Last week my son’s school teacher invited me to speak to her class about being a writer. While she was making her request I was squirming in my seat, completely taken by surprise because I don’t think of myself as a writer. I have, however, spent a good chunk of my time penciling down words this year. My children often see me in front of the laptop typing away or in bed with a notepad, my mind lost in another world. So I guess that’s the behaviour my son has observed and he matched my actions with his words. It makes me feel warm and fuzzy that my little one sees me as a writer but at the same time, I feel a bit like a fraud. There are so many excellent writers out there who have crafted wonderful stories. I don’t have a journalism or literature degree, I don’t get paid for writing. I question if I’m entitled to use the word writer to refer to myself.
The Oxford dictionary has two definitions for writer:
- A person who has written something or who writes in a particular way
- A person who writes books, stories, or articles as a job or occupation
The Free Dictionary has a few more definitions including:
- a person who is able to write or write well
- a person who commits thoughts to writing
Using the definitions above, anyone can be called a writer so I guess to segregate the proper writers from everyone else new words were introduced: blogger, storyteller, wordsmith, communications consultant, the list goes on.
I’m often wondering if I should I accept the honour to be called a writer or choose one of the other alternatives. Then on Saturday I received the copies of my book (Pieces of North Shore, an anthology from my writer’s group). I was sitting in a cafe with my friend sipping a latte and flicking through the book’s bounded sheets, smelling the beautiful scent of a freshly pressed book, staring at my name in the top of the pages and it hit me that hey, I have a book, I must be entitled to call myself a writer.
I guess you don’t have to get paid to use the title. We don’t do it for money or glory. We write because of the things we notice in the world and to make sense of it all. We do it because we love the art and the craft or to fill up the time when a story does not let us sleep. It just feels right to spend hours scribbling down ideas and sometimes we even find an audience to read our stuff.
A year ago this would have been an unlikely story. I had written a couple of things but wasn’t sure how to progress, what next step to take. At that time, a friend invited me to attend the writer’s group at North Sydney library and here I’m being called a writer and wondering if I should accept the accolade.
I still don’t feel confident in my ability as a writer, it’s a work in progress and it probably will be for the rest of my life but I think now I have found my calling. I don’t really think we need a label to describe the pursuit of a dream but for practical reasons, next time I’m asked if I am a writer, I’ll nod in agreement.