A Writer’s Ego

Dear Santa,

I’ve been a good girl during my first semester at uni. I didn’t miss a single class and I handed all my assignments in on time. So I was wondering if there was any chance of getting my dream Christmas present this year?

On Christmas morning, I’d like to wake up without a hangover AND also the confidence to actually call myself a writer, out loud in public. I’ve accumulated a fair amount of titles in my adult years- student, teacher, wife (no1 and no2),mother, Training Officer and student again but I’ve yet to feel that I’veearned the title ‘Writer’.

In the winter edition of the Society of Author’s journal, ‘The Author’, Robert Hull has written a great piece on ‘Am I an author?’ where he states that“somehow one can be a writer without publishing anything, the term paradoxically seems also to imply a route to authordom.” So, what’s my problem?That could be me he’s talking about, I write.  So I am a writer. But I also paint watercolours and I don’t call myself an artist.  I pull weeds in my garden but I don’t call myself a gardener. You get the idea.  For me, the problem with choosing the title,‘writer’ over any other title, is one of ego.

To be a writer, I think you need to have a big enough ego to put your work out there.  You need to believe that people will be interested enough in what you write to want to invest the time (and possibly hard earned money) to want to read it. You need to believe that you’vesomething really worthwhile to say in a world where there are already too many books and more creative writing graduates than you can shake a pen at.  My ego was big enough to make me quit my job so that I could call myself a student, but not big enough to call myself a writer.  Not yet. It’s my personal work in progress.
Oscar Wilde said, “I have nothing to declare except my genius.” Now that’s an ego! I’m notgreedy. I don’t want an unhealthy supersized McEgo, just a regular ego with fries and a diet coke.

But don’tworry Santa, if asking for a bigger ego is too much, I totally understand that this is something I will probably have to find myself or search for it on eBay.  If your elves can’t sort out a writer’s egofor me, then here are a couple of ideas for substitute gifts.

P.S. Another bottle of double strength ‘Patience-of-a-Saint’ tablets would also be very much appreciated for my long-suffering hubby- he’ll need them for next semester!

Creative Writing is my Guilty Pleasure

This weekend, I was asked (again!) what kind of job will I be able to get once I’d finished the Mlitt course? Deep breath and a silent scream later I replied that I had no idea. I’ve only just finished the first semester and already I’m being forced to look to the future. Is it so wrong to live in the moment?

When wind and rain battered my bedroom window this week, I got up and looked out at the bleak weather. Then I slipped on my cheetah print fleecy dressing gown and snuggled back down to read a brilliant book (The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz- if you must know) as part of my day’s “work”.

This time last year, I would have been driving to work in the dark and coming home in the dark with frizzy hair, fed up and frustrated. 

So if I’m 10 times happier, why am I suffering from a weird side effect called guilt?

 I often feel guilty for doing something I really enjoy. I’m convinced that this Calvinist attitude is an unfortunate default setting for Scottish folk. If you don’t believe me, read Scot’s Crisis of Confidence by Carol Craig where she examines Scots’ attitudes and tendency for negativity. She explores how the self-deprecating joke of “getting above ourselves” is a destructive national trait and how Scotland’s Calvinist heritage includes a highly developed work ethic with a deep sense of duty and social responsibility.

So how does this relate to me?

My friends are busy doing REAL jobs- like social worker and teacher whilst I’m faffing about at uni sweating about whether the latest chapter of my novel works. I applaud their career choice and admire the fact that they’re doing a job that’s important. Good on them! But can I please have one year out of my whole life to indulge my need to have a serious attempt at being a writer without feeling guilty?

I’m not out there battling the elements or saving lives.  I’m staying cosy in my jammies and making up wee stories in my head. But I’m not going to beat myself up about it. I’m determined to shake off John Knox’s legacy (aka Knoxplex) and any hint of guilt to enjoy every minute of the course while it lasts.

“Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, 
concentrate the mind on the present moment”