I haven’t blogged for a long time. I haven’t tweeted, nor have I been a great correspondant with any of my online friends. I’ve been a bit removed from politics, been reading the same book for months… And I’ve hardly written a sentence. Which, considering I describe myself as a writer is quite shocking. Okay, my book is still on the way: Ghosts of Winter will be released by Bold Strokes Books in April this year. A short story came out in Bold Strokes’s Breathless: Tales of Celebration anthology in December and I have a short story in Best Lesbian Romance 2011 released by Cleis Press this month.
So, in public, I’m still a writer. But I’ve not been writing. What I’ve been doing is mostly working as a Sales Assistant in HMV (that’s a music, film, video game and technology store in case you didn’t know…) over the festive season. I’ve done other things too. I’ve volunteered at The Galleries of Justice museum as a Victorian prison matron. I’ve met a whole lot of new people. And more…
Sometimes I even forget I’m a writer. Someone says “so what do you do?” and my first thought isn’t always of my published–and to be published–works. It’s worse when I’m not writing. Am I really a writer if I spend more of my time selling CDs and not understanding customers’ questions about their new Playstation?
But writing isn’t an occupation or a label, I realise. I can’t stop being a writer. In a dull moment at work I can imagine a scene for a novel set in a record store. A walk down the street on a snowy day brings adjectives, even whole paragraphs of description to mind. A new song on the radio sets a mood I want to capture in words. Meeting new friends gives me new perspectives, new character traits, new ideas. I might not be getting home and spending hours at my computer every night, but I am still a writer.
Being a writer is a state of mind. It’s a way of being. It’s something you just are. It’s why I would never sneer or laugh at a so-far unpublished writer who describes themselves as a writer. Even if you spend your working day in an office and don’t get time at night time to write, you can still be a writer.
If you see the world–it’s beauty and it’s horror, the light and the dark–and feel the urge to paint it in words. If characters just appear in your head and you burn to get to know them better, to understand them. If inspiration strikes you in the most unlikely moment and you’re desperate to find a pen to record that whimsical passing thought. If words always dance in your mind and your favourite puzzle is just what would be the best way to get them onto paper, then you are a writer.
I’m lucky enough to be a published writer. I never take that for granted and am incredibly grateful for it. I am delighted to know that readers are out there, holding my words in their hands. I love the hours I spend at my computer when I manage it.
But publication and time at the computer don’t make me a writer. I’m a writer even while I’m a Sales Assistant. I was a writer before I was published. It’s just the way I see the world. It’s just what I am.
And that makes me smile.