Do you write? Are you a writer?
Obviously, I do because I never stop bloody going on about it.
It’s a weird thing writing, a weird passion. And that’s what it is for most of us – a passion, an obsession. Not an anguished struggle – well it’s that’s as well. It’s certainly not something we make millions from – though we may wish.
For most of us writing is the thing we do, often in secret, because it makes us feel like ourselves. It’s a thing we do because it fires us up and makes us cry and when it is works there is nothing else like it – creating worlds that we can become lost in, falling in love with characters who seem, to us, as real as you are.
It’s a weird ‘hobby’ I guess, but no weirder than train spotting – do people still do that? Or knitting, or painting or baking or running?
But there’s a weird thing with writing.
See if you are a knitter and you are happily telling everyone you know about the fabulous scarf you’ve knitted, no one asks you when you will be setting up a professional scarf knitting service, selling your scarves internationally.
The same with running – no one says you, when you bravely say you are doing the couch to 5k ‘So, when are you becoming a professional runner then?’
I mean that would be weird, right.
But if you tell anyone you are a writer and if you write the you ARE a writer – did I mention I was writing a novel?
If you tell people, you write they immediately ask you what you’ve had published? When are you going to be published? Did you win The Booker Prize yet?
It’s as if, with writing, our only measure of value, our only measure of success, is publication.
Our art is not enough in itself. It is only in the commodification of our art, of our writing, that it has value.
Somehow, it’s not ‘real writing’ if we do it just for us. But isn’t that missing the point of art, of creating?
If the measure of success in writing is seen in terms of selling our work, we miss out on all of the joy.
What about the grandparents, writing down their memories to pass onto their grandkids, the parents creating bedtime stories to settle little ones or keep them quiet in the back of the car, the teens writing new worlds to escape the ones they inhabit? All of these are fabulous, all of these are joyful, all of these deserve recognition as writing.
Somewhere, we’ve been told the only reason to have a passion, the only value to having an obsession is to sell you work. To sell your scarfs, to sell your painting, to sell your words.
Well, I’m here to tell you that you work, your words are valuable and fabulous because you created them and that creative spark, that flare, brings you joy. And that is enough.
Art for art’s sake – isn’t that what they say?
If you write you are a writer. Shout it loud and proud.
Now, let me tell you about this scarf I’m knitting!