Fewer assignments in school were more exciting to me than being allowed to write freely. I strongly preferred to write brief fictional stories, often based on whatever novel I was into at the time. By sixth grade, I had become an avid reader, even tackling Tom Clancy techno-thrillers. I’m sure I missed a lot of adult references, but I still got the gist and loved being immersed in these high-stakes and exciting worlds. By eighth grade, I had been through honors reading (it was actually awful) and I had English teachers trying to get me to submit work to magazines.
Though high school gave fewer and fewer opportunities for creative writing, I still entertained myself in free time with a multitude of short stories. By the time I was a journalism major in college, however, I began to lose track of these little stories. And now, despite all the training I’ve had, I still can’t get past a page or two of fiction. I have, however, learned a lot from it.
For example, I can open a non-fiction story with a nice piece of drama. A little narrative goes a long way in journalistic writing, and the same holds for many other forms. Anecdotal leads for feature stories were one of my strongest points as a budding writer during my newspaper career. I could never have built the drama as well if I had not spent all my youth immersed in books and fiction. In addition, it is a great device to humanize situations and people, creating an easier path to empathy.
Now that I am exploring the craft of art writing, I am finding the ability to build a narrative continues to be useful, in addition to many things I’ve learned as a reporter and copy editor. From anecdotal leads to concise language, the rules of writing seem to be far more universal than I had ever expected. I am excited at the prospect of learning how to tell a story about a photograph, especially one I did not make myself. I'm also excited because this will enhance my abilities to understand art.
I still haven't written the Great American Novel yet, but I figure everything I have learned so far will be another item in the tool chest. If everything I have learned so far contributes to the next thing, I am excited to see what writing about art can contribute down the road.