Matthew Munson: Yes, you are a writer

Just write

People often append a word before the word “writer”, but the important thing is that people who have a passion for writing should have the confidence to declare that that’s what they are.

How is a writer supposed to act, feel, and look? The answer is, pretty much like that person you see when you look in the mirror. If you are passionate about writing (regardless of how much or how little time you are willing or able to devote to that passion), if you strive to develop your writing strengths, if you pursue your passion even though you don’t put in as much time as you’d like because you understand that you need to maintain a healthy balance in your life, then, yes, you’re a writer.

Writing the news

My dad was a writer for nigh on 50 years; in his case, he wrote for newspapers, initially specialising in sport before moving into general news, getting promoted up to chief reporter, and then moving back into sports as an editor. He could easily have gone higher up the chain, but he chose not to; he preferred to have at least some work-life balance and come home most evenings at a semi-reasonable time and have most weekends with his family, even if he did have to sacrifice most bank holiday Mondays to the craft. He was a damn good writer, and that’s not just filial pride saying that; he was awarded multiple times for his work, and was recognised and respected by so many people for what he did. He was also incredibly modest about his achievements and, when he retired, decided to focus his attention on his family, his garden, and anything else that caught his fancy, so I was bereft at knowing the world would stop seeing his output.

Blogging

I’m a fiction writer first and foremost, but I remember when I discovered blogging as well. I also discovered – or rather remembered – that I was rather opinionated, and being able to share my thoughts with a readership was rather exciting. It lastly gave me a small – very small – flavour of my dad’s work of verifying my facts, checking my sources, and making sure I was telling the truth. At least with fiction I could be a lot more creative, and so that’s why I keep going back.

A few things for people wanting to write;

Establish a routine for your writing time. This is more important the less time you have. If you work full-time, you might plan to write for an hour at 6am on Tuesday and Thursday, or at 4pm on Wednesday and Saturday. Write this commitment down in your diary or calendar, don’t schedule anything that conflicts with it, and sit alone somewhere you can focus when the time comes. It’s fine if you don’t produce sentences during that time, but don’t do anything else – don’t check email, don’t text, don’t go online (and for heaven’s sake, if you’re using a computer, shut all files and windows except for the one you’re working on).

Develop your characters and create an outline. By allowing your characters to grow and take initial shape (even if some of the finer detail change over time), then they will begin to shape the direction of the story, and by creating an outline, you’ll know the things you want to achieve. This doesn’t have to be formal and completely written down, but at least have it in your head. Know where you want to get to and then let your characters steer the way.

Here’s what’s real: perfectionism, and many writers suffer from it. They want everything to sound perfect the very first time, and sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. Sometimes, you’re going to have to write pure manure and plough through it, with the hopes that it will create a fertile soil. (It will.)

Writers may well be hermits a significant amount of the time, but they also need to socialise with each other for perspective, advice, and some semblance of sanity. Find your own way of doing this; it might be a writer’s group, or a couple of friends who are authors.

The real work of writing is hard enough without fretting about keeping up the appearance of being a writer. Instead of trying to resemble a writer, concentrate on being one. Allow yourself the freedom to create the worlds of your imagination, or share the knowledge that’s tucked away inside your head and is clearly desperate to come out.

Don’t make a whole special routine around your writing – if you say that you can only write with your lucky pen, or at a certain desk, or with absolutely no noise around you at all, then you’re going to get precisely nowhere. Don’t be precious about your writing; just find a corner somewhere, pick up whatever medium you can, and just bloody well write.

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