Am I a writer? I suppose my honest answer to this question is no, though, I’ve just finished a writing course that tried to convince me when answering this question that I am. I am a writer. But I’m still not convinced. (You can’t possibly start a sentence with “But”, right?) My initial answer to this question went like this…
“I wrote this first with a pen and paper, then I typed it on here. I wrote it, so I’m a writer, right? I dont know if its that simple but if what I have learned from the little intro section is true then it might be that simple. My name is Louise, I’m Scottish, a twin, a mother, married to a ginger boy and love cheese. I’m also a blogger so I kinda have this one line intro part down. The first line has to capture attention, so I went with the Scottish thing, who doesn’t love us Scots? (Well, besides the English, right!?) Truth be told, the one liner is all I have so far in my life, hence the reason I am on this course; to figure out the other stuff! See, I think better on paper and it has taken me a long time to figure this out. In college I didn’t know what I wanted to be, I was a student athlete and that was it, my purpose for being there. I always loved reading, writing, words, lyrics, poetry, but I always felt the focus was on structure and grammar than feelings and emotions. In college, I had to read books someone else chose for me, (the same someone who put me in a box with the other student athletes) on someone else’s schedule, never my own, so I missed the feelings, overlooked the emotions, struggled to see the purpose. The love I once had for words faded, the letters to penpals stopped and reading and writing became something I had to do, rather than something I wanted to do. I’m 32 now, with a daughter and a husband, I live in France, as an expat, for now. About a year ago I started blogging as a way of sharing my experiences in life, having a “creative” outlet, (even though I am not, or didn’t think I was creative at all) something for me. I realized quite early on that I really love putting my thoughts on paper, getting them out my head, onto paper for people to read and react to. (and not always positively!) I love that something I write can make another person, maybe on the other side of the world, think, feel, or be inspired. I’m learning that words are powerful; they carry weight and can hurt people, so they have to be used carefully. I really feel protective over my blog if I’m honest, and proud. That’s when I thought I could maybe try and explore this passion I’ve found hidden in me. Now I try and write something every day, so I can learn to craft this newfound skill, afterall, I am an ex-athlete and that’s what we do. Train. I can’t say I’m a writer yet but I believe in time I will be, if I work hard enough.”
Now, I read this and re-read it before I submitted it, I thought I was a great little intro; witty and well written, but now when I read it, first of all, it makes me cringe, and secondly, I don’t believe it. It reads so immature…and not witty at all.
I don’t know how you become a great writer, I wish there was an exact science to it but there’s not, or at least I don’t think there is. One of my favourite wordsmiths at the moment is a guy called Macklemore, (he’s a rapper, and in my opinion some of the greatest poems are written by rappers, but the good ones!) “the greats weren’t great because at birth they could paint, the greats were great because they paint a lot.” This lyric really stood out to me, I listened to it over and over. I thought greatness was subjective, people are different, they like different things, but it seems there is a craft to any skill if you want to be great. I want to be a great writer but that means I need to write a lot, right? But how do you know if you’re good, great or not good at all? Like I said in the piece above, I’m an ex-athlete, my training has taught me a lot in life, one of those things was the exact thing Macklemore suggests here, the 6 principals of practice – (did anyone else learn these in school??) “Prior Proper Practice Prevents Poor Performance.” When I first learned these principals there were only 5, the sixth was added later. People believed that if you trained hard enough you would succeed, but what they didn’t know was that if you didn’t do the PROPER practice, the training would be pointless, you’d be practicing the wrong skill, developing bad habits and teaching the body and mind to do something a certain way, whether it was good or bad. Practice has to be good practice. The same must apply to writing. How do I know if what I’m doing is the right practice though? Who’s judging my work, coaching me through this process and holding me accountable?
The other day I met a BBC journalist, I was at an expat event and started talking to a fellow expat/mother of 3. Expat life is a funny one, everyone has an interesting story to tell of how they got where they are now. I have my expat story down to a T, it’s important, you want to sound interesting enough for the person to like you, maybe to connect and make a friend but you don’t want to sound up your own ass, you also don’t want to come across as fake. This girl was absolutely lovely, and perfectly normal but as soon as she told me she was a BBC journalist, I immediately started to feel nervous and immature. I don’t get like that much, especially at expat events. Our journey has been a really interesting one that I don’t have any problems sharing with people but she asked me about me, what I did, where I was from, etc, so I told her I had just started teaching english, etc, but I didn’t mention at all that I write. What if she asked me more questions, or if she wanted to read something I wrote, best not to mention it, so I didn’t. I felt embarrassed.
In hindsight I wish I had asked her a million questions about how she got started, what she writes about, what advice she could give me as a young writer, but I didn’t, I let the moment pass. I don’t even know for sure if I had the chance again that I would ask those questions or not. I don’t see myself as a writer yet, and I don’t know if I ever will. I need to work on my confidence, but how do you do that without feedback?
I recently deleted my Facebook account in order to try and fill my life with more productive things. I feel good about it. I’ve been reading more books, newspapers, watching educational talks, listening to spoken word poetry, writing a little; and I feel really really good about it. I’m planning to make time for my craft, hopefully learn and grow, without distraction. It’s a step, right?
Are these normal thoughts for young writers? What advice do the greats have to inspire and promote confidence in aspiring writers? What advice have you been given over the years that changed your perception of yourself as a writer?