Two months ago I went to an event organised by Writing West Midlands. I didn’t get into writing to improve my social life (which isn’t to say that it couldn’t do with an upgrade) but I’m told that networking is useful. Actually, scratch the note of scepticism: I know that networking us useful; I’m just not that good at it.
Despite various mishaps on my journey to the venue, I arrived in time for the pre-event mingling – something that makes me extremely uncomfortable. I stood around for a few minutes, nursing a cup of coffee and trying not to make eye-contact with anyone. By and large this was a success, writers being generally shy/misanthropic. Unfortunately (not really) it didn’t work with The Poet.
The Poet is someone well known on the Midlands scene – possibly quite well known nationally – who I’ve bumped into occasionally over the last 11 or 12 years. I know her name (because she is, as I say, well known on the Midlands scene) but she doesn’t know mine, because I’m not.
“So you’re a writer too,” she said, after reminding me where we first met. “Well, I write,” I replied, well aware that my publication record (see my CV if you must know) is considerably less illustrious. What is a writer, but someone who writes, I wondered underneath my false modesty.
The first session, perhaps appropriately, was called ‘Becoming a Writer’. As we waited for the session to start, I overheard a conversation somewhere behind me. A man was outlining his plans: he said something like “I want to start writing; I thought I’d come to this event first.” I didn’t turn round and tell him to get on with it, because that would be rude (not to mention out of character).
The first speaker, Leila Rasheed, asked us to think about what we meant by ‘writer’ – pretty obvious question to ask if you want to know how to become one. I asked myself the question, but couldn’t think of an answer.
What is a writer but someone who writes? Two months later I think I’m getting close. I want to be read what I’ve written; I want people to enjoy reading what I’ve written; I want people to look out for what I’ve written.
Will I be satisfied when this happens? Probably not.