Keke Grant-Floyd is a junior at Lehman College who is majoring in journalism.
Since fall of 2022, she has been an External Relations Intern with Breakthrough New York, where she assists with communications across social media and our blog. She writes an essay on how the internship allows her to hone her writing craft without relying on perfection.
I’m taking a class called Feature Writing, so it’s very important that I hone the ability to write in different forms. Article writing is something that I’ve been intimidated by, simply because I compare myself to the type of work New York Times and Washington Post reporters create—mistake number 1. For class, I worked on an article about the lack of Black blood donors and how important blood donation is for people living with sickle cell disease. I was passionate about this topic and I wanted it to be perfect—mistake number 2.
A few weeks ago, I had a major breakthrough when I spoke with my professor about my struggles with this assignment. She helped me realize and accept that I am a perfectionist. Perfection is not realistic, and I’ve been preventing myself from doing great things by being too harsh a critic about my work. I’d like to say I’m on my journey to giving myself the grace and patience to be good enough.
Also, the wonderful thing about writing is that you can have multiple drafts, which is ideal for someone who is learning to accept mistakes as opportunities for growth instead of reflections of their abilities. There was a brilliant quote in the reference book we’re using for class (Telling True Stories): “No one, not even the greatest writers, creates good first drafts. ‘I have to write crap before I can write anything that is not crap.’ Writing is thinking. It is an extension of the reporting process.” Seasoned journalist Walt Harrington, with over 30 years of experience, said this, so it must be true. The authors go on to say that good writing is too complex to get right in “one draft or two or five.”
Being an External Relations Intern has been an invaluable learning experience so far. I’ve edited transcripts, written outlines and drafts, and created social media copy. It’s given me opportunities to practice most of the key skills a journalist needs, so there have been moments where I had to accept that my work wasn’t going to be perfect the first time around. I wanted my work to be faultless, but it’s fine if it’s just good enough. If I know that I put all my heart and effort into it, the mistakes that I previously mentioned won’t hold so much weight over my approach to future work that I do.