Am I a writer?
I’d rather not answer just yet, so here are some other things that I consider myself to be. In no particular order, I’m a runner, I’m a cyclist and a swimmer, a Thai Boxer and a computer geek. I’m a bookworm, a guitarist and a fancier of Jessica Alba. And a lover of lists.
I call myself these things, and it’s easy to do. For instance, I have guitar lessons, so I feel able to call myself a guitarist. I own a couple of bikes, which I use, so I am a cyclist. I go boxing three times a week, and this makes me a boxer. Jessica (or ‘Lil’ J’ as I like to call her) is never more than seven seconds away from being at the forefront of my mind. This is all straightforward enough.
However, I’m also a writing student, but I wouldn’t like to call myself an author. I find that if somebody refers to me as a writer, I react in a similar way to if they had just accused me of being a rapist. This is unusual, because I’d like to think that my work is, at least ‘promising’, if not ‘good’.
I cannot understand my logic in all this. If Joe Satriani had both his hands cut off, he would still beat me in a guitar battle. If I got in a ring with Joe Calzaghe, he would still knock me out in the first round, even if I made him wear a blindfold. Cash Warren wouldn’t even flinch if I sent dirty messages to Lil J. There are better, more successful people than myself in all walks of life, and I wouldn’t hesitate to liken myself to them in saying I’m a runner or a boxer. I produce about eight pieces of work a week, yet I would never refer to myself as a writer.
Maybe it’s a question of what you want to be. I want to be a fast runner with sponsors, but then again, I wouldn’t turn down Mrs Rowling’s monthly pay packet. I would love to get up on stage and play guitar to ten thousand people, but I would equally like them to read a few of my stories.
Maybe it’s a question of image, though I doubt that one as well. I’m not a minority either; I can think of several other ‘writers’ who could potentially have this very debate among each other. I think the writing community as a whole has a common problem, which is that we simply think too much. I might be wrong, but then again I may have a point, I don’t know.
I would love to get to the bottom of this, but I really need to go because my friend is waiting outside for me. We’re going to drive to Chandlers Ford, put boxing gloves on and spend the rest of the evening kicking people in the face. Can you imagine Ian McEwan doing that? Maybe he’ll spice up his next book by including his own blood and bits of chipped tooth stuck to a special pullout page.
Authors fight with their pens and their wit rather than with their body. I try both, so surely I don’t truly belong in either camp? One thing is certain though; somebody definitely needs to punch McEwan.