I may have said some of this before, but hey, since this blog has now been going seven (yes seven!) years I think I’m entitled to repeat myself from time to time! Today’s topic is, what makes it so hard for beginner writers to come ‘out of the closet’? I had forgotten how much it took for me to pitch up at my very first writing group until my writing workshop last Wednesday when one participant said how she had ‘nearly changed her mind’ as she walked across the car-park and gone home rather than take that final step into the library to meet other writers. Yes, we have all been there.
But why is it like this? Everyone needs a hobby and knitting, painting, photography etc all satisfy a creative instinct. But would anyone balk at standing up and saying, ‘Hi I’m Sue and I do cross-stitch?’ Or telling a family member that they’ve spent the afternoon trying to make a really nice photo collage? And since I’m not much good at any of these crafty things (I once had a blog called ‘No Good at Knitting’) why shouldn’t I play around with words and stories, and why did it take so long to feel comfortable in telling people this is what I do?
Writing is by nature a solitary business, and so it lends itself to privacy. And it often starts from some therapeutic need. As a result it’s common for our first (and maybe every) poem or short story or even complete novel to arise from the need to express something which by definition we can’t express elsewhere i.e. to other people. But what begins as an internal process has a product – one that when we stand back and look at it might have some validity as a work of art. That’s when we think we might be writers, but given the initial impulse is a personal one it’s not surprising that it’s a big step to acknowledge this and share it with others. Even so, this surely isn’t unique to writing. Music, painting, perhaps all creative arts spring from internal and initially private feelings.
I can only think that there is a certain arrogance in claiming to be a writer because language (unlike oil paints, crochet cotton or a piano) is used by all of us all the time. Words are an integral part of everyone’s experience – not to mention we have each and every one of us been taught how to use them. To say ‘I’m a writer’ is to say, ‘I am better at doing what all of us do.’ It’s like saying, ‘Watch me walk across this room – like how I did it?’ Why would anyone be impressed?
Well that’s my latest theory on something I haven’t thought about for a while. I also promised a report on my first writing workshop and I’m glad to say it went well and I’m very glad that the lady in question took the step that might propel her and her fellow writers (that includes me) a little further down what Gail, across on Writers Unchained, has called ‘the long and winding writing road.’
Like I said, we’ve all been there.