Thursday, December 6, 2007

The secret to being a writer

Now, you may have been told that there is no secret to being a writer, that there is no hidden star to find (or possibly buy on the black market). If you have been told this you will also have been informed that all you need to do to be a writer is write. Simple as that. Just put one word in front of the other until you have that book or poem or history essay or whatever it is you need to have done. Now, there is something odd about this. Writing your history essay does not make you a writer. Writing your thesis does not make you a writer. Oddly enough writing a blog about writing does not make you a writer. So it cannot be that, it cannot simply be sitting down and writing. Yes, a writer must write. But can you be a writer if you don't?

I go to a cafe to meet up with some writers in the area. It ends up that you are the only 'non-writer' there. I meet one as I go to buy my coffee, her name is Susan. Susan is dressed in brightly-colored clothes and has her hair down to her ankles. She is very eclectic, a little too artsy, but overall seems harmless. Another, Jeffrey, moans about the cost of the cafe, dressed in black with a baret and an empty notebook. Apparently he has writing block. Dressed in jeans and a grey tea-shirt, I feel a tad bit out of place. Why? Because I'm not a writer. I wrote a novel in november, I know what they are talking about when they discuss the problems with characters in the head and disobedient plots, but I'm not a writer. Not like they are...even though I'm the only one there who has written a novel.

So what is it that makes a person a writer? Is it how they talk? Do you need a beret to be a writer? What about a funny accent? Do you need to be depressed? Do you need writers block?

I'm sure most people will not think that these are the things that make up a writer, except possibly writers block. So there we have it, that secret that lets you into the guild of writerlyness. Writer's block most mean you are a writer, because the poor scholars writing their history essays don't get writers block. No, they procrastinate. It is the same thing of course, but a different name and a different feeling. Procrastination is more useful for a student, it can be used for a wide variety of things. Writer's block means staring at a blank page, which in some places is considered very productive indeed.

But what about Jeffrey? He is a writer in the eyes of those around him, but I don't like being compared to him. I don't like him going around saying how he is a writer when I know very well that he hasn't written more then once in the last two years, and when that once is:

These tears that fall,
are sad and all black
make me cry, sadly
like water, salt
droplets
from my eyes.
Because Susy
I love you,
for ever.

Or something like that. Now at least I know why he wants to be a writer, Susan likes him well enough but she is more interested in her craft fairs and her cat photos. He actually let Susan read this poem, she didn't really get it I don't think.

Eventually, I fell out with the group. I was too busy editing my nanonovel. Not much of a writer I guess, but I'm really too busy revising to be a writer and I need to find some trust worthy agents so I can't really figure out what a 'writer' is at the moment, maybe after I send off that full they requested.

---

That is a writer (it also isn't me in case you were wondering, I certainly wouldn't be caught wearing jeans!)

It is like anything else, it cannot be said with two or three little words. Why would we need novels if we could communicate all our dreams and thoughts and hatreds and passions and humour and confusion a in limericks? A writer is not someone who writes, or someone who dresses like an writer, or talks like a writer, or takes writing classes, or keeps a blog, or writers. But you will make yourself a writer by doing these things. Take on the clothes of it, understand the attitudes and act like a writer, eventually you will become what you are acting like. It will be a bit of a surprise from time to time, especially if you write a novel in a month and suddenly you are off in the airy places of publishing contracts and fan letters and you think 'oh, thats what a writer is'. Or maybe not.

So, sadly the advice remains the same: Writing does not make you a writer, staying up late into the night trying to figure out what went wrong with that plot twist until you are giddy does not make you a writer, nor does dressing or speaking like one, but you must still do at least the first to BE a writer.

So there you have it, there is an initiating, there is a secret code. We can't explain it, we lack the words to explain. It is sort of like a conversion, mysterious and better to be taken with a shining light in the a heavens then a late night novel editing session.

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