Saturday, May 28, 2011

Are You a Writer?

Before getting down to the meat and potatoes of writing, I should write a series of posts addressing writing's wider aspects. To begin with, what makes a writer, and do you have what it takes?

Certainly this is a judgment that many people will make up their minds about you, the gentle reader. If you announce to your family, friends and associates your intention to be a writer, expect doubt. If you haven’t possessed any prior special talent recognized by the powers that be – specifically, your teachers – a slightly frosty reception awaits your announcement. This is because writing, unlike music or painting, is rarely viewed as a ‘leisure’ activity.

Once upon a time, in the 19th century, it certainly was. Everyone of means wrote, since this was the best means of keeping in contact with loved ones far away, as in the next county. The practice of writing was viewed seriously in school - much more serious than now - as it was training for mothers to manage the wider family, and for fathers to properly communicate in business.

You and I do not live in such far-flung days, and all the better for us. There is a therefore less competition. Bad writers flourish today because an uneducated public cannot know from personal ability that these are bad writers. And while your concern is that you may be a bad writer, if you take solid efforts to hone your ability and craft, you will learn to be at least as capable as many published authors presently earning small amounts of money, like yours truly.

First and foremost, you should approach writing as something you like to do. Others may not see writing as purposeful. For them, it seems an awful lot of work. But if you wish to identify as a writer, you should probably consider writing as something pleasant. Otherwise, this chore will break you. It is unforgiving, unsympathetic and has no value to anyone unless it is part of something finished. It
likely will not earn praise from others, or it will earn praise a long way down the road. Before getting there, you will meet many people who will inform you - without very much explanation - that you are wasting your time. They will call you a dreamer. They will call you irresponsible. Or they will make little mocking phrases about everyone having a book in them and so on.

All the same, writing is only putting one word after another, albeit for hours at a time. It is not a craft that any person possessed of their faculties cannot learn to do. You must have faith in that, despite your own questions. With patience, a willingness to learn and an open attitude towards teaching yourself some difficult skills - and having ideas a little more grandiose than the next person - there’s nothing whatsoever to stop you from considering yourself to be a writer.

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