Sometimes I annoy some people when I start going on about how I don’t always feel like a writer. People get a bit protective of me.
“Of course, you’re a writer,” they say.
A good pal on Twitter once kindly said, “Jees, Ken, if you’re not a writer then who the hell is?”
Nice. Appreciated. Thanks.
And when I look over my page of things I have had produced, in some form or another, I can count up at least eight different radio plays, ten different theatre plays (some with multiple productions), short stories, a short film and getting on to half a million words on this-here blog. I've been very fortunate, more fortunate than many, and had great times with my writing over the years.
But still I don’t always feel like a writer.
Don’t be annoyed. It’s not you, it’s me. The image I set for myself, when I was young, of who or what I would be as a writer is not anything like the reality I see today. I didn’t think I’d still be the professional guy clocking his full week’s work and then scrambling together the remaining measly hours to get some writing done. I kind of thought there’d be a nice book lined study with a view of a garden and a pipe or two… but only for cover photographs.
I mean, okay, I’m a writer, fine. I just thought I might be more of a writer.
For a while, I thought this occasional perception of myself as a non-writer was all about the money. The fact that I can’t earn a living from my writing. But it’s not that really. I think it’s more about being asked to write. Nobody really ever comes and asks me to write. What I do, I do myself and then I see if anyone is interested in it and, thankfully, quite often, somebody will be. But I don’t get commissioned, hired… asked. I think that’s the root of my definition. I also think this will change from time to time, as it always does.
But let’s not dwell on that for today. Today, I actually feel like a writer, so be happy for me. I got a piece of encouragement, you see, from an unexpected source, and those things are always welcome and good, aren’t they?
It happened like this.
My son, Sam, needed some pages of his homework photocopied. Let’s not delve too deeply into the technical reasons for this lest we be here all day. It was something to do with two copy books and stuff in one needing to go in the other and… like I said, let’s not go there.
So, there I was, in my office on a Sunday, doing a bit of copybook photocopying. And I have a thing when I’m photocopying, I tend to read whatever it is I’m running through the machine. I don’t have a photographic memory or any ‘Mission Impossible’ stuff like that but I can pick up the gist of a type written page fairly quickly and I tend to treat the photocopying as a sort of challenge to see how much information I can soak up while it’s ploughing through the machine. Recently, a friend asked me to photocopy a script for the musical ‘Oklahoma!’ and I ran a five minute gamut of all the songs and dialogue as the pages sped by. It was fun.
So, yes, here I was copying Sam’s homework and I was, almost by habit, reading the stuff he had written as I copied it. There was History homework and Religious Instruction homework. The Religious Instruction one is much cooler than it might initially sound because it gives the guys a basic grounding in the tenets of all the major religions and that’s a pretty good thing in my book.
So there I was, learning at high speed about various religious practices and marveling at my son’s way of slipping self-amusing gags into his straight-faced work, when something else caught my eye.
It was encouragement.
There was a question to be answered. “What characteristics do you think you get from your parents?” Sam had lots of good characteristic listed from his Mum, quite right too. For me, he said something like this, “I’m good at English and writing because my Dad is a writer.”
That’s it, that’s all.
But it meant something to me.
I don’t push my writing thing on my sons. Mostly I am the guy who does that other job all day, every day. But there on the page, without guile, was the simple observation that I was a writer.
I have taken encouragement from that. Today, I am more of a writer than I was last week or the week before. I’m planning my little scribbling and submission campaigns with a bit more energy and confidence.
I reckon, if Sam thinks I’m a writer, then the least I can do is try to be one.