The season of introspection


Challenging oneself is part of life

Fran Ostendorf, Editor

Introspection is such a difficult concept. What does it really mean?

According to Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary, it’s a noun meaning the examination of your own thoughts or feelings. Not too complicated; easy to understand, right?

The American Heritage Dictionary has a slightly more formal definition: Contemplation of one’s own thoughts and sensations; self-examination. And the Oxford dictionary, of course, takes it further: The examination or observation of one’s own mental and emotional processes.

But get into the process a little more deeply and it can become much, much more complicated.

 The High Holy Days, during the month of Elul, are traditionally a season of contemplation and introspection. And that got me thinking about how this relates year-round to my life as an editor.

I can tell you that almost every time I sit down to write this column, I do at least a little bit of introspection. Readers may think that these columns just flow from my virtual “pen,” but they do not. There’s a lot of angst involved and often even more introspection.

What topic am I going to write about? What am I going to say? How am I going to phrase each sentence? Will the column be too long or too short? And, finally, does anybody really care?

A rabbi recently told me that he loves to write. You might say that’s a good thing since a rabbi has to do quite a lot of writing. But there are many facets to a rabbi’s job other than writing. And like all jobs, some parts are more enjoyable than others.

As an editor of a Jewish community newspaper, I wear many hats. And, unlike some editors, writing is not my favorite part of the job. I think it goes back to the introspection. I love the process, the questioning, the reporting, and making sure the story is well written and complete. But putting pen to paper myself? Not so much.

People think editing, reporting and writing are all the same thing, but they actually require very different skills and approaches. And the writing part is my least favorite. That’s why I became an editor!

Why do I keep doing it? Now there’s a topic for introspection.

Telling a story is part of this job. Challenging oneself is part of life. Today, when I look back and think about how many stories I’ve written, even though writing is a task that I often dread, it reminds me of how we can all do more than we think we can and that it’s often a good idea to tackle the very things that scare or inhibit us.

As we move toward 5776, I realize that somehow the writing isn’t quite as intimidating as it once was. It’s a new year, and I hope you have some new opportunities or even set some goals to overcome some of the things that scare or inhibit you or that might have held you back in the past. It can be scary and frustrating, but it’s a healthy part of introspection – and can be very satisfying.

The staff at The Voice looks forward to continuing input from our readers, and a happy, healthy year for all.

L’shanah tovah!