Why narrative?

A partial explanation of why I write - Paul Bush.

I have been a writer for a long time.  For fear of shocking any younger readers who might stumble across this, I won’t say how long.

I’ve had some degree of success, but certainly not the degree that I envisioned in my earlier years.  However, something I’ve come to consider just as satisfying has happened.  I’ve grown as a writer.

My years of writing apprenticeship were mostly a struggle to figure out how to write well.  As apprenticeships go, it was based on a flawed contract.  To apprentice, you need a master to teach you the trade.  But like most writers, I found my guide in articles and books on writing.

That didn’t work well.  At times, I obsessed over the advice in some cases, trying to force material I had to conform to some format or structure.

Mostly, I just muddled through in the dark, by which I mean I journalled and drafted and wrote ineffectively far out of proportion to the number of times I got published, that gold standard of success for writers.

I managed, though.  Ten or 15 years ago I began being published in papers around the U.S. thanks to the American News Service, which unfortunately didn’t survive into the 21st century.  I also moved from being an itinerant editor, working at several small – very small – magazines and part-time journalism profess over the years to being a full-time journalism professor.

Just as importantly I continued to grow as a writer, in part because I took a Master’s of Fine Arts degree.  It forced me to intensively study writers – not books on writing, but writers – all across the spectrum, from poets to novelists and nonfiction writers. For two years it also forced me to write consistently in the genre that I truly aspired to, narrative nonfiction.

I’ll describe narrative elsewhere on this site, and to some extent I’ll document its origins, but it has always been the writing that I’ve most loved to read.  To make characters come alive, showing them as they act, making readers feel why their story is so important – that’s what I have long wanted to do.

But the lack of a market for it, my inability to figure out how to pitch it – to convince an editor to actually publish it – got in my way.

Today – well, I can’t say that I can write narrative well, at least not on the first five or six major revisions, but today I’m something that I wasn’t all those years ago: comfortable in my writing.

Ah, but there’s something more.  I no longer worry if what I’m writing is narrative – if I’m using scene effectively or have too much exposition or any other of a hundred worries.

Now?  Now I’ll just be satisfied if my readers are carried away in words.

                                                                                                         Paul Bush


(Creative Commons photo: “twylo”)

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