When I was a kid, I had a typewriter and I loved that bloody old thing. I used to buy reams of paper and sit in my bedroom hour upon hour. Bashing out stories inspired by Philip K Dick, Stephen King, Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams. I would read when I wasn't writing, and write when I wasn't reading.
It seems to me, however, that it hasn't just become harder to physically write - with the advance of technological distractions; with Facebook and Twitter and the swirling toxicity of political battles that consume attention as they unfold in real-time and end up leaving you feeling really quite exhausted in the end.
Indeed... It's actually become harder to feel like a writer.
Why? I don't entirely know. And it may just be me. But it most definitely has become easier to publish work - and that, unfortunately, includes work that isn't written well. In turn, this has led to an overwhelming amount of self-published work that seems to have given all self-published writers a bad name. Not only that, but it feels as though the mainstream publishing industry has lost interest in writers and is more interested in celebs.
For me - like many, I imagine - a person who really, truly struggles over the craft to the point of obsession, it has consequently become harder to actually FEEL like a writer. Not like back when I was – what? – 13, 14 – and I worked alone with a typewriter and collected boxes filled with endless short stories that the world simply didn’t need to see, but which I needed to write in order to refine my abilities.
It feels as though somehow EVERYONE is a writer these days, which in itself isn’t a bad thing, but which somehow makes me feel as though – despite writing, and loving the act of writing - failing to sell books is what demotes me from being a writer to being a man who writes books that no one reads.
The fact that I’ve sold a couple here and there should be sufficient to reassure me that I am a writer. I am just a writer that hardly anyone has heard of. Yet as the world has developed, I am somehow locked into a prison of my own making. A thought-prison. One which tries to hold back any self-congratulatory mumblings and shout them down with assurances that I’m not a success and I’m most certainly not a writer.
What – therefore – is a writer? What is success? Is a writer a person who writes, or a person who successfully sells their writing? Is success to count any number of sales? A person who may sell one or two books a year – if they’re lucky – or a person who makes a reasonable-to-good living on the words they put into print? A person who attracts numerous Twitter and Facebook followers? A person who gathers plenty of good reviews on Amazon?
I wish I knew. I wish I knew what I was, and where I fall into this. All I know is that – the occasional gloomies aside – failing to sell more than a few books here and there won’t realistically stop me from writing. It’s just that it may stop me referring to myself as a writer. And I genuinely don’t know whether that’s right or wrong.
What do you think?