line of controversy too carelessly. I want to sprint across campus to interview someone for a story about to break. I want to have the Daily Cal flyers completely ignored as I try to hand them out on Sproul Plaza. Those fleeting moments are what make the work worthwhile, the feeling of contributing to something larger than myself.
At the time, it was a far-off dream. The Daily Cal was this intimidating monolith composed of the most talented individuals UC Berkeley had to offer. Future photographers, artists, businesspeople, activists, all putting their collective efforts toward this one thing.
Yet, I’ve come to find the energy of this paper refreshing. Against the unrelenting tide of social media stimulation, I’m taken with the slower pace of reading the Daily Cal’s long-form journalism. The classmate interaction we so dearly miss from in-person lectures seems to spring to life in the columns. Cutting-edge perspectives from the people on the front lines make the front pages vibrant and engaging.
The Daily Cal stands as a testament to what UC Berkeley is and what it has been. The pages sporting our bylines have been a battleground for social movements for a century and a half. It represents a sense of continuity between the students who fought for free speech and those fighting for Cal COLA and the UC Green New Deal today.
I’m not looking toward a career in print journalism — no hate to those who are. But the exercise and discipline of a creative pursuit such as writing for the Daily Cal have done wonders for my self-actualization. Personally, writing saved my mental health. It provided a productive way to force the thoughts residing in my head to pay rent.
Having an outlet for my frustrations and aspirations has been more cathartic than my middle school “finsta” account. Less than a year into working at the Daily Cal, I’ve gotten to write about my mental health, discuss the suffocating nature of quarantine and reminisce about game days and dead week.
Perhaps more importantly, I’ve drafted pieces that never got published, never made it past the default font in my notes app. These are the most important pieces, the ones that contain a piece of me too embarrassing or too true to divulge just yet. I keep coming back and then leaving them, unfinished.
So, why even do it? Why write? For one, good writing comes from vulnerability, and my keyboard is much more forgiving than if I were subjecting a friend to the same amount of existential angst. The community surrounding the newspaper justifies and animates the work that we all do. Even if no one read another one of my articles, I would still sign up for each issue that came across my inbox, purely for the therapeutic benefit of getting words on the page.
Why write? For one, good writing comes from vulnerability, and my keyboard is much more forgiving than if I were subjecting a friend to the same amount of existential angst.
I watched my role models shift from entrepreneurs to artists, from CEOs to journalists. There’s something noble about pursuing truth in the hope that someone, somewhere, will be a bit more engaged (or, perhaps, enraged) than they were before.
Print journalism is dying, that’s no secret. But, storytelling is alive and well. We start collecting stories on the playground and continue through the day we die. It’s how we communicate and relate to one another. The ability to gift someone with the feelings rattling around your head with both coming out better off — that’s something to hold on to. That, dear reader, is why we exist. To articulate the spirit of the student body. I can only hope we carry that spirit onward.
This paper is yours to do with what you will. Whether you use it to check the score of the game you missed, to peruse the platforms of ASUC campaigns or simply to line your litter box, it’s succeeded in fulfilling its purpose.
Regardless of what the Daily Cal means to you, it means the world to us. And for me, that’s enough.