Monday, 10 November 2014

What Makes You A Writer?

What Makes You A Writer?

Are you a #writer? What defines you as such? Is it that you have a qualification from a college, online or real-life? Are you well published, traditionally or self? Do you just dabble, popping out the odd poem or short story as the mood takes you, or are you a fully-committed career scribe, chipping away through hard time at piece after piece, with deadlines looming over your shoulder?

I know some who consider themselves writers, yet their output is sparse and sporadic; their most productive periods clustered around motivational workshops and competitions. They make no bones about needing these butt-kicking devices to provide the dynamic and inspiration to produce.

Maybe that’s what it’s about. Maybe it’s the ones who wait for inspiration to strike that need something like a competition or challenge deadline, or the work ethic of a day-long workshop to open the floodgates, to release those trapped disparate, unexpressed threads that bounce around the skull day after day.

So should the question be: Are you a proactive writer, rather than one who passively cruises between creative events? Do you divide your day into writing and editing blocks? Do you sweat and swear through gritted teeth, wear out a strip from one wall to another stalking through problematic plot twists, pound at those keys until the lettering vanishes and your fingers ache, wish the toilet wasn’t so far down the cold hall, or that you weren’t so addicted to the cosy cushion of tea or coffee?

Are you published? If so, does that make you a writer? Do you submit or release on a regular basis? Do you need to be accepted now to a traditional journal or publisher, or is it credible enough to post to your own blog, or self-publish into the ether of Amazon, Lulu, or Smashwords? Does your adherence to the highest quality, or your belief in your own editing and formatting abilities add kudos or demote you to the ‘lower level’ of a writing wannabe?

Do you spend hours critiquing your peers as part of a writing group (online or real-life), providing constructive and considered feedback while enhancing your own skills of the craft? Have you lovingly collected an active craft library over the years, with your well-thumbed favourites never gathering dust? Are you immersed so deep, smothered by the highs and lows, the joys and torments of achievement or failure, rewrite after rewrite, red-pen blindness, cramped shoulders, suffering snow-blindness from the constant glare of the laptop screen?

Are you afflicted by conflicting emotions as you bring your characters through their own turmoil day after day, while battling through the No-Man’s Land of crippling self-doubt, doing your utmost to follow your own inspiring words while wishing it would all come as easy as it seems to do for so many others?

Have you fallen victim to the siren-like wiles of the World Wide Web? Do you recognise the realities of modern-day promotion, and the importance of creating your author profile across the social-media spectrum? Have you screamed at your inability to switch off the internet, convincing yourself that you need to have it to hand for research and marketing reasons?

Do you have the discipline and the desire to stick with it? To plough through the frustrations of day in - day out work, work, work? Do you care that the best editors, agents, and publishers aren’t queuing outside your door, scrambling to sign you up? Are you willing to fight through such crap, keep on writing, and persevere even though there’s no real likelihood of you being ‘discovered’ in this lifetime?

If so, if you’ve answered yes to any number of these questions, then you’re nothing less than a writer of the highest regard; a Spartan warrior of the pen, willing and ready to carry the fight across all battlefields, losses and victories, because you basically can’t live without it.

All that, for me, constitutes a writer. Someone who strives to improve their craft, to gather valuable experience through hard and ongoing graft, to share and mentor through peer interaction, and to live the creative life, even if it doesn’t always bear fruit or bring the credit one might deserve.

What makes you a writer?

Thursday, 6 November 2014

A Bird In Hand...

I like sitting in cafes, but I never write in them. It's just not me. I know, I know, I'm a writer, and writers are well known for using cafes, especially the corner table just inside the window where the world and her granny can see them do their thing. I'm not 'anti-cafe', and I don't necessarily look down on writers in windows; I just don't get that writing buzz when I'm in one. I prefer to sit and chat over a cuppa and a nice piece of cake (what a surprise).

Anyway, I was meeting a pal in a cafe earlier today, and I got there a little early, which isn't unusual for me considering I'm anal about timekeeping. So there I am, stirring my coffee and checking through the index in 'Staying Alive', that feckin' fantastic poetry tome that I sometimes drag around in my satchel. It's seen better days, but that's a good complaint for a poetry book, meaning it's been, and being, well used. So there I was, checking out some of Yeats' poetry, and in flies a wayward pigeon, obviously drawn by my good coffee and almond slice. Of course, my first thought was that I was about to be splattered with its panic-stricken shit, because that's what generally happens to trapped pigeons; they fly into windows and ceilings and basically crap all over the place.

I had one hand over the coffee, with the other protecting the cake, glancing about for a broom or brush to help scoot the poor thing out, when the attractive young worker, who'd been enjoying her break, simply got up and, like an experienced pigeon whisperer, cooed the window-battered yoke into a corner, then easy as anything picked it up and released it out the door. Mind you, when she threw it into the air, it made an unexpected flop, obviously dazed by its window-shopping experience. It got itself together eventually and took off in search of outdoor crumbs, or maybe to relate its adventure to its equally mangy buddies on nearby roofs.

Where was I? Oh yeah, you know how I said that I 'never' use cafes to write? Well, you'd better put that into past-tense now - as soon as she'd gone behind the counter to wash the bird-shit from her dainty little hands, I was buried in my notebook (always keep one handy) scrawling away at a poem about my 'cafe heroine'. Because I've been working on a new fiction first-draft over the last while, I've not been writing poetry, which is how things go with me - I'm either one or the other. Anyway, I'm scratching away at the page when my friend arrives and basically accuses me of being a...writer. Now she knows I'm writing most of my life, but she's never seen me sitting in a cafe window, head down, scrawling away like I've a deadline to meet, so it struck me as a bit odd that she'd see such public behaviour as a qualification, of sorts. I'm now a bona-fide scribe! Rolling Eyes