Coming out as a writer is rather like being gay. It’s such an outrageous vocation to choose. It’s not just emotionally risky, it depends on your ability to entertain 20,000 strangers.
allow us to be writers, to define ourselves as such and thus validate the enterprise of sitting for long hours at a desk with no certainty of outcome, financial or otherwise
... although may not necessarily follow them!
As writers, we can write how the hell we like, but I think it behoves us to have a reasonable acquaintance of the basics of spelling and grammar, as well as the fundamentals of writing technique, such as showing versus telling; pacing and tension; writing credible characters – and making sure your sentences don't run away with themselves. The kind of thing that's covered ad nauseam in books, blogs and courses, which might be just as well, because you can never get enough. While I say a writer knows, it's a kind of knowing that shrinks as it grows because, the more you go into it, the more you discover there is to learn. Although I guess it's like that with most complex matters.
A writer has served their time
A writer has readers
In the same way that the word mother carries with it the implication of a child, a leader implies followers and a teacher students, a writer needs readers before they're properly invested with the role. It needn't be the 20,000 strangers Mark Haddon mentioned – I've genuinely no idea but with so much competition for people's attention on the internet I'd be delighted if I had twenty people reading my short stories – but it needs to be more than friends and family and her cosy creative writing group. Publication might be less about kudos or a hallmark of quality (that's a whole different ballgame) but the process for the writer of letting go of her creation and allowing readers to make of it what they will (which isn't always what you expect).
Is that it?
I've been brewing this post for quite a while and am conscious that there's stuff I haven't touched on and, on a different day, I might have come up with something quite different. I'm quite satisfied with how this defines me as a writer – except that what I really want to be is a novelist.
What do you think?