Writing is a funny thing. Before you sit down with pen or hand or fingers at keyboard, any number of possibilities exist. The whole milieu of creation is yours to play with.
Once you begin however, the possibilities start to shrink, to become tangible and solid. And then, after reworking, and editing, and making sure you’ve put a semi-colon in the right; place, you let the text go.
Complete and constructed.
All of us who blog do it. We form the massless into cogency. Random thoughts that scitter-scatter their way onto a screen with the potential to reach millions. Some are funny, some are sad, some will make you pause and look wistfully into the middle-distance contemplating your own mortality and some will make you wonder if you can make that recipe tonight – it’s meatballs so yes, yes you can.
All words. All written. All by a writer.
But what I want to ask – and thought I’d answer by publishing a book – was, am I a writer.
And yes, I get that ‘technically’ I am because I write. And no, this isn’t a prepubescent-esque request for artistic affirmation. I don’t want you commenting below with ‘well I think you’re a good writer’. Quality is subjective. As are semi-colons.
If you’d requested my opinion before I published my book I would have said, someone who gets paid to write.
And then, if you’d have asked immediately after I’d put my book on the Kindle store, I would have said someone who is paid to write by someone other than their mum.
If asked at a party (utterly hypothetical, we have a baby and thus no social life) I could, based on the above criterion, say that I am a writer.
“Oh, exciting – what do you write?”
“Er, non-fiction mainly. You know…about being a dad…with jokes. I say, these canapés are delicious.”
“Oh right, well have you made any bestsellers lists?”
“No, not as such. Although for a brief while I was number two in Canada under the category of ‘fatherhood.'”
“That’s amazing! How many copies did you sell?”
“One? You mean like one million?”
“No…I mean like one. It turns out that Canadians aren’t big readers of fatherhood books. As it stands at the moment I’m sixteenth, wedged between a book about a man who’s dying of cancer and leaves notes in his kids’ lunch box every day and a man who loves God so much he wrote a book about how yelling God into your children will stop them from being evil. Somehow my amusing little collection of funny baby and/or poo jokes just seems massively out of place.”
I suppose it is partly the fact that I chose to publish rather than waiting to be chosen. Whilst I don’t think the stigma of vanity exists in the way it used to with self-publishing, there isn’t that level of affirmation that comes with someone selecting your work and backing it as a viable way of making money.
Despite all of the calls of eBook self-publishing revolutionising and democratising the publishing industry, the big publishers will still be the go-to places for work that is of a high standard. A filter for the growing noise of the mob.
A publisher’s badge will, ever increasingly, become a marque of quality.
Perhaps that is the point at which I will feel like a writer proper. When I have a penguin stamped in the corner of the cover.
For now, I suppose I will use some form of contrastive focus reduplication and say that at a stretch yes, I’m a writer but I’m not a writer writer.
And I’m perfectly happy with that.
My book remains on sale from now until the end of recorded time. Don’t face the apocalypse without it! Buy now!