Why be a writer? Writing is not really something you decide to do one day in order to earn some extra money. It comes from a deeply internal, guttural desire to get words down and your message out.

Do you feel like this?

Writing is natural. Writing is good for us. We love the grapple, the wordsmithery, the playing with a plot, creating characters, researching reams of information. Writing is getting something down, not thinking something up. That’s not an original thought, by the way, but writing rarely is. The joy is in the doing. It is an active pursuit.

Writing is lonely. Most people write in isolation at home. Attending a writing group is good, but tough. It requires guts, balls, brain, and any other visceral organ we normally keep hidden from view. To write to order, to share those thoughts with your peers is dauntingly difficult until you actually feel ‘good enough’ – if you ever do. It is much easier to do it once someone ‘in the know’ says your work is worth reading. That’s where teachers come in handy …

Writing is compulsive. It’s been said so often it is a truism: most successful writers read a lot and write a lot. By a lot, I mean at least daily. Readers become critical of others’ poor writing. Suddenly that beachside trashy novel or unedited self-published ebook becomes highly disposable.

Writing can be anything: a letter, a diary entry, a story, a response to a prompt, work on a novel, whatever. For people who write, picking up a pen or tapping a keyboard is like breathing, second-nature, impulsive, compulsive. When you feel bereft if you don’t do it, then you know you must. Writing is not a choice, rather it keeps you sane. Sod the cobwebs! 

Writing is shocking. Yes, you are shocked if someone praises your work, or finds it moving, if it is published, or is generally received positively. For a writer, your work can always be improved; it is never good enough. Yet, we self-criticise freely, while generously applauding and praising the work of others. Conversely, those who shout too loudly about their own wondrous writing are generally self-promoting because no one else will. 

Your subject matter may also be shocking – bring it on; we are talking authenticity.

Writing is obsessive. Inspiration comes from many things, and sometimes we just run with an idea in a stream of consciousness way, to see where it leads us. I have, in my lifetime, written many articles and books ‘to order’. This is writing for the market, filling a gap, flogging stuff, making money. Nothing wrong with it, (it is still rather enjoyable) but it doesn’t gobble up our hearts and souls. Usually, such writing is formulaic. The writing that captures us is when you have that moment where you simply have to know more or when a story needs telling and only you can tell it!

Writing is lonely. No one can do it for you and you need time, peace, quiet and the desire. If other things get in the way too often, then your writing is not important enough to work for you at this time. Writing or a party? No contest! Writers are naturally introverts who hide away in their own cloistered world when writing. It is isolated and isolating, but it’s splendid isolation we writers love.

Writing is fun. If you are a writer, you derive immense satisfaction and fun from the process. People may find you bizarre, desiring to closet yourself with a notebook or laptop. Tough. It’s what we do. Even when it doesn’t go right. It is, to use modern parlance, very mindful. When you’re writing, nothing else matters. It’s the thinking, the flow, the words … you know!

Writing is a vulnerability. Anything you write puts your head above the parapet, leaves you open to criticism. Writing is working, reworking, editing, changing, rewriting, revamping, deleting. If your first draft is brilliant, then you’re a genius. I’ve never yet met one.

Anyone who can’t take criticism and is not prepared to learn from others … well, writing is, very simply, not for you.