Sunday, 24 November 2013

"It's never about the thing that it's about."


You'd think that being a writer is all about two things:

1. Writing stuff.
2. Getting that written stuff published or at least read.

However, there's much more to it than that and I'll warn you in advance that I may get arty and soulful. To begin with, it's a helluva thing to even consider calling yourself a writer, never mind actually telling other people about it. Because, when it really comes down to it, every piece of writing contains a little bit of you in it - your memories, your perspective, your experience of the people around you, your hopes and also your fears.

It can feel like an indulgence to spend quality time away from loved ones and friends, especially when you're using that time to wrestle with people and situations that you've created in your head. Reading also takes on another dimension. What used to be a leisure activity now becomes a vital part of your craft. You still read for enjoyment, but you also look closely at style, plot, characterisation and all the other elements that already give you sleepless nights.

Or try this one on for size: A writer is an artist.
You write fiction? Congrats - you're an artist.

There's also a deeper, inner level to this writing journey. Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way is a brilliant resource (among others) for getting into the soul of writing. I believe there is a part of every writer that is secretly - and sometimes overtly, on the page - grappling with the big issues - life, death, justice, purpose, love, freedom, etc. 

Sometimes we not only express who we are on the page, we also explore who we wish we were. Read between the lines and it's as powerful as therapy and as real as it gets.

So, here's the thing: when someone tell's you they've written something, or that they're working on something, treat them with kindness. When you give feedback, make it constructive - it's fine to say you didn't like it, as long as you say why. Feedback on what you enjoyed - and why - is also welcomed. However, tell the truth.

Some writers will not get the recognition they deserve. For some, the only feedback they'll receive is the snipy kind on ebook sites or forums. But wherever writers are on that endless and invisible ladder of literary success (often in the eyes of other people) they stay true to their writing. Well, you wouldn't expect anything less from a writer, would you?

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