I wrote this in October 2012 and published it elsewhere. I can now say that yes I am a writer – in addition to the many other things I do. I blog, I contribute to newsletters, I’ve published creative and factual ebooks, and I also write stuff in my job. It’s an interesting rambling read from the inside of my head, slightly edited for this blog to remove a couple of bits I didn’t want to share this time round.
In the course of some recent coaching, it was put to me that actually I am a writer. I’m still processing this thought, and as is natural to me when I’m processing a thought, I like to ponder about it in writing. So, let’s say I am a writer, what does that mean?
I don’t know what it means, I don’t know how I can use that skill to make a living, I don’t know what type of writing I can do. I don’t know where I’m going with it.
I’ve been defined by a job title for 16 years, and that’s quite restricting. Hugely restricting in fact, since even when I describe to people the things I like doing, I still get people wanting me to work on other things that they think I should do, that they find interesting.
So having an all-encompassing description like “writer”, that’s a hard thing to get my head round. It could mean so many things, it could mean I can do so many things. Where can I start and what do I do with it? If I said to someone I were a writer, they’d ask what type of writer. What types of writer are there? Or should writing not be defined and pinned down to a genre?
I have quite a few questions – to myself and to others – about this latest development…. here are a few of them that came to my mind immediately.
So what’s the evidence for me being a writer?
I found on my computer something that I wrote in 2009, the 9th of June 2009 to be precise. It is entitled “I have decided to write a book”. Standing on the Hammersmith & City line platform at Paddington, I was on my way somewhere, pondering my career plans, and that thought popped into my head. Obviously a powerful thought, as I went home and wrote about it. And 3 years later I can remember the moment that I had that thought. And wonder why it went no further, why I never experimented with it, why I never tried to work out what it was I wanted to write about!
What other evidence points towards my liking for writing? My holiday diaries as a child every summer. Was that forced upon me, or did I start to do them because I liked them?
My career decision at 16 to take A levels in science, when I was doing well at most subjects, including English. My English teacher was full of praise for some creative writing I was doing at the time. She urged me not to take science A levels as I’d end up a “boring scientist”. So I did them anyway and determined not to be a boring scientist. I ended up in science-related marketing.
My first instinct when anything is troubling me is to write, my favourite method of communication is writing. I wrote my first blog in 2010 when doing a fundraising challenge and haven’t stopped. Blogs on all types of topics, some publicly shared and some more for my own amusement collecting thoughts together.
When living by myself, if I was bored, I’d often sit down at my computer and write something. And never do anything with it, but I still have all those pieces I wrote. I have just re-read again a piece I wrote in 1998 (that one nothing to do with wine I don’t think) which I found quite amusing when I read it. Which presumably is why I have kept it and not deleted it.
I have just looked back at my writing since I started the 30 Day Challenge back in May – and found 94 documents of creative writing. Some already published on my website (37 items), but quite a few more I’d forgotten I’d even written! Some of them were a couple of paragraphs that didn’t go anywhere, but there are plenty more that I could do something with.
Writing versus everything else
But if I’m a writer, what does that mean for all the other things I do? Do I have to get rid of those? Am I not allowed to do them anymore? I thought some of them also defined me, does that mean I was wrong? How can I be sure that writing isn’t just one of the portfolio of things I like and that one of the other things I do/like isn’t “The Thing I Need To Do”?
Do I have to give up liking websites and blogs? Do I have to stop managing projects and organising things? Do I have to stop liking volunteering for charities and helping with fundraising and marketing? Or do I just use these skills and interests to promote and enhance my writing? Or do something separate with one or more of those?
Characteristics of writers
Do writers just love writing? Love talking to other writers about their work? Reading excerpts from their books, signing books in bookshops? Do they have to do all of that?
Aren’t writers really good at spelling and grammar and punctuation? Don’t they have to deal with editors and publishers and people who tell them what to write? Isn’t it impossible to make money out of writing unless you’re really good/know the right people/get discovered accidentally/write a blog that millions of people start reading? Is all of that actually true for every writer or every type of writer?
Do they just wake up in the morning and need to write? Hate sitting in a car for 45 minutes in the morning and evening because they can’t write? Keep a pen and paper on the car seat next to them in case they have inspiration? Need peace and quiet to think, nice surroundings to absorb? Need to be in “the right mood” to write? Is all of that normal?
Writing – what and how?
Do I have to pick a genre of writing and stick to it? Do I have to define myself in some way? Do I have to be a novelist or a science fiction writer or a freelance features writer or a copywriter or a science writer or a journalist or a blogger?
Or can I just write, in my own way, my own things, on topics I like, on situations I’ve been in, and work out what I enjoy writing about?
If I’m a writer, that means I have to have my own creative quiet space to write. It also means I need to have my own quiet time to write. I need to make room for it in my life, which up until now I haven’t really done, because I didn’t know I needed it. Until I started the 30 Day Challenge and wrote every day for 30 days. And stopped for a while, but kept wanting to write, missed it if I wasn’t doing it, kept seeing things that inspired me in everyday life. Even when I was meant to be giving myself a break.
I’d need to have an audience, to get feedback, to share my work. I’d need to be confident that I’m me, and nobody else. Lots of other people can write and they do write. But does that make me less of a writer just because artists and photographers and other people I know also write? No, because I’m not competing, I’m running my own race. I’m not thinking of what they’re doing, I’m doing the best things I can do and seeing where that leads me.
I like writing. I like sitting down with a piece of paper or a laptop or an iPad and seeing what comes out. There’s a lot in my head. Some of it complete rubbish but some of it can be quite inspired.
I can be my own kind of writer, I don’t need to follow anyone else’s lead, do what others have done. I just need to write things and for them to have value to someone. I do feel like I have to have a subject area though, that if I don’t write about specific things I won’t build a following, a “tribe”. I can meander along on all sorts of topics, but they wouldn’t all be of interest to the same people. I like lots of topics, that’s part of the problem. Well not the problem just a fact. I like lots of things. But then that just means there are a lot of things I can write about, can base things on.
I know that I need to write. I just don’t know quite where that is going to take me and what all of this means…….
Congratulations, you made it to the end of a very long blog post! Does this post make you think? Do you have any observations? Please do comment and let me know.