I think some people are born story tellers whether they choose to write them down (type them up) or not. I told stories before I could read, and after I could read I would sit on my swing and tell my “Jackanory” stories to the pretend camera that filmed me. I was a great gossip at school, I always knew how to get maximum impact from relating anecdotes and so on. I told true life stories in chronological order, I ramped up the anticipation, I delivered the punch lines with flourish. I still get irritated when people can’t tell me the exact details of things. “Ooh, what did he say when she said that?” I will prompt. It matters. I will see an old woman with a shopping basket and create a sentence about her in my mind, sometimes the sentence expands, a possible story floats for a moment or two, I dismiss it or mentally file it. It’s how I see the world and try to make sense of it. It’s the way my brain works. I know other people who feel the same, and I know plenty of people who don’t. I can’t turn it off, it’s part of me, which is why when I don’t write stories still waft in and out of my consciousness.
Countless times I have read or been told that to be a writer one has to write, which is fair enough surely. If you’re not writing you’re not a writer are you? But what you could be is a story teller, soaking up those moments, absorbing the possibilities and waiting to see if you feel like writing. Yup, I said “feel like”. Gasp. Because the other thing I read/get told repeatedly is that a writer HAS TO write every day. No matter if you feel like it or not, if you want to earn the label writer then damn you, you’d better fucking write.
So if I am erratic, chaotic, slave to my own whims, ill health, duties and so on, then my words aren’t as valuable as they could be if I forced them out every day? I think that’s untrue. For quite some time I gritted teeth and wrote daily, determined to prove my worth as a writer and do whatever is necessary, and the words landed on my screen dry as dust. Day after day, nothingy words that I kidded myself I could “polish and shine.”
Now I know, they were worthless. They remain useless. Meaningless. I stopped writing. And I have heard more than once that if you can’t cope with the grind then maybe you’re not cut out to be a writer. That makes me want to tear down walls and bellow – “How dare you be so judgmental?” I think everyone should deviate from whatever feels wrong. I detest the prescriptive advice of “write everyday, at least X amount of words”. I want to challenge this wisdom. Or what? You have to write X amount of words per day or else you can’t be in my gang? If you don’t write daily you aren’t serious enough? Really? I am pretty damn serious about my words actually, that’s why the cheap, easy words that I spewed out felt so crappy.
On Sunday I wrote a flash, it bubbled up inside me on Saturday, insisted on being written. I like it, it has something that was lacking in all my daily words, some heart.
I’m not a big cheese author but I have had some successes, been published in some fabulous places, placed in competitions, had positive feedback and even, gasp, payment for my words. I’m a mother, a human, a writer, a bookseller. You telling me I don’t have the right to call myself a writer is as ridiculous as you saying I’m not a bookseller because I only work one day a week at the bookshop.