Labels are tricky things. Getting your name to fit on neatly and above all legibly. Positioning them so people do not have to squint at your bust. Peeling them off without a felted patch of jumper coming away too. Most of all, defining who and what you are…
Those of you who know me and/or my twitter feed will be aware of my respect and occasional stalking of Joanne Harris. Her writing and her opinions can usually be relied upon to challenge me in the best possible way.
Here’s a tweet she made earlier:
Oh, and this. 11: There’s no such thing as an “aspiring writer.” You’re either a writer, or not. Just write…
Besides her fun in creating an eleventh tweet in a set of ten, and the generosity of advice (always worth reading her #TenTweets), there’s a serious point here. The title writer is earned by the act of writing – and no other way.
You do have to apply your bottom to the chair and your fingers to the keyboard – or jab your stylus into your clay tablet – or dictate to your amanuensis in your velvet smoking jacket – or whatever it takes. It’s a long old slog to earn that tag.
BUT when other people ask me what I do, I hesitate to say ‘writer’. As yet, I do not earn my own living through my words. Sometimes I will cite my other role – proprietress of Peacehaven bed-and-breakfast – because at least people pay me. Sometimes they say really kind and appreciative remarks about what I do. I feel validated by that.
Now the lovely Kate Mosse has often generously included all those who write in the great big band of writers. This is as welcoming and inspiring as she is. However, I still feel that I should call myself aspiring for three reasons – two of which I hope will change, and one I trust will never leave me.
The first is about the point of what I do. A story does not exist until someone hears it or reads it. My dearest wish is to reach and please the readers who will like my writing. I have yet to do very much of that. I need to be published.
Secondly, it’s about self-respect. I am blessed to have a supportive husband who believes in me. I desperately want to show his faith is justified. The same goes for all my wonderful friends and colleagues in SCBWI-BI, GEA and Arvon. I yearn to reward their patience and encouragement.
The third I hope will not change. I aspire to improve my writing all the time. I love to read fabulous new stuff, and wondrous old work too. Sometimes it bowls me right over and makes me think I’ll never be as good as that [ Frances Hardinge, Chris Priestley – I’m looking at you]. Then I scrape myself up and get on, because I have to be a better me.
So sorry Joanne, but I will continue to call myself an aspiring writer until someone is brave enough to put my name on a book they publish. [I can always dream about hunky printing presses too.]