the thinking, creating, writing profession

There are a bunch of “being a writer means” memes going round facebook right now. You know “this is what your mum thinks you do” [idiot staring at typewriter], “this is what your publishers think you do” [monkey sitting at typewriter], “this is what you really do” [playing solitaire/creating worlds].

It’s difficult to define what being a writer means – especially because it’s writers trying to define it, so you mostly get pithy little catchphrases that tell you nothing at all.

There are equal parts awe and disdain attached to the image of the writer. On the one hand writers are people who linger in thinking, who attempt to master language – the means by which we understand and experience the world – so that they can electrify another mind. On the other, they are people who exist more in their own minds than in the world, and strive hopelessly to perfect language – which just is, and can never be perfected – and to capture the human experience – which can never be captured, only experienced.

Or, you know, not.

Like I said – writers writing pithy (long-winded) statements that may or may not be true.

Here’s one concrete thing, though: The only difference between what I do now and what I did when I was eight years old writing hungrily in an A3 scrapbook is that now, writing is my profession.

That doesn’t come from being published – I’m not. It comes from the way I approach my writing, and the way I never write as a hobby, or to fill spare time, or when I’m anxious that I’m not getting enough done (which is when it’s hardest not to write, and simultaneously worst to write).

At the moment, being professional looks like this: Three days a week me and Cat go to the Victoria State Library and work from 10 till 5. We have two breaks. One day a week I travel to another friend’s house, and we have a slightly more relaxed, but always-productive writing day. Once a fortnight we have a writers-group-with-wine, and once a month I go to the Melbourne Romance Writers Guild meeting. Where there’s chocolate.

The first day Cat and I wrote at the Library, we looked at each other afterwards, both embarrassed. “Er, why haven’t we been doing this ALL THE TIME?” was more or less our reaction.

There is an incredible productivity in being somewhere so dense with silence, with concentration – but with such high, light ceilings. Soft air conditioning. A desk, and a good chair. Sometimes I need to close myself into my own world with music, and sometimes the library sounds help me sink into a scene. But for those hours, it’s just me and my story, and there’s nowhere else I’m meant to be, and there’s nothing else I’m meant to be doing.

Like I said – productive.

My sister (who develops and manages projects for a living) helped me get a handle on my new way of working, and the thing she said to me that made the biggest difference was this: “You need to work away from home. Other people finish work at 5, and after that they do their house cleaning and their cooking. That’s how many hours a day you need to be working to get things done.”

Comments 6 Responses

  1. bleu_bleuet

    I think what you say is right, which is why I wouldn’t dare call myself a writer at the moment – I simply don’t do enough writing to be using that title.

    Though I would say a difference between my approach to writing at age eight and today is that now I am not only writing for myself but writing with regard to what others might like to read, too.
    If only in a very broad sense. It does mean cutting back on what you like yourself.
    Maybe it is just part of our strife to ‘perfect language’? Like what you said about you having been ‘too wordy’ in the past?

    Apropos revision: you will announce when you publish, yes?

    *cough* On an other note, I would like to comment on your ‘unaffected heroine’ post and in extension also on the one about the ‘kick-ass heroine’ but you wrote them so long ago and I know how annoying it can be when people keep you from advancing your thought process because they talk about something you have essentially brought to a close for yourself. So I am asking permission. Just don’t answer if you don’t want me to. You sound awfully busy.

    1. anna cowan Post author

      busy means procrastination = good! Any and all thoughts and discussion are encouraged šŸ™‚ (my blog, my rules, right?). Hmmm, I’d say you’re a writer when you say you’re a writer. I’ve certainly taken myself a lot more seriously since I started introducing myself as such (though it means dealing with the awkward “are you published” question…).

      Also – I would encourage you to write what you like. Me and Cat have been talking loads about why fanfic is so amazing, and decided there is no self-cencorship, because there’s no internal sense of a market and an audience that will only accept certain ideas. There ARE lines you can’t cross with trad publishing, I guess – but I think the best stuff comes from that Id place of what gets you. (I think there’s a post on Id in our near future! šŸ™‚ )

      1. bleu_bleuet

        You are so NICE! <3

        I am looking forward to that post.
        About being a writer – I don't know. I don't think I would feel comfortable saying I am one and not spending the majority of my time writing. I only finished school a bit over half a year ago and come September I will go to uni. After that I really need to start making some money – my parents cannot pull me through all the time.
        Maybe, if I am lucky, some big company will hire me to do translations or something in the foreign relations department so I will be doing something I like and have a nine-to-five job that leaves me with a bit of time to work on my writing.
        And maybe, one day, I will have enough money set aside to write professionally. That would be nice.

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