In the past couple of years, the following has happened to me on a regular basis: during one of those “Who are you and what do you do in life?”-conversations the fact that I write comes up, to which the other party responds that they are “a writer too” and are “currently working on a novel”. But when I ask them what that novel is about, it soon turns out that not only have they not written anything yet, they also haven’t done any research because they have no clue what their story is going to be. When I then ask what other things they are currently writing or have written in the past, it turns out to be absolutely nothing: no blog post, no column, no zine, no short story, no journal. Absolutely nothing. A writer who doesn’t write and hasn’t written ever. Interesting.
My definition of what a writer is, is in no way strict: as soon as you write something on a regular basis, you’re a writer. And of course there’s no laws forbidding you to call yourself a writer even if you’ve never written, but I do think it’s strange. Why would you claim to be something that you’re not? If you never dance, not even in your living room all by yourself, would you call yourself a dancer? I have also never met anyone who called themselves a plumber who wasn’t an actual plumber.
So apparently there’s something about calling yourself “a writer” that is vastly different from calling yourself a plumber. Is it the tormented artist myth? An excuse to get drunk all the time? Does it make you seem more intellectual? Does it make it easier to find somebody to date? And why are these writers-who-don’t-write always “working on their novel”? I have never heard any of them talk about their poetry chapbook, their short story collection, their play or film script, or their novella. They’re always writing a damn novel. Like no other literary form exists.
If you’re thinking: “They’re all men, right?” I’m sorry to have to disappoint you. Where about 9 years ago it was mostly men who claimed to be writers while not writing, I nowadays only meet women who do so. I have no explanation for this. Unfortunately, all the people I meet who DO write, but say “Oh no, I’m not a writer!” are also women. This makes me sad.
I am very curious if anyone reading this recognises this behaviour. Are you also a writer that constantly runs into writers-who-don’t-write? How do you (not) handle this? Or are you a writer who doesn’t write? Why do you claim to be something you’re not? What kind of perks does claiming to be a writer give you? Why are the non-written works always novels? And of course I would also love to know if anyone has ever met a dancer who doesn’t dance or a plumber who doesn’t do any plumbering. I really hope that if anyone has a (partial) answer to these questions, they’d be so kind as to write it in the comment box.
Next week there’ll be another interview up here on Featured Mag. See you on Wednesday!