I write, but I am not a writer

by Steve

Old typewriterUpon asking the question, “What do you do, then?” surely the most chilling words us bloggers can hear are:

“I’m a writer.”

This is not going to end well. If they genuinely are, we are consumed by a combination of admiration and envy. If it turns out they write blurbs for catalogues or other such hackery, then we are beyond annoyed.

After all, we write. We write regularly, on all manner of subjects. And we care about what we write.

But does that make us writers?As a kid I loved putting together my own comics, magazines and newspapers. I loved writing them. But I loved the production of them just as much. It was a wonderful sensation to have a real, actual artefact in my hands, which I had created. Obviously, being a kid, the production values were not high. We’re talking about a few pages stapled together. As I got a little older, it may have been typed, with some Letraset thrown in for headlines. But I loved the whole process.

As an adult, I’ve fallen for blogging. I enjoy writing, but I enjoy it far more for it being presented on a professional-looking website. It is an integral part of a tangible product, as opposed to being hidden away in a notebook. It is my grown-up stapled comic book, or badly typed magazine.

And people actually read it! Not many, I grant you. But those who do, and who comment, appear to be lovely, interesting and interested people. And people who write too. Really well. This is the audience I never had as a kid.

But does that make me a writer?

Or should I get caught up in believing that to be a writer, you should actually be published, or at least paid to write? I’ve written stuff as part of my job, but it was hardly my heartfelt life’s work. I wouldn’t consider myself to be a writer, as such, professionally.

But is a regular(ish) blog evidence enough to be a writer? It feels a little pretentious to view it that way, doesn’t it? There are great blogs and great bloggers out there. But there are also some truly awful, lazy ones. And my suspicion is that blogging is just too easy for bloggers to be considered ‘writers’ also. How long does it take to set a blog up – five minutes?

Reading The Guardian’s rules for writers it seems that proper, successful, real writers consider hard work, persistence and talent to be key tenets of writing. I’m not convinced I fulfil any of those.

Hard work. I’ll often just throw something up on here. I’m sure this blog is littered with typos and errors. My arguments are not always coherently thought-through and presented (this very post is a shining example). I hardly research. I barely edit. I spend far too much time coveting stationery, or fantasising about my perfect writing desk. I read more than most, but I still fall into the trap of reading rubbish. I’ll just as soon pick up one of London’s many, terrible, free magazines as a great novel.

Persistence. My updates are sporadic at best. I have a plum gig writing a column for BaseballGB, with a hugely supportive webmaster, yet often, shamefully, I let it slip. Here, on my own blog, I veer from one subject to the next, with little thought for my poor readers. I rarely see through any grand plans. I have ideas buzzing around my head for stories, yet I never get anywhere with them.

Talent. I’ve written some good stuff. I’ve written some dross. Beyond that, we’ll leave this one, as I think we’ve had enough self-pitying for one day.

So, I wouldn’t label myself a writer just yet. I doubt I would even label myself a blogger. I write, I blog, but that is as far as it goes right now, until I truly throw myself into either. If I truly throw myself into either. Maybe I’ll just be happy with a shiny product. A blog, that I created.

Of course, I could quit getting hung up on semantics, and just get on with it.

But if I am a writer, I think I am because I have an audience. A small, perfectly formed audience. Thank you for reading.

Image via Flickr by Miss Pupik