I went to one festival talk on my own entitled: A Space to Write. There is a book of the same name which inspired the talk and was already known to me. It had caught my eye in the Sunday supplements a while back and made my way onto the “books to read one day” list, but it’s too costly to buy new and doesn’t seem available as used. Perhaps I could ask for it as a birthday or Christmas present. Anyway: a book in which writers talk about their respective writing spaces and discuss their approach to their craft – wonderful! And the talk was wonderful. I loved it!
Of the four writers in the panel I only knew of one. (I have one of his books unread on my shelves. I can’t remember why I bought it, only that I’ve never been inspired to open it.) But it was a varied panel – a well-known published novelist; a part-time performance poet; a singer/author; and a writer/painter/director. At least three had wonderful speaking voices which is not something I would consider to be necessary for a writer but certainly added to their performances today. And they all read from their own work. Such a variety of readings: the beginning of the book I have unread on my shelf (which still didn’t inspire me to read it); a performance poem (due to be performed that evening); a very funny and slightly risqué short story, and the early draft of a non-fiction piece on the history of New Zealand. The readings and the speakers came across with varying degrees of success but that of course is subjective, and as a group each added something valuable to the mix. But what stood out for me was the confidence with which each proclaimed – not explicitly, but so evidently in deed and in word – “I am creative. I am a writer: this is what I do and this is who I am”.
And yet what they do is not so very different to what I do. Much of what they talked about in how they approach their work and the types of person they see themselves as parallels my experience. Of course, they are published – or asked to perform, and they earn money from their labours. But is that what determines that they are writers and I am not? I felt a common bond with these strangers on the stage. I felt my heart dance a little jig as I listened to them, in the way that it dances when I meet someone by chance and have that instinctive sense that we are kindred spirits. I felt it too when a favourite quote from Daphne was used to finish the Du Maurier walk that we attended yesterday.
I have no expectations of becoming known to any of the people on the stage that afternoon, indeed of becoming known to any of the people in the room; of becoming known to anyone as a writer. But I left that room standing a little bit taller and feeling a little more confident and a little more convinced that I am a Writer. I may never be a published writer, but then one of the panel is self-published and has yet to be taken up by a recognized publishing house. And if I turn this on its head: I never shall be a published writer unless I start to think of myself as a writer in the first place.
At the moment I have three projects underway: this blog; the footnotes, and the stories I’m writing for my grandsons. And today I make a commitment:
To write every day, and to think of myself As. A. Writer.
There’s no need to commit to anything more to fulfill that brief.