When is a writer not a writer? This seems to be the eternal question asked by people who write (aka writers?) in all forms of the activity and at all stages: emerging writers, aspiring writers, unpublished writers, writers, authors, novelists. Is there even a difference between the latter three? Is it only Jane Austen who is actually permitted to use such a lofty term as novelist? It’s confusing, but it really doesn’t need to be.
The simple fact is that writers now come in so many shapes and sizes. There is simply no ‘one box fits all’ that we can tick. Self-published, traditionally published, a combination of both – and that’s just for starters. Un-agented writers. Writers with agents. Writers with books in digital only format. Writers with hardback editions and beautiful end papers (a personal lust-have of mine). Writers of blogs and plays and poetry. Writers, all.
Yet, so often I encounter writers wondering when it’s okay to call themselves that. When are we allowed to update our Twitter and Facebook profiles? What on earth do we put in that box on the census form? Is ‘Frustrated Unpublished Writer’ a recognisable profession? It should be. It’s bloody hard work. What if someone checks up on us? ‘So, what actually have you written, Madam?’ When exactly is someone a bone fide writer/author/lady novelist/la-di-dah? In some ways the answer is always. In some ways the answer is never.
During a recent Twitter discussion (if you haven’t already discovered the monthly #writerswise Twitter discussion, take a look at the hashtag), I found myself tweeting about how writers are often cursed with an affliction to apologise and play down their achievements. At book launches and writing events when the obvious question arises, ‘So, what have you written,’ we mumble and mutter and say things like, ‘Well, I only …’ and ‘Oh, I just …’ Eyes glaze over as we explain how fantastically unimportant and insignificant we are. And don’t get me started on the, ‘So, tell me what your book is about’ question. It turns out that the dreaded ‘elevator pitch’ is an actual thing, but we only realise quite how essential it is to have one when faced with THAT moment at a crowded book launch when we discover that we really only do have a minute to catch our inquisitor’s attention and make our book sound as fabulous as it is.
Writer? Author? Emerging? Aspiring? Potato. Potato. Let’s stop worrying about labels and titles. Let’s stop saying ‘I only’ and ‘I just’ and let’s start saying ‘I have’ and ‘I am’. Let’s talk about our writing achievements like proper grown-ups (just not in a Boasty McBoast way – nobody likes a show-off). Let’s show some of that determination we demonstrate alone at our desks every day. Let’s stop apologising for the wonderful things we have achieved and are achieving. And, most of all, let’s crack that elevator pitch so that we spare ourselves (and each other) the agony of nodding politely for twenty minutes while we miss the last train home and are left still not entirely sure what our own, or anyone else’s, books are actually about.
When is a writer not a writer? We are all writers and we are all becoming writers. As my third novel THE GIRL FROM THE SAVOY publishes in the US and Ireland this week, I’m still becoming the writer I want to be. I’m continually learning, trying to get better at my craft, still understanding the little nuances in writing that make the difference between good and great, and yes, I still want a hardback with beautiful end papers!
As this quote from Ezra Pound perfectly summarises, whatever we call ourselves, we are all at the starting line. “The artist is always beginning. Any work of art which is not a beginning, an invention, a discovery is of little worth.”
Let’s all be writers, and let’s write.
(c) Hazel Gaynor
About The Girl from the Savoy
The new rich and compelling novel from the author of The Girl Who Came Home. Perfect for fans of Kate Morton and Rachel Hore.
Dolly Lane is a dreamer; a downtrodden maid who longs to dance on the London stage, but the outbreak of war takes everything from her: Teddy, the man she loves – and her hopes of a better life.
When she secures employment as a chambermaid at London’s grandest hotel, The Savoy, Dolly’s proximity to the dazzling guests makes her yearn for a life beyond the grey drudgery she was born into. Her fortunes take an unexpected turn when she responds to an unusual newspaper advert and finds herself thrust into the heady atmosphere of London’s glittering theatre scene and into the sphere of the celebrated actress, Loretta May, and her brother, Perry.
All three are searching for something, yet the aftermath of war has cast a dark shadow over them all. A brighter future is tantalisingly close – but can a girl like Dolly ever truly leave her past behind?
The Girl from the Savoy will be in bookshops from June onwards, or pick up your copy online here!