So you want to be a writer? An author? A novelist? Maybe you already define yourself using one of these words, even if you’ve never had your work professionally published.
I’ve had many conversations with writers over the years and no matter how isolated we can become, no matter how absorbed by our personal creative struggles, we all have many emotions and behaviours in common.
Are you a writer?
A writer is someone who exists in a bubble inside their own head, a world of their own creation.
A writer hears voices as their imagination births new, compelling characters who demand to be heard. As these voices intensify, so the characters grow, until a fully fledged human springs forth from their fingertips as they fly across a keyboard.
A writer feels the burn to write, to tell stories, to create. They feel it whenever they are trying to sleep, to eat, to work at their day job.
That’s another fundamental truth: most writers, no matter how talented, have a day job or a side gig of some kind. It’s a struggle to make a living from writing alone, unless someone is fortunate enough to be famous/award-winning/have the support of a fantastic team who can raise their profile to the perfect level.
No matter how hard a true writer might try to deny the urge to put pen to paper, they can’t do it. The urge to write is too strong. There are too many stories, too many characters just clamouring to be released into the world.
Writers are magpies; they collect shiny snippets of conversation, memorable anecdotes, character traits or interesting news articles and weave them into their work. Don’t piss them off or they might find their revenge in print. Anonymously, of course…
To be a writer, it’s important to first be a reader. To love books. Why else would anyone want to sweat blood in order to write one? It isn’t for the money.
Writers can spend hours honing that one perfect sentence, then panic when they realise that one sentence doesn’t make a book. They can burst with inspiration, pour out two thousand words in no time and be filled with a sense of achievement. Until they look back at their work the next day and realise that the only thing worth saving is that one sentence they wrote in the first place.
Prepare for criticism. Writing is an emotional pursuit, like any creative activity it requires the author to expose their heart and soul to strangers who won’t understand the agony it took to produce the work that they can so easily dismiss.
The one star review: feared by writers everywhere. Even if a writer has a hundred five star reviews, the single starred monstrosity is the one that they can quote by heart, where it will fester no matter how many times they say they don’t care. Rationally, every book or piece of work is not going to be liked by everyone and that’s a good thing. But somehow it’s impossible to accept this.
Writers: do you recognise yourself in this description? What traits do you think are common to those who write?