When people ask me what I do for a living, I usually tell them that I’m a writer. That’s the shortest answer, though it doesn’t encompass everything I do. But sometimes I get the follow up question- “Do you write novels or plays or what?”
“Oh, no, no, no. I’m a journalist. I do some arts writing and some news writing for TC Daily Planet and other places.”
That response is usually followed by sympathy. The person usually assumes that what I really want to be doing is some real writing, and that this journalism thing is what I do for money.
I actually have written a few terrible novels that no one will ever read and a few plays that a few people have. And it’s true that I didn’t set out to be a journalist and that what I really wanted to do was be an actor. But life is funny. Sometimes it takes you places you didn’t realize you wanted to go.
The fact is I really like journalism. I like talking to people. I like learning about new things. I even like taking really complicated topics, digesting them, and writing about them so the average person can understand them.
But sometimes I wonder — is it really writing, as in the art of writing? I think of myself as an artist, but not when it comes to writing journalism. For news writing, it’s a process of gathering information from different sources, analyzing it, and putting it into a form that’s interesting to read. I don’t think about sentence structure, imagery, or anything like that. My goal is clarity.
Even with arts writing, I don’t really see myself as being a creator. I’m really just reflecting on the work and/or what the artists tell me about the work. When I read the work of other theater, art and dance critics, I recognize that how I write is a bit different. I don’t use as big of words. I feel like I’m not as clever. I don’t think of my critiques as works of art in themselves. Maybe that’s because as a theatre artist myself, I personally need to have some separation between the two.
I remember someone saying to me once, when I said that I was thinking about giving up theater: “What? You just want to be a critic? Give me a break!”
Well, I rather like writing reviews, thank you very much, but for now I’ll continue to hover on both worlds. Perhaps when I finally decide to give up theater I’ll naturally have the urge to think of my journalism more as an art form, but for now, I think that I’ll stick to writing in a straightforward, non hoity-toity way.