I’m a writer, darling

Image Source: The Guardian.
Image Source: The Guardian.

I was out and about the other day when I bumped into a lady handing out flyers advertising the Penzance Literary Festival. She asked me whether I was interested in literature, which provided me with a slight problem. Obviously, as a writer, I am very interested. On the other hand, I didn’t want to have to tell her that I was a writer.

It’s not that I’m ashamed. It’s just… How exactly are you supposed to say without it sounding pretentious?

Festival Lady: Are you interested in literature?

Rewan: In fact, I’m a writer myself darling.

I might as well have just put on a big puffy shirt, stared past her into the middle distance, and stroked a rose carefully against my cheek. I don’t know what it is, but the phrase ‘I’m a writer’ just sounds a bit arrogant. Not Kanye West arrogant, but nothing comes close to that. Ironically, if Kanye had finished his Glastonbury set by declaring he was the most arrogant man in the world, he would have been entirely justified.

I think the problem I have is that anyone can be a writer. Maybe that’s why I got bored of telling people about it. Most people, at some point in their lives, have tried to write a novel. Usually what happens is that they spend several months declaring to anyone who will listen that they are going to write a novel, and spend a while collecting together various novel writing paraphernalia. (As much as I love Michael McIntyre, the opening of his autobiography where he discusses the fact that, knowing he had a book to write, he went out and bought himself an Apple Mac to write it on, did make me hate him a little).

Because we can all write, and we can all string words together in some form or another, the simple act of writing anything makes one a writer. There is a very low threshold of acceptance, which so far has only worked to keep out grizzly bears and some of the cast of TOWIE. Is not that I don’t think anybody should be able to have a go at writing. I’d just like there to be some kind of quality control.

So when I’m telling people I’m a writer, I feel as though I might as well be expressing some equally obvious fact, such as ‘I have legs’, or ‘My nose has never fallen off’. Writer is not quantifiable, in the same way as, say, Olympic gymnast. Just like anybody who went through the education system, I’ve been on a pommel horse and a trampoline, but that does not make me an Olympic gymnast. But if I own a pen, and have told somebody that I have vague intentions of writing a novel or a collection of short stories or an epic poem, what is there to say I am not a writer?

Perhaps we could do with some kind of ranking system like they have in martial arts? That way at least if people asked, it would be a lot easier to explain.

Festival Lady: Are you interested in literature?

Rewan: I am. In fact, I am a Yellow Belt at writing.

Festival Lady: Congratulations. How did that happen?

Rewan: I stabbed three ninjas to death with a fountain pen.

Festival Lady: I think your analogies are starting to bleed into one another.

I don’t get this way when talking to my business clients. Copywriting is very different. It is certainly not something you can just claim to do (not for very long anyway, when everybody realises you’re terrible at it). I got a business and everything, with cards that have my name on and stuff. And I have plenty of clients who will attest to the fact that I am, indeed, a copywriter.

But when it comes to fiction, it’s different. Other than carrying my published works around with me, there’s nothing to distinguish me from the person who sits on Facebook month after month giving updates about the novel instead of actually writing the damn thing.

I think the next time somebody asks me, I’ll just tell them I’m an Olympic gymnast. A Black Belt Olympic gymnast.

3 thoughts on “I’m a writer, darling

  1. I think in this case, you simply could have responded, “yes”. Ha. However, I get your point. I rarely tell anyone I’m a writer for many of the same reasons, so pretty much the only time I do is when it seems especially pertinent to the conversation.

    Also, +1 to Ms. Shipley – who doesn’t love a good, bleeding analogy?

    1. I could have, but where would be the fun in that? I thought the whole point of being a writer was that you get to go around telling everyone about it! It does get annoying, doesn’t it? I think the rule is: unless it’s your own book launch and someone asks you what you do, say nothing.

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