To be a writer

Anyone can be a writer. All it takes is dedication and time and a will to learn.

To be a writer is the most beautiful thing. You live in many worlds simultaneously, can fly and swim in the currents of deep space and the darkest bowels of unimaginable hells. There is wish-fulfilment and anarchy and freedom and passion and dreams, dreams, dreams.

To be a writer takes work. It takes devotion, and sacrifice. You have to set priorities and stick to them. You have to give the words room, a safe space to explore. You have to be strong-minded and disciplined, and, if you ever hope that your words will be read more widely, you have to be able to take the blows. You have to be used to having your ego squished on a regular basis. You have to know how unlikely success (in many measures) is and you have to do it anyway. You have to hope. You have to both face and deny reality. You have to have a safe place to cry.

To be a writer you have to get better constantly. You have to push yourself. You have to sift out bad criticism and act on the good. You have to find an exit from the womb, your comfort-zone of safe, secure words, and taste the air outside. You have to read widely. You have to watch television and films and be uplifted by glorious songs and feel the pull of your soul in the orbit of some heavenly body. And then you have to replicate these emotions without ever telling the reader what it’s really all about, Alfie.

To be a writer you need to get used with having your guts torn out in front of you. You have to love your characters and then have them ripped from you and eviscerated. All you can do is take it – no fighting back – and accept that your beloveds are weak and fragile things. And then you have to take the pieces and stitch them back together until the thing you loved is a patched-up monstrosity, terrific, somehow beautiful but not the thinly-veiled metaphor you dreamt as a shadow of yourself.

To be a writer you have to know that there’s no money in the business. You have to know the odds are that you’ll never have the career – the full-time pays-your-bills career – that you’ve dreamt of all your life. To be a writer is to accept that you’ll probably be fitting your calling around paid employment for the rest of you life. You have to accept your vulnerability; you’re vulnerable to mockery, to dismissiveness, to hearing all the bloody time that other people write too – and they want to talk about themselves, thank you, not you. You have to take their manuscripts with a smile, as if you didn’t have enough to read already.

You have to be an artist and a businessman. You have to be a designer and an accountant. You have to be a salesperson. You need to be a CEO and a warehouse-monkey all in one. You have to devote some of your precious writing-time to blogging, to being on social media, to learning not only better ways to ‘word’ but also new technology, new apps (whatever they are). You have to understand search-engine optimisation and other esoteric applications that are far, far removed from the real world.

You have to want and you have to know that you may never get.

To be a writer you have to know all this and do it anyway. Because that’s what being a writer is.

To be a writer is to have the best bloody job in the world and to know that nobody can ever take that away from you.

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