So, yes. Pretty exciting. I get to use the hashtag #amwriting on Twitter for the first time and actually mean it.
I write all day, as it happens. It’s part of my job. I also spend a lot of time editing stuff other people have written. (And for “edit” in this context, please feel free to substitute “re-write” and possibly add a hint of “from scratch”. Actually, what the hell. Let’s say “raze to the ground” and have done with it because that phrase just doesn’t get enough use as a positive.)
But that’s just work, that’s not real writing. Right?
I’m going to get into an argument with myself here and say that it is, and just to back up what even I feel is a somewhat specious argument, I’m going to go back to where I think every writer should start, and that’s to reading.
Now another of the labels on my critically overburdened jacket is “English literature graduate”.
(Don’t ask me what this one looks like. I never see it and nor does anyone else. It’s probably a really good piece of cream cardstock pretending very hard to be cheap sugar paper in case it gets thought ostentatious.)
As a result of this, I’ve spent many glorious years reading about every form of literature known to man, just so long as it isn’t called:
- A classic
- A critical success
- A Booker prize winner
- A seminal work
Three years of studying worthy tomes will do that to a person. It’s a sort of reverse snobbery on my part, really: and partly a defense mechanism. Having been trained up as a slavering lit crit-hound, I’ve reacted by trying to read anything and everything that only ever claims to be a damn good story and doesn’t inspire hours of screaming “but what does it mean, given the sociopolitical context?!!” and trying to pad out 1100 words to 2000 by strategic use of the word “however”.
You name it, I’ll read it. Being a speedreader helps with this. (It certainly helped with James Joyce’s Ulysses, let me tell you. Now that book – there’s a classic, nay, a seminal work.) And it’s all real reading, to get back to my original point. It doesn’t matter what it is, a historical potboiler, a sci-fi romp, a classical drama or a chick-lit so pink it would cause Barbie to vomit. It’s all valid. It’s all real. It’s all learning, when you’re a writer yourself, even if the day’s lesson is “how NOT to do it.” (with a side class in “what not to spend your money on ever again.”)
And so’s every bit of writing you will ever do – every bit of writing I will ever do. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could be your breakthrough novel, chapter X (in which the hero discovers he’s actually in a James Joyce story and considers suicide). Or it could be a witty text message. Or a dull but informative text message. Or a sixty-page guidance document on recycling polypropolene. Or a haiku on carpet tile. The only way anyone ever really got good at anything is by doing it, and by watching other people who do it well do what they do best.
Anything. It’s your next big thing, whatever it is. Treat it as such, and enjoy writing it, and don’t let anyone tell you it isn’t “real” writing. It honestly doesn’t get realler, especially when you’re unpublished.
(And, as a postscript: up to 700 words in my lunch hour, on a computer at my local library. Hah!)