I have written things for other people for years – starting off in journalism, then moving into PR. When someone pays you to write for them, whether copy for press releases, marketing materials, web content, newsletters or whatever, they are valuing and validating your professional skills and expertise.
I still write and enjoy writing for other people. It’s what I ‘do’, it’s what I get paid for it, it’s my job.
But when it comes to writing for myself, telling people I’m writing just for me or calling myself a writer – it’s a different matter. Yesterday I went to my first ever writing workshop with a mix of excitement and trepidation.
Organised by New Writing North it was run by Stephanie Butland – who is a Writer. Stephanie has a very popular blog www.bahtocancer.co.uk and a book of the same name published. Stephanie is also a de Bono trainer, a very lovely lady and she bakes brilliant cakes. The group was a friendly mix of interesting people and the workshop was, for me, really useful, inspiring, and in no way intimidating! It got me thinking about and articulating all sorts of issues to do with writing (and some to do with not writing).
Thinking more about my misconceptions about why I can’t/don’t/ shouldn’t call myself a writer, it's because, for me, Writers:
- write like they breathe– all the time, the words just flow, they can’t help it, it’s natural and easy for them to do
- are published – they have books with their name on sitting on shelves, agents and publishers impatient to get the next one out and avid readers hanging on every word
- who blog are read by hundreds of people, receive scores of positive comments and are just about to get that book deal based on their blog, or are blogging about their soon to be published novel
- all live in Sheds (luxury ones with carpets and log burners), speak in Shakespearian sonnets and wear velveteen waistcoats with ruffle sleeved shirts.
Okay – maybe not quite that last one - but I do tend to imagine that Writers are a particular clique that I don’t belong to, enjoying a party I haven’t been invited to.
With Stephanie and my fellow workshopees we explored issues like this and a whole load more such as sharing your work with others, finding time and giving yourself permission to write. Points that gave me real food for thought included:
- the observation that someone who likes cycling will comfortably call themselves a ‘cyclist’ without needing to win the Tour de France and quite happily spend a lot of time (and money) doing their thing just because they love to do.
- If you’re uncomfortable saying you’re a writer (which can get a usual response of ‘so what book have you have published’) and you blog, call yourself a blogger. Blogging is now well established and widely recognised as a writing form, (hey, you can even win awards!)
- Don't just sit waiting for it to happen, set yourself a goal, targets, a plan, know how many words you want to do in a day/ week/ month, put time in your diary to make it happen.
- Choose to get on with it – don’t just talk about it, give yourself limiting beliefs or excuses why you can’t/ shouldn’t/ wouldn’t – because of course the one thing you must do if you’re a writer, of any sort, is write! And it is, actually, alright to write.
So, here I am… writing. Not sure if that makes me a Writer – but it feels right!
And, thanks also to Stephanie for pointing out this advice from Kingsley Amis,
'The art of writing is the art of applying the seat of one’s pants to the seat of one’s chair’.