Saturday, 14 September 2013

Who are you looking at? Probably not me

Have you ever tried to play spot the writer?

It's not too hard. Wherever you are, whether walking through a crowd or sitting in a restaurant or cafe, take a look around and see if you can figure out which of the people you see are writers. At least that's the easy part. The difficult part is, like me you'll probably have no idea whether you're right or not (unless you go up to people directly and ask, which may be a little on the awkward side).

That's the great thing about being a writer. How you look makes no difference at all. There are no dress requirements or uniforms. And there are also no particular requirements to look great, like there are for actors and models, or to have extraordinary physical prowess like athletes.

Anyone you see could be a writer. We come in all shapes and sizes. We also come in any kind of packaging. True, there may be cliches about the bohemian writer, sitting in a cool cafe and drinking coffee while mulling on their latest literary masterpiece. But I suspect there are far more writers who diverge from this stereotype than those who conform to it.

That's one of the really great things I like about writing. Just as there are an innumerable number of stories, so there are an innumerable number of authors, each with their own styles of writing as well as living.

And I also like that being a writer doesn't define me as a person. It's something that I do, and that I enjoy. But there's an awful lot more to me than that. Even though I would love to be successful, I'm always happy to fly under the radar. I'd hate to be the sort of person who has to fend off admirers at the local supermarket (admittedly a fairly unlikely possibility).

So whether you're playing the game of spot the author or just looking around and people watching in general, I have a feeling that the person you're looking at isn't me. 

1 comment:

  1. Online it feels like everyone’s a writer but it’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? I seek out writers and frankly don’t spend much time around people who don’t write these days. It’s all virtual too. I’ve met hardly any writers in real life and it’s probably fair to say I actually avoid their company but only because I avoid everyone’s company these days. Of those few writers I have met I have to say the thought has crossed my mind more than once: You don’t look like a writer. I think, like you, what gets me is how ordinary we are. But then when you’re standing in the queue for the post office who’s standing there with you? A cricketer? An adulterer? A bubble gum card collector? A petty thief? I’m always fascinated when I learn anything about anyone because you really can’t tell. The one I always think of is Ralph Vaughan Williams: he looked more like a farmer than a composer. Carrie and I were watching a programme only last night and someone said something daft like, “He doesn’t look like a murderer,” to which came the predictable response, “And, pray, what does a murderer look like?” What fascinates me more about writers is why they write what they do. I know what being a writer means to me but I don’t get why people write books about zombies or poems about nature or four books a year. I do get the need to write but why write like that?