Monday, 25 January 2010
Defining moment: N M Browne
It seems pretty obvious to me that a writer, writes. It isn't very complicated you are a writer if you write and a fiction writer if you write fiction and a children's fiction writer if you write children's fiction. So far so good. But what if you are not actually writing - just talking about it? Can you still hang onto that status? We have all I'm sure bumped into the writer who published a slim volume of poetry forty years ago and has dined out on it ever since - can they call themselves writers? Can I?
I am Ok with people saying they are writers even if they are not currently working on something - if they are on holiday , or briefly between books but if the hiatus goes on for too long surely they are ex writers or former writers rather as women of a certain age can be 'former glamour models.' I say this only because I haven't actually written a novel or even really done more than a couple of hours writing for the best part of a year.
I have lectured on writing, run workshops on writing, critiqued writing, given talks about writing, given advice about writing, got into arguments about writing and even assessed other people's writing but I haven't done any myself.
This makes me feel fraudulent. Is an actor still an actor if they haven't had a part for ten years? And what is the cut off point? Am I still a writer now but not if I don't write for another year or two?
I don't think you can be a writer in your heart or head without also being one with your fingers ( or with whatever appendage you use to generate words on a page). I think you can be 'resting' for a while but not for too long or it begins to look like retirement. Sure you can be between books as you can be between jobs but doesn't that kind of make you just unemployed?
Maybe you are different and in your soul you 'just are' a writer, but I didn't start writing until my thirties. I wasn't a writer before then and I fear that I can cease to be a writer as easily as I became one. I am not sure my soul has noticed.
Does it matter? A bit. I like saying rather grandly that I write when asked what I do at parties. It seems more glamorous somehow than saying I hang around for long periods of the day in my dressing gown reading the paper and arguing with imaginary people on t'internet. I would miss the label, but would I miss the activity?