I have a lot of thoughts about writing. All writers think about writing a lot, but all writers advise new writers not to write about writing, because only people who write care about writing enough to read about it (writing, that is). This leads to a group of slightly odd people reading about writing and writing about writing and repeating a lot of the same stuff and not really achieving anything. Anyway, writers already know about writing. They’ve spent hours practising writing, and still more reading about writing, so they don’t need to read about writing from a brand new writer with much less experience than them.
I love writing, conceptually. I love reading books about writing. I must have read millions more words specifically about writing than words I’ve actually written myself. I feel like I read more books about writing fiction than I do actual fiction, which I’m sure all the writing books would agree is a bad idea if I want to develop and improve.
But I can’t help it. I love the way I feel when I read them. Like I could write anything in the world, like my imagination is a vein of literary gold that I could mine for beautiful prose and witty dialogue and perfectly-structured plots.
I’ve read some wonderful books about writing. Helpful books, technical books, inspiring books. The very best advice does tend to be found in all of them; force yourself to write regularly, silence the inner critic, just get it down and fix it later. I know that this is good advice, difficult as it may be to follow (it does seem to be going quite well this morning, but a lot of it has just been repeating the same words over and over, so I may change my mind when I have to read this back).
But there is another sentiment they share that is less encouraging. This is the idea that writers live, sleep, and breathe writing. They would simply die without being able to get those words out on a regular basis. And that isn’t necessarily me.
I’m under no illusion that this means writers have to enjoy writing. Indeed, the general consensus seems to be that it’s bloody awful. But writers can’t not write. And I can. I’d like to think that that’s okay.
If I were to ever become a writer with any level of success, here’s what I would say to other aspiring writers:
It’s okay. As long as you’re willing to put in the work, it’s okay. You don’t need to love writing. You don’t need to know why you’re doing it. It doesn’t matter what brings you to your desk, day after day, pulling the words from your brain, as long as you’re doing it. Even if it never gets easier, even if it gets harder, and you have to force yourself every single time. If you’re fine with that, then it’s enough. You just need to write.
Of course, I am not a successful writer, and might never be, in which case maybe I would be proven wrong.
I am getting better at writing at the moment. I’m writing every day, something I’ve never been able to sustain for more than a week before. I’m working on some creative projects, I’m running this blog, I’m writing for other people. It’s going well and I’m learning. But I still don’t feel like a proper writer.
And it’s not that I want to become a world-famous and disgustingly rich author. I know that’s not a good reason to write and I know that it’s not likely. I don’t even love the idea of getting published at all – the idea of people I know in real life reading my writing is terrifying, and frankly I don’t know how authors do it.
If there is such a thing as a writer’s soul, I think I have part of it. I’m drawn to people who write. That’s another reason I read so many books about it. Regardless of doing the actual the activity, I feel like those people see the world the same way I do. Several of my friends in real life are professional writers. Whenever I feel kinship with other people, they are invariably creators, and often they are writers.
But in school I was better at maths. We’re told that creativity and rationality are a dichotomy that cannot coexist, and rationality was the side I chose to nurture. Maths is easy to me, and enjoyable because if it. I’m sure in another life I am an accountant, and very happy with it. It’s not that teachers discouraged my creativity; indeed, I won a handful of awards, in my school and in my town (it was a very small school, and a very small town), but as school required more and more energy and attention, I gave less and less of what I had left to creation.
Writing, to me, is more like an old friend. It’s something I keep coming back to, even if I don’t stay with it. I’m sure I’ve gone whole years without recreational writing. I never considered myself a writer. Just, sometimes, I had a particular story to tell, and that was how I chose to tell it.
I am not a writer. But I’m writing now. And I wrote when I was a child. Maybe it’s enough that it’s familiar. Maybe it’s enough that it’s something that I understand.
Writers write. And sometimes, so do I.