Call Yourself a Writer?

The first edict of advice establishing itself boldly at the top of self-help and how-to lists on writing is simply – write. It seems a glaringly obvious suggestion, but one which if not set out to remind most of us to do so at every given opportunity, is one that can get lost in the mire of technique, pacing, characterization, plot etc. These are all immensely important skills to be honed along the road to literary greatness, but quite useless while hanging around the street corners of our minds, kicking words up against a high wall.
Over the years I’ve encountered many would-be writers who suffer loudly in their quest to tell their story, but who grow quite silent when asked how much they’ve actually written. It’s all in the name you see, a bricklayer lays bricks, an actor acts, a receptionist mans a reception and so on, but I can call myself a writer without ever having written a word. My delusional buck stops here.
Deserving to come second on the how-to list is joining a writers’ group. This can be an invaluable support to the aspiring writer. True, they’ll criticize the words that have been wrung out of me at three a.m. and force me to murder my darlings when I’ve just given painful birth, but it’s far, far better than the criticism fired for not producing anything at all, for which they have an extremely good aim.
Recently I found it heartening to hear one of my writing colleagues say that he rewarded himself by writing. How wonderful, when sitting at the PC for most of us means a stack of Kit-Kats, a bag of cream caramels and a continuous flow of coffee to entreat even a courageous look at a blank screen.
But they say there is only one way to get rid of the blank screen – write.
Caroline Brady