Back in August, during the Summer break from the MA in Creative Writing I’m undertaking with the Open University, our Tutor Group had a discussion about when a person gets to call themselves a writer. At the time, I was working for ToolStore UK in a role which literally had the word ‘Writer’ in the job title, which I referenced in my contribution to the conversation:
I think it’s a state of mind. I was a writer long before I got this job, because I was churning out words week-in, week-out for football programmes, websites, etc. By definition, if you’re on our course, you’re a writer; just one looking to develop their skills and achieve a qualification.
If a tree falls in a forest and no-one’s there to hear it, does it make a sound? Probably, but that’s a moot point. The tree is still a tree. We are all writers and will always be writers in the same way a fallen tree is still a tree, even if our only audience is ourselves and those around us. That’s because writing is INSIDE us. It’s a process we want – need, even – to put ourselves through.
That last bit – the need to write – burns within me. It always has, which is why I’m on the course in the first place. Recently, some of the teaching material has given me pause for thought and given me a bit of a nudge to become more disciplined (and maybe a little bit braver?) in my approach to dealing with that need. The discussion of blogging within the Writer in the World material for the module made me stop and think about how I use this space.
There’s a lot of content on my website, but it tends to be pretty specific. For instance, I produced a series of book reviews focussed on my favourite football writing called Reading the Game. I also showcased some of the football writing I’ve done for programmes and magazines. Neither of those themes are particularly personal, although they do tap into a particularly important special interest. Perhaps that misses the point of running a blog. After all, as Tania Hershman pointed out in a conversation with Sally O’Reilly I listened to whilst working through Writer in the World, “I think it’s about finding a voice for your blog that you’re comfortable with – not too exposing.”
I am in a different place both personally and professionally than I was in August. Not long after I declared that being a writer was a state of mind I had to step away from my role at ToolStore UK because of my wife’s fragile health, my son’s incredibly complex needs and my increasing inability to juggle my responsibilities to my family with maintaining the quality of my work. I am now my wife’s primary carer and instead of commuting to Wigan five days a week I do the school runs. But I am still a writer and I always will be.
So, I need to use the shift in my circumstances to become a better writer, which means changing the way I use my blog. That means publishing more often and talking about different subjects. I want to use this space to document my experiences as a late-diagnosed autistic person and the effect my diagnosis had on my life. I want to record what happens to our family as we navigate a new reality and I want to sharpen up my prose. The best way to do that is send my work out into the world for people to read and comment on.
That starts today. Our course has inspired me to give myself permission to write more and share more of that writing. My plan is to publish at least one post a week and to write from the heart, rather than polishing and redrafting time and again, as I do for my assignments. I’m acutely aware that I’ve missed out on the Golden Age of Blogging and I’m not expecting to build an audience of thousands. Let’s be honest, I’m more likely to be shouting into the void! But that doesn’t matter; the tree that falls in a forest with no-one to hear it hit the ground is still a tree and I will still be a writer, perhaps even a better one.