Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Is a writer a writer only when she/he writes?

I just read Vanessa Gebbie's blog post where she writes that she's going to take a break from writing for the first time in eight years due to her father not being very well. She says "It is odd not being a writer any more, for the moment. I am wandering around a bit aimlessly, feeling blank. A writer has to be someone who writes…not someone who thinks about it."

A doctor is a doctor even when on holiday. If you know how to save lives you don't walk past a bleeding person in the street. That's how I imagine it anyway. If what you do is your passion it's always going to be with you. Yet it can be hard to accept when you're not sitting in front of your computer typing words that make up sentences that make up paragraphs that make up stories or chapters.

I have hardly done any writing in the past two weeks due to having visitors from Sweden. It makes me feel restless, as if life has no real meaning apart from spending time with people you love and care about. And maybe that's the plain truth. Somebody gets ill and you care for them. Somebody visits and you spend time with them. Life is about relationships between people. Yet I think everybody benefits from having a real passion in life, something that makes you feel alive, something you can return to even if all your relationships are broken.

That's why I started to write in the first place; I felt that I didn't fit in anywhere and found it very difficult to hang out with people without acting, without analysing every conversation. Also I often feel bored with life and writing about it instead is an escape. For example once I went to a quiz night and I really hate quizzes because my general knowledge about things is not that good ... But instead of sitting there hating the quiz I decided to write a short story that somehow involved a quiz night.

Because I had nice visitors and enjoyed myself over the last couple of weeks I have nothing to write about. I wasn't bored and there was no major conflict. And now I don't feel like a writer because I don't even feel like writing at the moment. I have a few short stories on the go, but my heart is not in it 100% as with my novel. Short stories don't give me the same satisfaction as novels. I prefer to follow something for a longer period of time. It's a bit like the way I like to travel. I don't like going to a new place every day, sleeping in a different hostel every night. When I go travelling I prefer to go somewhere and spend at least a month in one place so I get a bigger picture.

So ... is a novelist a novelist only when she/he is physically working on her/his novel? No! I'm a novelist waiting for a reply from the agent that I really, really want. A waiting novelist is still a novelist. Once a writer always a writer. But you do feel better when you do more of the writing and less of the thinking. However ... breaks are necessary and good, and people are more important than words. Sometimes.


  1. Sometimes one has to think a lot about writing before the writing one has been thinking about arrives on the page. And writing can sometimes be more about thinking than writing - which seems to have happened to JD Salinger in the last decades of his life. But if anyone had to say what Salinger was during those last (lost) decades, they'd say he was a writer. Even if he didn't write a damn word, they'd say he was a writer. Even if he took a job as a Greyhound Bus driver circa 1975 and did nothing but shuttle back and forth between Portland, Oregon and Maine. Even if, while driving, and perhaps also while he wasn't at work, he gave not a single thought to writing. Everyone thinks he's a writer, whereas Salinger thinks he's a bus driver

    But there's another way of looking at this. Writers are people who assume the role/mantle of writer, even if hardly anything of theirs is published, perhaps even if they publish nothing at all. In their heart of hearts, they're writers, though other people may see them as doctors, civil servants, nannies, bookkeepers, bus drivers, whatever. Complicated, huh?

    Brian M

  2. It must be a common question people ask... uncanny, how similar in theme our blog posts are. I like what you say about JD Salinger... it puts the question in perspective. Nice to find your blog and thanks for your comment on mine..