Sometimes, telling people that I’m a writer comes back to haunt me. If I don’t get the immediate enquiry about what I’ve written, it’s the breathy admission that they could never write. I’d like to think that anyone can write, if they simply put their mind to it – after all, writing only requires literacy to begin.
But telling people I’m a writer inevitably leads to them telling other people I’m a writer, and then word getting out that I’m a writer, until there’s a really awkward moment at a social event when someone I barely know (and they have usually just been introduced as a friend-of-a-friend-of-so-and-so, or so-and-so’s third cousin) turns to me and announces “I hear you’re a writer” in a somewhat expectant tone as if I will suddenly burst forth in a bout of prose, spew Shakespearean verse or proclaim poetry.
“Yes,” I respond meekly.
“Have I read anything of yours?” is inevitably the next question.
No. You bloody well have not, unless you have chanced upon my blogs or tweets or even accidentally friend-ed me on Facebook.
But, I’m sorry, is that a raised eyebrow I spy? Am I suddenly a fibber? Does this make me a non-writer?
There is the widely bandied-around view that “anyone can get published nowadays” thanks to the rise and rise of self-publishing and eBooks. And although there is a certain amount of muddying of the waters, I’m not sure this means anyone can get published.
I don’t intend to get published until I’m ready and the world is ready to have me. I mean that in a totally un-boastful way. I am not as narrow-minded as to assume I am the Great And Wonderful Prodigy That Literature Has Been Waiting For. I have a lot of learning to do yet, and the publishers are a long way off in my future.
But this doesn’t stop me from being a writer. I still write. I still people watch in Starbucks with a notepad just to practice my dialogue, and copy out pieces of text I particularly enjoy just to see what makes it tick (I’ll let you know if I ever find out). I still wake up at 5.30 every morning to give myself some writing time before I go to work, and I still sit down at the computer for three hours or more each evening to get even more writing in.
I am still a writer.
But I think some people don’t see the difference between a writer, published or unpublished, aspiring or aspired. If they haven’t read you, you’re not a writer. Not yet, any way.
And I beg to differ.
What do you think makes a writer?
What do you get asked about your writing?