I’m on a train. I have 1,687 words of Scrivenings dumped into a Pages file to come up with this week’s blog post. I know is way too much – both for the reader and the time available to tidy it up. But it’s time to get something out there because I am quietly attempting to post every week. A small achievement in the blogging world I know. I blog but I can’t quite call myself a blogger.
I’ll happily call myself a reader though. An avid reader. I’ve been reading since before patches for a squint came off my good eye at 7. But although my entire life has involved writing and some of it professionally to exacting standards, some of it emotionally driven expression – everything from love letters to computer user manuals; poems to carefully constructed destruction of employees’ contracts – I can reduce people to tears in all manner of ways..
And for the past 2.5 years I’ve been writing something a lot of the time from memoir to flash fiction, blogs posts to essays and articles. Yet I’m still struggling to call myself a writer..
This is clearly about how I believe the outside world would validate what I do. It’s how I spend a lot of my ‘productive’ time. Everyone else in my situation would agree I’m some sort of writer, but it’s a bit like the person who spends a lot of time in their own garden every day, planting, pruning, watering, nurturing. They’re not a ‘gardener’ as such – doesn’t the term imply providing gardening services for other people in return for payment of some kind?
It feels the same with writing. I’m struggling with the title ‘writer’ because generally I’m not paid. There are other rewards but outsiders might see it as a hobby not an occupation. Even an out of work actor is still an actor. But an unpublished or unpaid writer? What is that? Just a way of passing time? A pastime.
If I were an accountant or doctor, I would always be those even when I wasn’t working. I think I’m right in saying I can always call myself a psychologist. I can call myself a coach. I’m qualified in both although I’ve spent much more time at the practice of writing.
And I’m a better writer than either of those two labels.
The person who ‘spends a lot of time in their garden’ does that with more love and care than the person beholden to a paycheque, surely? Also where there’s choice to invest time in long term rewards doesn’t this allow for greater growth and vision? The planting of saplings that will eventually bear fruit? Who then is the better, more successful gardener?
Who the better writer? It probably depends who’s asking. I’m busy crawling up the backside of my own angst about this because Charli at the Carrot Ranch is rounding up bios for the Congress of Rough Writers. Somehow she calls me a writer and by default maybe the rest of that particular gang. But as we all attest, it’s a difficult label to assign yourself in the company of corporate types who think in terms of rankings, ratings and remuneration.
I’m disturbed by writing a bio because it implies I am describing myself as a writer. There’s more to come on this in the next post – My train is nearly there and I still have about 1,300 words of scrivenings left to synthesis more ideas.
In the meantime my social anthropology hat as participant-observer in the writing underclass tells me I’m not alone with this uncomfortable conundrum. I know the problem with the label is external to me. I feel like a writer. It’s just proving hard to say out loud.
What about you? What makes a writer a writer for you? If you’re further down the acknowledge path of success, can you remember the moment you ‘became a writer’? What defined it for you?
Since posting this I had several enlightening and inspiring twitter and blog comments (see below – and please do add more) that I answered my own questions with You Know You’re A Writer Because .. 7 Reason Why You Are A Writer