For 10 years, I truly abstained from writing. You know, the kind of writing that forces you to try out 50 different ways to construct a sentence until you choose Number 51. The synapse-firing, hangnail-chewing kind of writing.
Instead, my days were filled with writing lesson plans, finding succinct ways to list homework on a whiteboard, and inserting red-ink comments on student essays without becoming flippant. My years as a high school English and journalism teacher were rewarding but, when I decided to take early retirement, my decision came partly from that ache to write again. Really write.
Freelancing got off to a rocky start and I passed the time by working on a novel, my first stab at fiction writing. When the assignments picked up, though, I found myself riding that proverbial bicycle Û remembering the motions of choosing my sources efficiently, and writing fast on deadline, yet taking the extra time to craft a compelling lead, just like my earlier days of newspaper reporting.
Best of all, I learned the advantages of embracing versatility, especially when starting out. I can recall one scattershot day three years ago: It started with some easy editing on a content-mill site, moved into a short review of a Frida Kahlo show, and ended with a 500-word fact sheet on Crohn’s disease. It didn’t matter; I was writing.
Fortunately, I am now in a position to narrow my focus and make visual arts writing my niche. I never could have predicted that focus, but I love it for the precision it demands in terms of voice and diction. Sometimes I will fidget over a 250-word review for at least a couple of hours. My hangnails are paying the price, but that’s okay.
Deborah Ross is a Phoenix-based freelance writer and editor whose clients include magazines and websites. Check out her visual arts writing on her personal website http://www.exploreartphoenix.com, and contact her for writing and editing assignments at deborahross36 (at) gmail (dot) com.