What is a real writer?
Earlier this year I did something I have never done before; I openly declared myself a writer (cue collective yawn). Isn’t everybody these days? I could hear those I told think inside their heads. Yet it wasn’t my doing. My partner, in an apparent fit doe eyed pride told family what I did. Now they ask questions – many questions. And now, when they refer to me as such, I feel very unworthy of the title. Of course, I did tell my partner that I wrote, but writing is not the same as being a writer.
I have always kept my passion secret; it was something I did when I was alone. Something I hoped one day would turn into something – maybe when I had more time. I’ve always been an aspiring, always been a wannabe, writing is my love and publishing a book is my dream. I know I’m not an author yet, but writing and writers come in many forms, and I ask at what point is a someone who writes, truly a writer?
I have written countless words, and started countless tales – and some I’ve even finished. But few people have ever read my work. I have always been a writer in my spare time, though I never truly believed myself so – and how could I be? Kids who play cops and robbers all day don’t hold badges, do they? I have never had anything published, not once, not because of failure or rejection, but because I have never tried.
You can be a painter without ever selling a piece, I suppose, but you can’t call yourself an artist if you always keep your work covered. So, a year or two ago, I decided to get serious about my dream. I could live without ever publishing, but I couldn’t live without trying. I dedicated my free time to writing, I locked my doors and turned recluse and wrote every day. I practice my craft for an audience of none. It’s hard to tell your friends, no, I can’t come for lunch, or come over or go for a drink, I have to work to do. Because at my job, there is no boss, no roster, no uniform, no outward consequence for not showing up and there is no pay – and it never seems real.
We’re lucky to live in a time when everyone can try, and I joined the fray. I have put my work online and exposed my writing to all. This site will be the first time strangers have read my words. But if no one reads this, am I still a writer then? Surely, a toy maker is still a toy maker if no one visits their shop, right?
And this is published, isn’t it? Does this not constitute a writer’s goal? Is not online publishing a major business these days, and doesn’t everyone read on a screen? So why does this feel so different?
Because of dreams. Because of my own doe eyed delusions of what a writer should be. A real writer can hold their book in their hands, I always thought. I guess I could self publish, although that feels like cheating to me – and expensive. But does a physical copy of one’s novel always denote success? Does seeing it there, on the shelf in the local bookshop mean triumph? Or am I viewing success incorrectly, and the bookshop completely wrong?
If I never publish a book, and if no one ever reads my words – whether online or not – will all be for nothing? Of course not. I write, as I’m sure you do too, because I don’t know how not to. A lack of exposure will never stop me doing what I love, but I’ll go to my grave never feeling like a real writer.
How many others have felt the same?
(I’m certainly not the first to think like this. Check out this excellent article I read while writing this piece.)