Artist, Photographer, Engineer, but Maybe not a Writer?

August 31, 2016 § 4 Comments

zz ChristaMcHugh-Headshot-1

Christa tells a story through melody

By Christa McHugh

I am a photographer, artist, musician, engineer and goofy kid at heart.

This is a quote that I use to describe myself on all of my social media profiles, and back in my single days, my dating profile. These are things that I am.  One thing I am not and have never claimed to be: a writer. Somehow, this non-writer’s first class in her Critical and Creative Thinking Masters program is Creative Nonfiction and one of my last assignments of the semester is to write about writing. So here I am. Writing about writing.

But, in all these things that I actually am, I am a storyteller. As a photographer I can tell a story through an image. I can use perspective, color, light and focus to lead the audience down a narrative path to my visual conclusion. As an artist, I can create designs that convey a story through two-dimensional lines and colors. As a musician, the notes from my guitar tell a story through the ebb and flow of the melodies. And even as an engineer, I craft my story through my technical ideas, using the binary narrative of 0’s and 1’s to provide my customers with a solution to their technical problems.

But, I am definitely not a writer. I have never attended a writing workshop. I don’t spend hours hovering over a shiny silver laptop in a trendy coffee shop. I don’t even own a leather bound notebook. I do not “network” with other “writers.” I do not keep a journal.  I don’t own a vintage typewriter. And come to think of it I don’t think I have ever used a typewriter. I’m not even an alcoholic, although I do enjoy a good dry dirty martini and a nice glass of wine.

So, what is my word count? 312? Why am I here?  And am I done yet?

When I do write, I do what most writers describe… I pour my thoughts and feelings onto the page.  I let it flow.  But, then I refine, refine and refine; every word, every phrase and every sentence. I read and revise again. I solicit feedback and revise even more.  I pull from my archive of the lessons I have learned through my music, my art, my photography and my professional career to ensure that these words display the imagery, paint the picture, sing the melody and create the design that leads my readers on my narrative journey.

I obsess over every word and every minor detail.  I over analyze. And then I over analyze my analysis. I question every word on the page, until I feel that warm sensation in my chest of satisfaction and exhaustion. It is my body, mind and soul letting me know that I have done all that I can to pen my narrative… as good, bad or ugly the final product may be.

And I enjoy every step of the arduous reiterative process.

So, I may never be cool enough to be a writer.  But, hopefully, one day you can call me a storyteller.


Christa McHugh (@christaphoto) is a photographer, artist, musician, engineer… and goofy kid at heart.  She has received her MFA in Media Design Management from the International Academy of Design Technology in Tampa.  She is currently pursuing her Masters in Critical and Creative Thinking at the University of Nebraska Omaha.

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§ 4 Responses to Artist, Photographer, Engineer, but Maybe not a Writer?

  • How very relatable! I too am a Jane of All Trades who recently realized the common thread in all my interests is exactly what you’ve said here: storytelling. I think, for me, writing is the ticket to more storytelling opportunities, so I work at it and work at it. Turns out, I also love it.

  • Jo-Ann Giordano says:

    Christa; tell YOUR story in your way. Your truth, as you see it can stand alone rightfully and deservedly. Don’t change things to please others; please yourself. Find your exhaustion and satisfaction, when you feel you have said what needs to be said. Seeking feedback from others can weaken your story’s impact and dilute its inherent relevance. If you tell your truth, you may be surprised at how many others listen and concur. Because there is a universal aspect to each truth that demands recognition by others.

  • Elsie Ohem says:

    Thank you for this post. You’ve given me much to think about. I consider myself a writer not because I do cliché writer things (write in coffee shops — I don’t), though a typewriter is pretty cool. It’s the medium I choose to best express my narrative or whatever I choose to. Storytelling is so varied, as you’ve mentioned you can use different tools to express it. But writing is much more than a state of being or a profession. It’s a tool, at first, for communicating “something.” I would hesitate to say (because I don’t know you past what you’ve written here!) that you are a writer because you have chosen that medium to express these words of yours. You’ve communicated emotion (quite strongly, I may add) in a way that’s raw and appealing. Writing is much more than networking and other such you’ve mentioned, though there are those who feel that one must live the stereotypical “writer life” to legitimately call oneself a writer. This is not so. You are a writer because you write. And one can write however they please. 🙂

  • Barb Knowles says:

    I teach English as a New Language (aka ESL) in a public high school in suburban NY . A program I teach is Emergent Literacy for kids with limited literacy skills in any language. They have wonderful, horrible, loving, traumatic stories as we all do. But maybe times 10. We’re starting memoir “telling” through singing, dancing, poetry, photography, drawing and writing. Since they are learning English, we will then work on how to explain these memories orally and in writing. Thank you so much for this article. Your story resonates.

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