I read a blog today about someone who was surprised to be introduced by her friend as a writer, a scenario I could relate to. I love my friends. They are a supportive, encouraging, funny bunch of people, and I’m truly fortunate to know every one of them. And yet, I have been known to berate them when they introduce me to people with: “This is my friend Katy. She’s a writer.” I will smile politely through gritted teeth at this with a certain grace, but when I have them alone I beat them to a bloody pulp and scream at them to beg for mercy. Not really. But I will say something along the lines of “No no no! You can’t call me a writer. It hasn’t happened yet! I’m not getting paid for my writing! My book isn’t finished!” Or similar. Basically, I have always thought that to be considered a writer, you need to be published. Now, when I think about it logically, I realise just how ridiculous that is. Duh, Katy. Obviously there are loads of writers out there who haven’t been published, who probably deserve to be. Admittedly, there are also people out there claiming themselves to be writers, sending in absolute garbage to publishers (my days working at a major publishing house can attest to this) who are not getting published for a very good reason. Even so, I know just from looking through the writing blogs on the wordpress.com site, that there are plenty of people out there who I would identify as writers, who may sadly never get the chance to be published.
I liken it to the philosophical riddle: “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” If a writer writes and never gets published, is she still a writer? Um, are you stupid or something? In the event that you are – like my inner paranoid writerly self – stupid…then the answer is, of course, yes.
At the Melbourne Supanova this year, I spoke to Australian fantasy author Jennifer Fallon and expressed my concerns about making it as a writer and how I would know if it was time to try a different life long dream that I might actually succeed in without failing miserably and finding myself at the peak of my youth with nothing to show for it except a blank page and no money and a room full of rejection letters and… Pause. Breathe. Where was I? Ah, yes. So, she gave me two excellent pieces of advice:
1. She could not guarantee that I would be published if I kept writing. But she could guarantee that I wouldn’t if I stopped.
2. She told me that even when she was a checkout chick, she was a writer.
I think these are very sage pieces of advice that apply to any aspiring writer. Firstly, you need to be viciously persistent and never give up. Giving up is a sure way to fail. Period. And secondly, that a writer is a state of being. Whatever else it is you do to pay your mortgage, put clothes on your back and feed little Felix or Jack or Poochiepoos…that there, that’s your job. Your occupation. Your money-making, food-on-the-table, 9-5 day job. Some people are lucky enough to have writing as their job. But even when you’re not getting paid for it, even if no one will publish you, even if you never show another single soul out there what you have written, if it is who you are, then you my friend, are a writer.