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Are You A Writer If You Don’t Write?

Are You a Writer If You Don't WriteLast week I had the unfortunate experience of being lectured – sounds harsh and believe me she was, by a person who calls themselves a writer but who doesn’t actually write.

You know the sort, individuals who spout writing advice, give lots of opinions regarding what I should and shouldn’t do with my work and yet hasn’t committed a single creative

word to page for eons, literally years.  As for submitting a finished piece of work – well, let’s not go there.

I, on the other hand write every day, have done for years.  I walk, talk, live and sleep my craft, and so when asked what I do outside of teaching, I mention my writing.  If I’m standing in a supermarket queue, boiling a kettle, watching adverts, hanging out washing, attending meetings, brushing my teeth – I’m drafting, editing, rewriting a conversation, scene or character in my head.

My entire day, apart from the day job hours, revolves about my fingers dancing on a keyboard.  I attend weekly writing groups, conferences and constantly network with other writers.  The long and short of it is, I do the equivalent of two fulltime jobs simply to fulfil my desires – it is exhausting but I love it.

So, my question is – are we both writers?

I am currently working on my third full-length novel, which I shall submit to publishers and agents this summer.  Believe me when I say, I have writing plans, long term goals and a long suffering hubby that fully supports the absent wife, locked upstairs in her writing room, working alone for hours on end, tapping away on her keyboard.

My poor hubby never complains, supplies endless cups of hot tea and only ever encourages – even when his football match is disturbed and he misses crucial eighty-nine minute goals due to random questions from an escaped mad woman dashing into the lounge asking “Tell me a female’s name? Name a city? Name me a goldfish?” only to have his suggestion instantly rejected with the line “it doesn’t match the image in my head” – I know, poor bugger, he does truly love me and my mad writing world.

In comparison, the other writer has a full time job and that is where the similarity ends: no writing commitment or involvement except for her infamous claim at parties, social dos or meeting new people, “I write”.

Working in a school, I hear of plenty of notes excusing pupils from P.E. lessons – are all their parents authors for putting pen to paper?  My mother jots notes to her milkman cancelling the order – she doesn’t claim to be a writer when asked what she does.  So how can the non-writing writer claim to be a writer – her word output is less than my mother’s.

Does this work in any other profession?  Can you call yourself a guitarist without touching a guitar?  A painter without painting?  Be a singer without singing?  I would love to proclaim a million career titles, but how absurd would I be claiming to be a police officer, just because I had a careers interview aged 16 or a fire officer because I’m married to one, or even an international, award winning chef just because I made cheese-on-toast this morning!  Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it?

So, why should I, who has dedicated my time to write in excess of ten thousand words a month, share a career title with a woman whose last short story was written a decade ago, never submitted, and currently sits on yellowing paper in a bottom drawer!

I shouldn’t and I won’t.  I am a writer.  She is a fantasist.  It might sound harsh, but how dare she instantly dilute my effort and talents with her Walter Mitty existence.

Given my obvious frustration, you might be wondering at my response during her fifteen minute non-stop clap-trap opinionated publication advice regarding my work.  I simply smiled and nodded, creating yet another character in my head.

In my world, writers write.  In my world, writers are genuinely supportive of each other and are honest about their struggles and successes.  But above all they write on a regular basis.  Maybe I’ll have a week off writing and try fantasising, make claims I’m not entitled to – Bernadette O’Dwyer O.B.E. (for services dedicated to job/life-juggling and dealing with the absurd ego and advice given by unpublished, non-writing writers).

And now, I really must dash because here comes the individual, who at every opportunity gives me a weak smile and only ever asks “Your novel still not published?” – seriously, don’t get me started on that one; his debut novel isn’t even written.

So dear reader, I ask the question again are you a writer if you don’t write?

About Bernadette ODwyer

Bernadette O’Dwyer is an author based in Warwickshire, UK currently honing her second novel, whilst submitting her debut novel to literary agents. In her spare time she creates short stories for fiction magazines and some poetry.

A founding member of The Mad Hatter’s Writers’ Group of Atherstone, she regularly attends the Grace Dieu Writers’ Circle in Coalville.

Bernadette works full-time as an English teacher in a local secondary school.

View all contributions by Bernadette O'Dwyer

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Rod Griffiths April 29, 2014, 9:32 am

    A beautiful rant.

    I think writer is such a tricky title. I had great difficulty using it on myself, in part because I spent most of my life in a career where formalised training and properly accredited qualifications were the norm. I could call myself a doctor because I’d been to medical school. I could call myself a professor because I sat in front of a huge appointment committee for one of the longest hours of my life and they gave me the job.

    Who gives out the badges for writers? Does two novels and a collection of short stories and a bunch of spoken word gigs count?

    The easy part of the answer is yes – you are a writer if you say that you write, and hopefully have something to show for it. The hard part of the answer is not being able to say that you are a writer; the hard part is being able to say that someone else is not. It is said, though on the basis of no evidence that I have ever seen, that there is a book in all of us. Does that mean that we are all writers? I guess for me that finishing the second novel was crucial, there may be one book in all of us, but I’ve not heard it said that we all have two.

    I think we all have to face a simple fact that is both uncomfortable and exhilarating, namely that the writing business is full of fantasists, some of whom manage to get the fantasies into print.

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