On Being a Writer

It’s not the glamorous life that one expects, being a writer. I remember being a child, and dreaming of sitting at a little table with a cup of tea, a posh notebook with creamy white pages and a fountain pen, looking out of the window for inspiration with my hair flowing down my back. And everything that I wrote would be of first class standard, suitable for being a published best selling novel, with my name in lights. Fans would adore me, begging me to visit their schools, sign copies of the books, have interviews for their newspapers and magazines. People would even name their children after my characters, I would be so amazing.

However, I had the shock of my life. I had a tutorial about the last creative assignment that I handed in. I only just passed, with a third class mark. It was humiliating to be shot down like that, to be told that actually I need to pull my socks up, smell the coffee, see reality. I need to stop letting people in my family and circle of non writer friends tell me how amazing a writer I am, for they don’t know the craft, and what they are talking about. Being a writer simply isn’t about the dreaming, it’s the lifestyle involving sheer hard work, the slog, constantly editing, constantly changing. It’s all well and good to get the initial draft down, but that’s not what makes you a writer. The writer is the one who can look at a piece of work they’ve written, and thinks, ‘hmmmm, how can I make this better?’. A writer weilds the red pen like it’s the fountain pen they’ve used to initially write the little darling on the page. The red rips the tale to shreds, before carefully piecing it back together again, ready for the editor’s perusal. 

It’s like one of my favourite animes, Whisper of the Heart, about a young middle school student who wants to become a writer. She writes her first draft of the novel that she is working on, and brings it to the owner of an antique store who she has become friends with. He reads it, and tells her that it’s good, but needs work to make it better. When she is sad about this, he shows her a rock on his desk. He explains to her that her skills as a writer are like the rock, unpolished and rough. But he then shows her the inside, and reveals the rock to be a geode, with beautiful crystals inside, which he refers to as some of the best pieces in her novel. He explains that once the novel is completely polished, the crystals will be revealed for the beauty and brilliance they are, but, for now, they need to be brought out through editing.  

I collect crystals, and bought a geode in a shop in York last year, when I attended the NUS Women’s Conference. I like to have it next to me when I’m working on my writing, in order to remind me that I’m still rough around the edges, and that I need to keep polishing before I can see myself as a proper writer. I might write things, but until I learn to edit and accept criticism, I can’t really call myself a true writer. It’s not glamorous to be sat in your pajamas, on a loan laptop from the company who has messed things up with your own one, in the kitchen because said loan won’t charge its battery, trying to frantically type up some sort of story before the seminar you should of written for two weeks ago, on top of searching online to find the basis of the book you were supposed to read for that class. 

It’s an interesting idea, though. My idea of what a writer is has changed so much. I can almost imagine all the writers of my childhood getting up early, all stressed and untidy, swigging coffee and Red Bull as they sit in front of their computers and frantically write out a chapter before the deadline their agent has provided for them. It’s not a relaxing life, not at all! It’s bad enough that I have to write to university deadlines at the moment, without having to worry about how my life will pan out in the future!

So, for now, I’m going to enjoy what little literary freedom I have left, being able to work on little projects here and there. I’ve jotted down a few poems in the past three weeks, but am yet to write another short story. In the meantime, that’s my aim for this afternoon, once I’ve battled the storm to go and check the mail…

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