What is a Writer?
What is a Writer?
This month I gave my first ever talk as a writer. I was both flattered and flummoxed by the invitation to speak. Two problems preoccupied me: Am I even a writer? What could I possibly have to say that would sustain a whole morning’s presentation?
I tackled the second problem by inviting fellow fiction writer Clare Banks to share the panel with me. Despite her 23 years in broadcast journalism with the BBC, her initial reaction was: Am I even a writer? What could I possibly have to say…?
So these two bundles of self-doubt headed off to give a talk to GLOSLINKS and the St Ann Society. GLOSLINKS is the twinning organisation for Gloucester and its European twin towns. The St Ann Society is twinned with St Ann in Jamaica. The audience couldn’t have been more welcoming. They listened attentively, asked lots of questions and also told us about their reading and writing interests.
Clare and I came away thinking that, with one talk under our laptops, we could maybe call ourselves writers after all.
This got me thinking about what else I do that makes me a writer.
Well, I write. That might seem obvious but it’s so much easier to prevaricate and indulge in displacement activity than to put pen to paper. Years ago I went to a talk by crime writer Priscilla Masters. She told her audience, “If you want to write a book, write a book.”
I also read in a variety of genres. I learn so much about technique and plot by seeing how other writers do it. Reading is great fun too.
I carry a notebook with me everywhere to note down ideas as they occur to me, often based on things I see or hear when I’m out and about.
I spend more time editing than I do writing. The first draft is always a mess. Stephen King likens his first draft to being seen in his underwear before he’s washed, shaved and dressed. In my case, I have to dress and re-dress several times before I have a decent draft.
My network of buddy writers is really important to me. I met some brilliant people on my MA Creative Writing course at Lancaster University and four of us have kept in touch. We share our writing triumphs and disasters and give insightful critiques of each other’s drafts.
Every time one of my books or short stories pings back rejected, I edit it and send it out to another editor. After fourteen years of writing, I’m used to rejection.
So here is my nine-point checklist to being a writer:
- Carry a notebook
- Invite criticism
- Send work out
- Deal with rejection
- Never give up