At my eye test last year my optician asked my occupation. Usually I tell people, “I work from home,” and leave it at that unless they want more then I say, “You know, computer work,” and I swiftly change the subject. But I took a deep breath and told her the truth.
“That’s great,” she said. “What do you write?”
We had quite a conversation about it and I could have hugged her.
I thought how different this was to when an optician asked me my occupation 25 years ago.
“I’m a writer,” I said. I had several published stories, a serial and a couple of meetings with editors under my belt by then and I felt confident enough to admit what I did and thought it might be relevant to my eye test.
He laughed. “No my dear, you may think you’re a writer, but you’re not.”
I didn’t argue with him. Presumably I wasn’t old enough to be a writer – or perhaps not posh enough or clever enough. He waffled on about why I wasn’t a writer and I felt too humiliated to tell him why I thought I was.
I retreated back into my shell and made my next check up appointment with a different optician.
So what is a writer?
To my mind if you write, you are a writer.
My mum was a knitter. Actually she was a serial knitter. If you saw a pattern in a magazine and asked if she could make it up for you, her whole face would light up and you wouldn’t see her for dust as she rushed off to the wool shop.
When I was a child, the local wool shop would ask her to knit things for them to sell and she once supplied just about everyone on my dad’s boat with woolly hats (and quite a few with sweaters). I made the bobbles for the hats. She was never satisfied with anything less than perfection whether she was knitting a delicate shawl for a baby or a chunky Arran sweater for a seaman.
My Gran-in-law was a knitter. You know the pictures of the made-up garments on knitting patterns? She used to knit those for Patons.
I used to knit. Nothing fancy you understand, a ribbed jumper for my husband, a dress for my daughter, easy stuff. The last thing I knitted was a coat for Tilly. I’m not a knitter now – well unless I am really in the mood and I do find it very therapeutic – but I used to be a knitter.
I know a lady who calls herself a knitter and the stuff she produces would make a spider faint. Dropped stitches, mistakes, holes, wavy hems when they should be straight – but is she any less of a knitter just because she can’t do it very well and no one would ever pay her for her work or ask her to make something special? She works hard at it, she produces something – she is a knitter.
As I see it, if you are writing and producing something you are a writer. I don’t see that on Monday you are not a writer because you haven’t been published, but on Tuesday when you land the three book deal with a publisher you are suddenly transformed into a writer.
Writers write, knitters knit, cooks cook. Some do it well, some don’t. The fact that they do it at all, do it to the best of their ability and work hard at it, well I think that earns them the right to call themselves a writer don’t you?
Hey I managed to write a whole post without mentioning spiders . . . doh! No I didn't.