Sunday, 17 June 2012

Being a Writer

Recently my mind has turned repeatedly to The Next Book. This is a book I will write one day. Because I am A Writer, and Writers Write Books.

And then I found myself reading a novel* about a writer, and there was some discussion about the business side of his life - what projects he was working on, how much they were paying, how motivated he was to finish them off. I was reminded of my time as a full-time writer, during which I was so distracted by the workaday stress of what, when, how and how much that I rarely wrote anything I was happy with.

I remembered the stubborn glee with which I turned my back on the publishing world and self-published, vowing pompously never to fall for the artificial allure of Literary Success again.

So why, when I imagine this book I am going to write, do I frame my thoughts with publishers, reviews and - yes - Literary Success? I don't even know what the damned thing is about, just that I must write it.

I've been kind to myself and allowed myself a few more months off, but apparently I have to start writing next year. Not only that, but I have to write fast. I'm only allowing myself a year or two. God knows how, as it's unlikely I'll get any time off work or parenthood.

But this morning, for the first time and, with shame I realise, in a spirit of Honest Deconstruction of One's Desires which is rare for me, I wondered why. Why the impatience?

Because I need proof. That I am a writer, that I didn't make it all up, that I am not some flash in the pan. That I am worth something. And for that I need a product. A published product.

Well, this will not do. I didn't enjoy the business of being a full time writer and I didn't like the misery of trying (and only partially succeeding) to get published. I don't have the time to write a novel soon or quickly, and the pressure created by such an attempt would make me unhappy.

So. Let it be known.

I Am A Writer.

But that doesn't mean I have to write A Great Novel (or any novel) some time soon, or any time at all.

I will write what I want, when I want, and I will bloody well enjoy it.

So there.

*Zoe Heller: Everything You Know (which I am enjoying, despite the unsympathetic protagonist).


Ragged Thread Cartographer said...

Yes! I knew the Muse would rise again for you. It’s what I call one of the choiceless choices. Think the impatience is just the urge to Create, quite simply. Perhaps your thoughts on publishers being inevitable in this case is just a mirror of how good you want the book to be, a natural reflection of your desired standards. Anyway ‘I will write what I want, when etc’ says it all. Absolutely. x

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

How weird. I felt as though this post was all about me saying, "No, I'm not goign to write another novel - it's too hard and doesn't make me happy" whereas you have drawn almost the opposite conclusion.

Although, on reflection I can see why you interpreted my words in that way. "What I want, when I want" actually means "Not a lot, not very often, and certainly not a novel". But yes, it does mean I will write something at some point - probably some short stories. No idea when though - there are a lot of other things higher up both my creative and non-creative To Do lists at the moment. On the creative front, I'm currently more interested in writing music and geeky software - enjoying being quite creative with both of those.

Sue Guiney said...

This is fantastic and shows, I think, incredible mental health. We define ourselves in so many ways. "Being" a writer can mean many many things, but I do believe that forcing yourself to write when you don't want to, in the way you don't feel it, will only lead to "bad" writing. And who wants to do that? As long as writing is a part of you, which it clearly is, then I think it will come when it does -- eventually and with an undeniable force. But until then, I agree with you ...why push it?

Gorilla Bananas said...

How right you are! You don't need to write a novel to be a writer, there are too many of them as it is. Even writing graffiti is an art form of a sort. Perhaps not writing a shopping list, though.

Ragged Thread Cartographer said...

No, sorry! Only meant that you could and would now, if you chose to do so. A sort of ‘never say never’ has been arrived at. Overall I meant your muse is alive and kicking! Music and geeky software, no less. No pressure, just creating. A reason to celebrate in and of itself! Wonderful. I think it was the ‘impatience’ which made me sure you would write again – something. Not necessarily a novel, certainly. And quite agree about the hell of publishing. x

Lisa Rullsenberg said...

"I will write what I want, when I want, and I will bloody well enjoy it."

Hurrah! You ARE a writer - and a fine one too. Write when you want, how you want, how much you want. What comes will.

Enjoy the process.

Ms A said...

Good for you. I don't think chasing publishing success works. There are too many unknowns and too much of it is about luck. It's far more important to bloody well enjoy it imho. Otherwise, why not do something that is less insecure a pays a bit better? :)