We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospection. – Anais Nin
If you’re reading this, chances are you want to be a writer. But you’re not quite sure you’re there yet. So the first thing to get straight is: what is a writer?
Essentially, a writer is someone who writes. That doesn’t make every literate in the world a writer. A writer is someone who writes, but more important than whether the individual in question makes a living out of it is the primacy of writing in his/her life. A writer is compelled to write not because he/she wants to prove something to the world, but because he/she has no choice. As the Roman poet Juvenal observed two millennia ago, ‘Many suffer from the incurable disease of writing, and it becomes chronic in their sick minds.’ Self-identification with this chronic condition is key.
That said, every literate person (and that’s most of us now, even in Nepal) does have the potential to be a writer. But the vocation – and writing is more than a hobby – is not for the faint-hearted, or the slack-handed. The Zimbabwean-British writer Doris Lessing recalls in her preface to the Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook that half a century ago, writers considered writing an ‘apprenticeship to a hard craft’, an exercise in ‘solitary excellence’ that might be appreciated by a select few. Back then, Lessing’s publisher apologised to her for asking her to do an interview. Today’s would-be writers live for the limelight.
Times change, but the basics don’t. It helps to ask yourself why you want to be a writer. Big advances and promotional tours are all very well if you get them, but if you’re only in it for the bright lights, it’s worth remembering there are very many other things you’d be better off trying your hand at. If you can’t quite explain why you want to write, but know that there’s nothing else you’d rather be doing, that brings us closer to the crux of it.
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