Now there’s a leading question.
Many of us are shy about claiming that title. Well, read on for a thought-provoking quote from Raymond Soltysek, writer, and tutor.
There are many people who keep their writing in a desk drawer, determined that no one will see their work. This should not be trivialized, but celebrated, since what they do fulfils some intellectual, personal or psychological need; the writing makes the person who writes feel more self aware, or at peace, or just better. However, becoming a writer means publishing. Of course, I do not mean in the narrow sense of having work printed in a magazine or a volume, but in the much wider sense of sharing the work with an audience, and, even more so, being prepared to take into account the reaction of that audience. The person who writes and who then gives his or her work to a friend and says “what do you think?”, and who is prepared to listen and to defend or revise as appropriate, is a writer.
(From, Wind them up, let them go: The primacy of stimulus in the classroom. Writing in Education, autumn 2009.)
Now I do see that if, so far, you’ve only shown your writing to family and friends you may feel unsure about launching yourself in the wider world as a writer. It’s one of the things I remember discussing in my first year as an Imaginative Writing student, with our course leader, Edmund Cusick.
‘If you mean it, claim it,’ he said. He believed that to think of ourselves as writers was to commit to the necessary processes for achieving that status.
I started out in a modest way, whispering it to myself. I took it out into the world with me after university, and discovered he was right. Owning the title ‘writer’ did help me to feel justified in putting aside time and space for writing and reading.
Sometimes I have only a few minutes of my day, on a corner of the kitchen table, to build stories. But, these are the moments when I am a writer. I know this because I’m concentrating on ordering the words in such a way that they create the meaning I want to share.
Just as importantly, my family know I’m a writer because they can see that it is what I’m doing, and I share the finished results with them.
If asked what I do for a living, I say, ‘I’m a tutor,’ because that’s what pays my bills. It’s not the whole story though. At various times I also garden, cook, read, dream, and clean the house. These are not paid roles, though most of them could be. At the moments when I’m doing them, I do think of myself as a gardener, cook, dreamer and housekeeper.
There is no reason why, being able to assume all those and other different roles, I should hesitate to describe myself as a writer. I mean it, and I claim it.