I’ve often heard it said at writing conferences that if you write you are a writer. However I have never held with that view. I’ve always thought that I could only call myself a writer if I was being paid to do it. I mean I would love to call myself a model but no one is offering me cash to see me strut up and down the landing in my finery so I don’t see why I should be allowed that label!
I do however like the view put forward by two writers, Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Kate Tempest in this article for the Guardian, especially as I lurch desperately towards the end of my first draft of my latest novel. It’s all about finishing. So enough of this putting off finishing by posting an extract about finishing and I’ll go back to being a writer and try and finish! Full article is attached in a link at the end.
PWB Can I ask you, Kate, writer to writer: do you ever write something and go, “Smashed it, that’s brilliant, I’m keeping that, that’s amazing.” Does it get to the point where you can step back and go, “That’s a really good piece of writing” or, “That’s not such a good piece of writing.” Or do you just write it all down and not think of it critically?
KT It’s not like, “Wooh, I’m smashing this” but sometimes everything else disappears, and that happens very rarely. The rest of the time, it’s you writing when you don’t feel like writing, writing when you hate everything that’s coming out, forcing yourself to engage with the idea that it’s going to be shit no matter what you do, and trying to kind of break through that because of a deadline, or because you know that it’s very important to continue. This is what enables you to be a writer.
The difference between a writer and someone who dreams of being a writer is that the writer has finished. You’ve gone through the agony of taking an idea that is perfect – it’s soaring, it comes from this other place – then you’ve had to summon it down and process it through your shit brain. It’s coming out of your shit hands and you’ve ruined it completely. The finished thing is never going to be anywhere near as perfect as the idea, of course, because if it was, why would you ever do anything else? And then you have another idea. And then these finished things are like stepping stones towards being able to find your voice.
The thing is, everybody’s got an idea. Everybody wants to tell me about their ideas. Everybody is very quick to look down on your finished things, because of their great ideas. But until you finish something, I’ve got no time to have that discussion. Because living through that agony is what gives you the humility to understand what writing is about.
Read the full article here: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2016/nov/26/phoebe-waller-bridge-kate-tempest-conversation-fleabag
One thought on “When can you call yourself a writer??”
I trained to be a nurse (in the UK). They told us that it was only when you qualified as a nurse that you could truly call yourself a nurse (up to the point you qualified you had to call yourself a ‘student nurse’).
Writing has no formal qualification (if it had I promise you I would have taken it!) in the absence of a formal qualification it is my view that you can, with all conscience, call yourself a writer when YOU feel you are a writer.
Hi Robin – thank you so much for your comment. I totally agree – it’s entirely up to you when you feel you can call yourself a writer. For me, I need the endorsement of someone being prepared to pay for my work for me to feel comfortable allowing myself that label. But I realise that this doesn’t have to be how it is for other writers. That’s the amazing thing about writing – you can set your own rules. Hope your nursing and writing are going well.