After more than 30 years in the business – and after seeing a LOT of writers and writing – I’ve never considered the qualifier ‘aspiring’ necessary for those starting out. You either write, or you don’t. The end. And personally, I hope that people who want to write – well, they’ll write.
That said, ‘aspiring’ to write (which still means actually writing, for most people who label themselves that way) is better than labelling yourself a ‘writer’ and not writing. I sometimes meet people at book launches like that. They are, they insist, ‘wraiters’ (seriously, this is how they talk), but when I push it turns out that ‘mai novel’ or ‘mai book’ is a figment of their pretension – a device they use to validate themselves as people, but which doesn’t yet exist. The reality of their personal gift to world literature is apparently going to spring full-blown – like Athena – from their imaginations once they find a few minutes to dash out the award-winning poem or novel with which to show their personal superiority over mere hoipolloi like me. You know:
Wraiter: Ai am exploring the haigher saide of literature in mai post-modern novel celebrating the themes of Baudelaire’s Fleurs du Mal.
Me (sculling a pint of beer): Urp. Yah. Beaudelaire? Porn.
Wraiter: Oh – er – um – do you wraite?
Me (grabbing a handful of hors d’ouvres from a passing waiter and scarfing the lot in one go): Sure.
Wraiter: Which house will you choose, when the taime comes?
Me (belching loudly): They choose you. So far I’ve been published by Penguin and Random House.
Wraiter: Oh – er – and what was your book exploring?
Me (looking for more beer): Which one? I’ve written and had published over fifty.
Wraiter (dropping affected accent): They can’t have been any good. (Pauses to re-compose) Nobody can wraite so much and be a proper wraiter.
Me (excavating left nostril with an index finger): If you say so. (Examining finger and wiping same on own shirt). Hey, you know where the bogs are around here?
The reality? Writing’s hard. Even for those who enjoy it – who love it. It’s still hard. It’s also a practical art. Hands-on and unpretentious. It doesn’t make those who do it special or intellectually superior – more pity those who imagine it does. And if you write enough – if you push writing in the directions it usually goes in – well, you’ll find hurdles. You’ll find boring patches. Sure. All jobs have them.
A job? Yah. Especially where income follows. And there are, indeed, times when slugging text out to meet the next deadline is indeed hard, or a bore, or a chore.
There are also plenty of hard yards to cross during the learning curve – and writers just gotta make that happen. Or they won’t learn. Or earn.
From that viewpoint, people who ‘aspire’ to write (but don’t), or who write when the muse moves – when it suits them, and who stop when it stops being fun – aren’t really writers. They’re hobbyists.
That’s fine too, but I think it’s some distance from the realities of practical writing as a career (which, itself, has many aspects and might well lead an author into different places). Do hobby-enthusiast writers make the transition? Sure. It’s from the hobby enthusiasm that most writers start. It’s also the start of the learning curve – and to me, one of the keys to that curve is to learn how to hold on to the unfettered joy of that beginning. It’s important.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015