Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Saturday 2 June 2012

So You Want to be a Writer?

That’s not useful, though, is it? There’s no good wanting... It’s not like applying for a job that you can then learn to do. If you want to be a writer, you must write, and, if you’re writing you’re a writer. 

If you’re not writing, and you think you want to be a writer, you want the wrong thing. Go away and have a long hard think about what you really want. 
Saying, “I want to be a writer” is like saying “I want to be a swimmer” without ever actually getting in a pool. 
You’re not an idiot. You know that if you want to be a swimmer, you must swim. If you go to the pool, regularly, and swim, then you’re a swimmer, but that still isn’t what you’d call yourself, is it? You wouldn’t, say, go to the pub, meet a total stranger at the bar and say, “Hi, I’m Sam and I’m a swimmer.” The swimming might come up in conversation, at some point, but, even if it did, you probably wouldn’t invite the complete stranger to come to the municipal pool to watch you swimming. Well, I suppose you might, but I doubt you’d expect him to say yes.
To complete the analogy, if you went so far as to say that you wanted to be a swimmer, I’m guessing that what you’d actually be saying is that you want to win medals for swimming. How many people do you think turn out for a local swim-meet? Yep, that’s right, the few people in the audience are family members and coaches. There’s a good bet that the best swimmer at the meet is also one of the youngest and probably doesn’t have a partner present, because he spends all his time in the pool, and there’s no room for a social or personal life. He doesn’t care that the stands aren’t full. He cares about his training and his times. If and when his time comes, he’ll win medals, but there still won’t be thousands of people in the stands to watch him do it. He still won’t care.
There are two things wrong with the times we live in. The first is that anyone can be famous, and for doing absolutely nothing; yes I’ve heard of Chantelle Houghton (bless her). The second is that there is no expectation of failure, that failure is bad or wrong, instead of it being an everyday occurrence that won’t actually break a person.
This is roughly where the husband and I differ. He has had a twenty-five year writing career, most of it as a full-time freelance writer. After forty novels, and over a hundred titles on his PLR list, he still calls himself a freelancer. He doesn’t call himself an author or a novelist. He only ever thinks about the next project.
Me, on the other hand, I have always said that my ambition is to be interviewed on Woman’s Hour. It might not seem like a very big ambition to some of you, after all, it’s not as if I want to write a million selling novel, have a book made into a Hollywood blockbuster or win a Nobel Prize for literature. On the other hand, it does buy into celebrity at some level.
If the husband had felt that way, he might have taken twenty-five years to enter a novel writing competition and take a first step on the path to having a writing career, like I did. I’m bloody glad he didn’t.
Now, off to get some proper writing done so that I can begin to catch up. Wish me luck.

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