I’ve read several blog posts and essays in writing journals lately about the writer’s life. About the process of getting words down on paper and how to quantify success. I’ve even written about this myself before here on this very blog https://writerinresidenceblog.wordpress.com/2017/11/15/the-many-faces-of-success/
One aspect which jumped out at me in a recent essay was the idea of considering the ideas why we write, other than to make money. Because, let’s face it, making any money from this game is pretty difficult at best. Downright impossible, often.
I saw a suggestion that one reason writers write is to be seen. I was interested in this: is it just this simple? Do writers have a need, as most people do in other ways, to be seen, to be listened to and recognised, in whatever small way, as being good at something.
I tried to reflect back to my own writing practise of many years, and wondered whether this statement was true. When I was scribbling away, just enjoying writing for the process of developing words into stories and essays, was a desperate need behind it to be seen as somebody who could do this successfully?
Newly published authors often quote as their most memorable moment the first time they see somebody reading their book. Is it just a vanity thing then, or is there more substance behind it?
This idea has sat with me a few days now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that there is some truth in it. I don’t think it is just a case of vanity – of somebody telling you they enjoyed what you wrote, or it resonated with them – but a visceral need to be seen, to be acknowledged, and to some degree, to be accepted for who we are, as writers or otherwise.
No matter who we are, writers or not, we all want to have the feeling that we are recognised and accepted for our worth, our skills, our talents. This can be a devastatingly lonely business if you sit at home trying to write words that might never be read by anyone. It can make it sometimes even harder to do once you have been published, just to sit and write for the sake of writing.
Another essay I read referred to success at writing being about the mastery and discovery of the writing process itself; of the pace of a writer’s life. Looking back over the past few years, reflecting on the ways I’ve come to support my own writing practise, I realised I have supported this ‘pace of a writer’s life’ in several significant ways.
One was to finally find a class that is about loving the written word. Run by an academic, the books we read and share and discuss are stimulating, and the diverse writing we produce and share even more so. This has added to my acceptance of myself as being a writer-type, and that every one of us is different, and that’s okay. Some of the members are full-time writers, some are working as lecturers, shop workers, charity workers. Some are carers or retired; others are students or volunteers. Some trying to write a novel; others just interested in talking about reading and writing. There are no judgements, no failures here.
It has helped me to see how writing fits into my life as a whole. I am a writer, but I am not just a writer. I am a charity worker, a shop worker, a volunteer, a yoga practitioner, a walker, a wife and mother.
All of these other elements also, paradoxically, make me a writer.