Saturday, 3 April 2010

am I still a writer?

This questions struck me this morning, as I was emailing a friend, who is a writer. We swapped a story a while ago and have recently just exchanged some feedback, constructive thoughts on ways to improve it, a readers impressions. I realised that this story (my most recent) was written about eight months ago, perhaps longer. When I thought about it, I realised that I haven't written anything at all for about six months, and I haven't even tried writing, so it's not writer's block, it's more of a choice, more not wanting to write. And my writing blog is turning more into a gardening blog. So what's going on? Am I still a writer if I don't actually write?

Well. I read at a literature festival recently. I was a writer then, reading a short story that I wrote a few years ago. I still have a book. I still occasionally send work to publishers or magazines, trying my luck to see if they want to publish it. I applied for a writer in residence job (the short listing takes place this week, but I have an inkling that they won't think I am experienced enough). I get emails from people who seem to think I am a writer.

But, I'm not writing. So, agahhh how can I call myself a writer if I haven't put pen to paper in an age? And how long do you have to not write before I have to say, oh I used to be a writer, but I don't write anymore? Or is being a writer in your blood, do you always remain a writer even if you give it up for a while? Or do you have to be physically writing? Or making money from writing? Or being published? Or doing it full-time?

Ha. It's a tough one to think about isn't it.

I'm still not inspired to put pen to paper, because... well, I don't feel the need to right now, I have other priorities, I have some things to work out before I can write the things I really want to write, I've felt a bit shaken by disappointments recently, and the world is not repsonding well to the kinds of things I write, the publishing world, and of course there is sometimes self-doubt, like am I good enough?

But it's not because I have given up hope or got bored with it, or got stuck, or anything negative. I'm not upset about it, in fact it feels like I need this break, after a few years of pushing myself out there, trying really hard to get my writing published, network, discover myself as a writer, I felt a bit tired, and I decided that actually if you have to TRY so hard then maybe some of the enjoyment gets lost. And I want to rediscover writing (at some point) when it can be all joy, and none of the hassle that can surround it.

But, it is an interesting question. Am I still a writer~? Well I guess it depends on your definition.


Eryl Shields said...

You wrote this.

Douglas Bruton said...

Writing and it being joy? Not sure I know what you mean here. Writing is a wrench and a wrestle and a hassle and a big mountain that you feel you have to climb, but which it sometimes would be easier not to... always easier not to, but you do anyway?

I write a lot just now. A lot of crap, but occasionally something shiny. I get jittery when I am not writing. But if I go past the jittery stage I find I can live with myself and not write for a while. Then an idea buzzes and buzzes in my head and I make notes in a book and I make the mistake of writing again and then I can't stop for fear that I will lose something if I do. It feels like a drug sometimes.

I do ok in some comps too... and I feel good for long enough to blog about it... and then collapse again in a sea of self doubt. So the joy I get from it (if it ever approaches joy) is outweighed by the opposite of joy that I drag behind me.

Except... alone in my room, in front of the computer, tapping away, something spills out and when I read it back it can feel like the best thing ever written and it can feel like it was written by someone else... and that is a bright shiny moment in my head.

I write, have written, will write... what does it matter?

SallyF said...

I think any kind of creative calling, like yours (and mine) lives in your heart and mind (and in our case hands too), and comes and goes. You are a writer, always, it lives in you. You don't have to be writing for that to be true. Its just that you are other things too. You can be more than one thing at once. x

Lynne Rees said...

It's interesting for me to read this, Annie, as I've just spent two years renovating a house in France and, in comparison with my life before I came here, not being a writer. The scale of the renovations here wiped out any daily, or even regular, committment to something that, for over 20 years, I thought was an essential part of who I was. And that included being a creative writing tutor too, both privately and at University level.

I've had time to reflect on, panic about, become resolved, feel disappointed, accept and relinquish a lot of ideas and feelings during the last 2 years. And now I'm coming to the end of the work on the house and realise that I'll now have more time for myself, I'm starting to wonder if and how I'll be able to reconnect with writing again. Find a project that will absorb me. A project that has something worthwhile to say.

Maybe we both have to look at divorcing ideas of writing from ideas of publishing and publicity, and from any comparison with what other writers are doing. It's what I've told students again and again over the years and it feels humbling to remind myself of my own words, and try and believe in them.

In my heart I think I know they're true though.

annie clarkson said...

Thanks Lynne, this is reassuring and made a lot of sense to me. It sounds like renovating your house in france was a wonderful creative project, a lovely place for a writer, I'm guessing?

Sally, thank you x
Eryl too, yes, blogging is writing too...

and Douglas, I know what you mean, but writing for me is foremost a joy, and I don't think it has to be a struggle. Life is struggle, and I like writing to be an escape, a joy, a love, a choice, freeing, cathartic... I guess we all write for different reasons..?

Megan said...

Yes Annie.
I think it's definitely in your blood. And perhaps you're writing secretly in your head without even realising it. For now.


Yes, you are good enough.

Louise Halvardsson said...

funny to read this post as I've recently been having the same thoughts! I've had success but not much has happened lately and I've been busy "living". Check out my blog post to see my opinions on the matter:
once a writer always a writer ...