Someone recently asked me when I knew I was a writer, and I wasn’t sure what to say. I wasn’t sure for a while if I was. When are you a “writer?”
When it is something you do every day? When you were born? When you have something published? It’s like when are you a musician, or an actor. When are you any kind of artists? When you “make it”? Or is it enough to just do it? Does the very doing of something make it so? And make you so?
Many individuals probably were always … <insert creative endeavour of choice>. Johnny Marr was a musician when playing in teenage band ‘Freak Party’ with Andy Rourke and Simon Wolstencroft. Well before becoming famous in the Smiths. Probably, much earlier, when he got his first guitar and fell in love with the music he knew he would come to make.
I know I have always been a reader. Practically from birth I was a reader, or more acutely a listener – at that stage. A listener enticed with stories I could memorise and repeat word for word. The earliest book I remember is The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde. A beautiful and dark children’s book, which has such emotional resonance when I read it today. A book that inspired me as a child, and as an adult.
For many years, I have written each day for work, churning out advertising. But this is not writing. Although occasionally a piece of me falls through the cracks and advertising is created which contains a part of me. Is this writing? Is it accidental writing? No, I think this is not writing either.
The teams of people who write and rewrite Hollywood blockbusters, re-working predecessors material in an endless pursuit of pleasing money men, who in turn guess and second guess the desires of lowest common denominator audiences – do they consider themselves writers? Crafting something by formula to please others. This is also not writing.
Writing, and any kind of art, is essentially a form of play to please yourself. To impart something about yourself, about life, something you have learned or want to share with the world. Is the teenage angst ridden poet sitting in their room composing bad poetry about love lost a writer? No. Yes, possibly they will be one day.
I became a writer by writing and learning. I think I do know the point. Somewhere in the midst of writing an abandoned novel (I can’t precisely pin-point where), I found a voice. A writing style that reflects myself and sounds like myself, not a montage of influences. As soon as I started writing my novel ‘exit’ – I was a writer. This is the moment.
I think everyone who writes, who puts word to paper – will also know when they become a writer. It is a personal moment . It is their moment.