Am I a writer?

January 15, 2015

I’ve realised that I have never thought of myself as a writer; a reader, obviously, and lifelong, but a writer? When students and colleagues used to ask if I’d be writing when I retired, I pooh-poohed the idea. I have always seen myself as a teacher, teaching others and enabling them to write. So what makes one a writer?

I suppose the seamlessness of the process has deceived me; I wasn’t a writer when I wrote essays at school, so that meant I wasn’t a writer when I wrote a master’s dissertation, or a master’s thesis. Because I was a student at the time, I didn’t see my student journalism as making me a writer; equally, when researching my thesis on science fiction, the fact that I was also reviewing SF for an academic journal didn’t count as writing…

There was a long gap when I had a career and helped rise a family, and I wasn’t writing anything. And now I’m retired, I’m writing the occasional study guide, and writing this blog… and it feels strange to think to myself ‘does this mean I’m a writer?’

Why all the diffidence? I realise, after further reflection, that writer has always meant creative writer to me – fiction, drama, poetry – I don’t know why! and so I’ve been pushed to a rethink. I’ve never felt able to write creatively, and, curiously perhaps, have never felt moved to take a creative writing course.

But I do write!

And, pace all my ex-students, who I taught to plan their writing, and who probably thought ‘I bet he doesn’t go though this rigmarole’, this is how I actually do write: I follow my rules. I reflect, ruminate, make notes and log ideas for a while; I plan and draft – this last now usually onscreen but not always – and then I re-read, revise, correct and polish until I’m satisfied. This method comes naturally to me because, thinking back, it’s how I’ve always written and I’ve always found it effective.

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