Being A Writer
I sometimes find it really difficult to classify myself as a writer. A lot of the time I guess this because I spend more of my time not writing than I do writing, but that’s got a lot more to do with my laziness and motivation issues than anything else.
I got thinking about this due to a conversation I had at the weekend. Despite the fact that I write (occasionally) and I have several projects all but completed (damn you endless editing process!) I still don’t feel like a writer.
Yes, ok, this may have something to do with the “not being published” thing, but that aside… There is part of me, I guess, that still feels like writing is a part time thing, like a hobby, rather than a vocation. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with writing in your spare time, just because you enjoy it, and not really writing to get something published, but I’ve always felt a little more serious about my writing. My first major idea, that I developed when I was about 12 is still on my flash drive, and I do still look over it every now and again. When I’m in the right headspace for it. Everything else though has taken a back seat for this serialized project I’ve been working on, and which has frankly, worn me out.
I have no idea why, but I still feel like there’s some kind of stigma attached to being a writer. Almost as if it’s something to be ashamed of. Just like every other aspect of creative profession. I have in the past felt myself cringe when I’ve told people “Oh, I’m acting in this thing” or “I’m writing a book” and the like. I’ve never had a problem with telling people “Oh, I’m a technician with a touring theatre company” because that’s working with equipment, it’s less namby pamby I guess, coming from one of those grim northern towns where people still remember coal mining and ship building and proper “man jobs” like that.
So why should I feel ashamed of being a writer? Just look at who the writing world has given us. Hemmingway, Wilde, Shakespeare, Clancy. Granted, it’s also given us Dan Brown and the frigging Twilight Saga, which in turn has ruined poor Robert Pattinson’s life, but that’s another issue entirely.
A Full Time Thing
Maybe I don’t feel like a writer because I don’t treat it as a full time thing. I’ve never made money from it, so I still can’t take myself seriously as a writer. Or maybe it’s because of what I write about. This is why I never tell people why I’m a writer. Because it’s one of the main questions you’re asked.
“What do you write about?”
Sure, the pretentious answer is “love, loss, revenge, betrayal, all kinds of aspects of the human condition.” But I guess that’s because I don’t want to tell people I write stuff with giant space lizards and laser guns. Because as soon as you mention the words “science” and “fiction” together, most people switch off and lose interest, because they think you’re writing star wars slash fiction.
An Underappreciated Genre
But is it so bad? If you forget about Star Wars for a moment (which purists will tell you is science fantasy anyway), lets look at the genre. Science Fiction has given us Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?, I Am Legend, Brave New World and we cannot leave out Neuromancer. This is what I always go to because ‘The Novel’ is cyberpunkish. I dislike the fact that just because a book is set in the future, it is automatically classed as science fiction. There is a wonderful book by Max Barry called Jennifer Government which yes, is set in the future, but isn’t sci-fi. It’s satire. And disturbingly prescient. A lot like 1984. It’s the kind of book you read alongside No Logo and makes you realise just how, well, that’s me getting on my soapbox.
I don’t want to feel this stigma. Just because my serialized project is about time travel (which in this country will make 80% of people you say that to instantly think “Oh, like Doctor Who” and instantly stop taking it seriously) doesn’t mean its geeky sci-fi. Ok, so my reading material is string theory and chaos theory, but ultimately, it’s a human story. Which all the best science fiction is. The titles I mentioned before, Do Androids…, I Am Legend, Brave new World, they are all, at their hearts, about the nature of humanity.
Do you get that from Dan Brown? No. Twilight? Please, don’t make me laugh.
Anyway, what was my point? Am I the only writer out there who feels some degree of shame as labeling himself as such?