I’ve been writing for four years now. I’ve not had anything published, not won a competition, and no-one has ever heard of me. Recently, I have been wondering, what is the point at which someone becomes a writer?
When someone asks you to read their LinkedIn article and offer suggestions? When someone asks you to read and comment on a poem they’ve written for a funeral? When you are asked to write a blog for a project at work? All because they know you write and they think you know what you are doing?
It’s fair to say that I know more now than I did when I started. I’ve written a lot, read a lot about writing, got some good feedback, and changed the way I write as a consequence. It just feels weird to get acknowledgement from others, especially when they’ve never read any of my writing. It’s hard not to feel like an imposter, but with every request, it helps my confidence grow, because, I provide helpful feedback, write things that people praise and enjoy reading. I must be doing something right!
I mainly write fiction, which is very different from poetry, articles or blogs. Other people don’t see a distinction, and maybe, after all, there isn’t much of one really. In theory, a writer can turn their eye to anything. Each piece of writing is built of words, sentences and paragraphs. You still use punctuation and grammar. Is the difference between a fiction writer and a blogger imagination? I don’t think so. Writers write to be read, whether that’s a family member, newspaper audience, customer or anonymous people on the internet. You construct your pieces from a starting point that people need to be interested, carried through a beginning, middle and end and finish feeling satisfied. It doesn’t matter whether this is verse or prose, technical manuals or text books. If people don’t read it, there’s not much point writing it.
But, what about diaries and journals? There’s a growing number of people who journal for wellbeing reasons on paper or electronically, and who never show anyone else their writing. It’s cathartic, unselfconscious and quite possibly fairly uninteresting to most other people. But there’s not many people who journal who don’t go back and read old entries, whether written days, months or even years previously. Surely your future self is a different creature to the one in the present doing the writing? I believe you still have an audience in mind when writing for yourself, as you’re recording things of importance that you feel one day will be beneficial.
I’m sure Anne Frank, Samuel Pepys and Pliny the Younger didn’t expect their private diaries to be published for all to see when they wrote them, yet millions of people every year do just that, and they reveal so much important historic and anthropological information. They leave lessons to be learned, how we all have the same hopes, fears, joy and pain, no matter where or when we are born.
Besides, writing a journal is a good way of practising what has always been a popular way of presenting fiction. I’m sure Sue Townsend, Helen Fielding and Jeff Kinney would have dabbled in journal writing themselves to give them the basis of the diaries of Adrian Mole, Bridget Jones and the Wimpy Kid.
So, when do you become a writer? In my view, it’s when you start purposefully writing because you enjoy it, become curious about how to improve and allow others to read it. You don’t need to have outside recognition (although it’s nice), but an inner voice that says “I am a writer”.