Sunday, 4 March 2012

So You Want To Be A Writer?

Yes, I do. That is the only thing I have ever wanted to be. Well, not the only thing. As a kid (and even as an adult), at various points, I wanted to be a rock star, a mad scientist, and a footballer. I wasn't even into football, either, but in an attempt to fit in, I chose a team* to support because I liked the colours of their strip.

Writing has been the one pursuit that I have enjoyed throughout all the phases of my life, though. From early childhood, I never had a pen out of my hand. I always wanted to be a writer. I have always had a work in progress. Yet I have always sabotaged myself because I was scared of becoming the very thing I wanted to be.

Throughout my teenage years, instead of dabbling with rebellion and hard drugs, I dabbled with novels and scripts but never thought to construct a plot beforehand, instead concentrating on the characters. I suppose it demonstrates a keen eye for detail but it's no wonder so many of my attempts to write something petered out after a few chapters. Trying to write a novel without a plot is like trying to build a business without a business plan.

In my early twenties, after asking whether I could write something for the university newspaper, I landed the role of TV Editor, quite by accident ("You're in luck - our TV Editor's just dropped out. Can you do it?")! I didn't do the job for very long because I started getting into stand-up comedy as well, and one of the pursuits had to go (why?). Through the stand-up, I realised I could construct jokes. I even had a stab at co-writing a sitcom, as part of a group. I found some of the material a few months ago and, even with my incredibly harsh self-criticism, realised that there was some merit in what I had written. If only I had applied myself.

Now, in my early thirties, I am having a go at being a writer. In 2010, I signed up to "NaNoWriMo" and did nothing about it. In 2011, I was going to have a go but again, did nothing about it. Admittedly, I was busy - but probably not ready to throw myself into writing.

Then, two things happened that showed me I really did want to be a writer.

Firstly, the editorship of a local community blog came up for grabs. I had been thinking that I would like to blog about community affairs and was wondering about starting my own anyway, so I made enquiries. A couple of months later, I took on the blog with another person who had expressed her interest to the outgoing editor. Since early January, I have made several posts and look forward to our team carrying on the excellent work of the previous editor and contributing to its continued growth and success.

Secondly, through reading old posts on the community blog, I became aware of a local amateur dramatics group and made enquiries. Two days later, I attended my first meeting. One of the other "players" would not be able to take part in the comedy revue they had planned, so I got his parts. The revue took place two weeks later. Nervous? You bet. But the thrill of performing outweighed any stage-fright. I drew on my stand-up experience and reasoned that a receptive audience of forty was a far easier prospect than a beer-fuelled audience of a hundred plus, containing the odd stag or hen party here and there. Owing to other commitments, I am unable to rehearse or perform for some time, but one thing I can do is write for the group, so I have volunteered to write the Christmas pantomime. Oh yes I have!

These two events were real turning points in my life. They pushed my mindset from "wannabe writer" to "writer". Instead of telling people that "I want to be a writer" or "I'm trying to be a writer", or even - truthfully - "I'm an unpublished writer", I tell them this: "I'm a writer".

The above things also happened at a time when most people are strengthening their resolve: the start of the New Year. Two months in, I am finally writing the detective novel I have been talking about writing for years. I drew up the plot for this in the middle of January and started writing it at the beginning of February. The characters are there but, crucially, so is the plot. I can add to both as I go along but the plot is key. It is the plot that keeps me going.

So what advice can I offer to anyone who is in the same position? Can I offer any? Dare I offer any? Probably not. But if, from reading this piece, you can relate to anything I have mentioned, then it might get you thinking about giving in to your own creative urge, in whatever arena. That's probably more helpful than any advice.

*In case you were wondering, it was Aston Villa. Much like the "nouveau football fan" in The Fast Show, I didn't have a clue about anything football-related and demonstrated this clearly - much to the amusement of my dad - on holiday when I was about eight years old and I thought I had met a fellow Villa "fan" who turned out to be a West Ham supporter. My inability to be "blokey" was confirmed there and then; finally, in my thirties, I have learned not to bother trying.


  1. Good Luck!
    I have kind of done the same thing lately. I had always done little bits and bobs - the odd zine, a very small local magazine, a bit of creative writing for therapeutic reasons, but weirdly my catalyst was writing something for Comment Is Free - through a combination of strange circumstances I ended up writing that piece, then I did something for a "real" magazine, and that gave me the confidence to start my own blog, which was quite popular but a bit too limited in scope.
    Then it was a small jump to contributing to group blogs, and now I am the editor of a group blog with three deputies and thirty writers. Which is nice (!)

    (Btw, we are always looking for more writers to join the team - have a look at if you are interested)

    I'm now hoping to keep on with all this while I recover from an illness, then hopefully start to use it to make a bit of money and use the experience to help my main career. Mostly, though, it's just fun. Nothing beats seeing those page views mount up.

    1. Thank you! I am very interested. Expect some submissions!

      All the best,

  2. Welcome to world of the word count mate! I'm about a third of the way through a first draft and my plot mostly went out the window when new characters walked in. Onward and upward with the latest adventures!

    1. Cheers, Tony! Hope your characters reach their destination - wherever that may be!