One of the greatest downsides of being an author is that you often end up trapped in awkward conversations with strangers. You’re at a house party, people ask you what you do, and you reply with those fateful words: “I’m a writer.”
The problem is, of course, that the man you’re talking to fancies himself to be quite the writer, and begins to talk as if you’re kindred spirits. For a moment you are fooled—you begin to chat about genres, preferences, writing styles—then you realise that you’re talking to a rainy day writer.
RAINY DAY WRITER
[rey-nee dey rahy-ter] noun
1. a person who is only able to write under particular pre-defined emotional, physical or meteorological conditions: Rainy day writers only write when it’s raining
Now, I am far from perfect. After having worked closely with a rainy day writer in my day job, I’ve come to realise that this impractical, indulgent view of writing rubs me the wrong way.
“But don’t you think,” this man told me, “that writing by hand has more meaning? Imagine using a stone tablet where you can’t cross things out. Every word you write will be there forever.”
“I’d have to make sure I write the right story the first time around or get severe hand cramps from rewriting,” I replied. “At the end of the day, writing is about telling a story. Whether I write by hand or using a laptop, the story I want to tell remains the same.”
He shook his head. “That’s only true if you think of all writing as a draft.”
I paused, flummoxed. Of course writing was a draft. Of course I would edit, shape, hone.
Later, when I told him about posting my rough drafts online, about scribbling Friday flashes out in ten minutes, about daily writing targets and writing when uninspired, he recoiled in horror. Apparently my short story from a sock’s point of view was not ‘a real story’ because it was about socks. And don’t get him started on my zombie love tales!
Needless to say, I chewed his ear off about people who think writing is some mystical, bohemian, artistic endeavour and sit around with leather-bound journals in coffee shops waiting for the rain and for inspiration. “A writer writes,” I told him. “If you don’t write, you’re not a writer.”
Now, a little hung over, I feel guilty for taking it out on him. I should have accepted that we were looking at writing from two very different perspectives and left it at that.
As I said in my guest post for The Inner Bean, for me writing is a business. As much as I enjoy the artistic, creative side, I have to be practical as well. I have to write every day, I have to set targets and treat it like a job because to me, it is a job.
So for someone to come along and tell me he would write if he had the luxury of time and the inclination, and that I am not being true to myself because I edit and incorporate reader suggestions and write for an audience rather than just for myself….
In the end I used the ultimate house party getaway technique: “I’ll be back in two minutes,” I told him, holding up a hand apologetically. “I just need to go find the bathroom.”
For all I know he’s still waiting there.