Some people ask, how do you know you’re a writer?
Answers vary: when I’ve finished the first draft of my first novel; when I’ve been accepted by an agent; when I’ve been published; when I’ve sold X amount of books; when I’m an answer on Jeopardy!
I think the answer is more simple and more complex than that.
As I’m sure a great many of you know, Terry Pratchett suffers from Alzheimer’s. He announced his condition in 2007 – notably responding: “there’s time for at least a few more books yet.”
Pratchett also has recently become very vocal about assisted suicide and apparently has his own consent papers for Switzerland’s assisted suicide clinic Dignitas. But he hasn’t signed yet…”The only thing stopping me [signing them] is that I have made this film [Terry Pratchett: Choosing to Die, a BBC2 documentary] and I have a bloody book to finish.”
Nowadays, Pratchett writes via voice recognition software because he can’t type anymore. But he’s still writing. Still telling stories. Still telling people where to go if they don’t like what he does.
And I think that’s what makes you a writer: when the world gives you a sh*t hand and you’re still at it. P.G. Wodehouse died with a pen in his hand. Mark Twain, suffering from horrid arthritis in his right hand, learned to write left-handed. Anne Rice’s daughter died and she created Interview with the Vampire – and a young, immortal character named Claudia. Let’s not forget Elle editor Jean-Dominique Bauby who freakin’ blinked his booked The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
I think you know you’re a writer, a real writer, when you’re willing to write through anything: cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, losing your job, divorce, or whatever dark, horrible thing you can think of – and you know that writing will make you feel better. It has nothing to do with publishing or money or fame. Just telling stories lifts some of that burden up and off of you.
Sure. Eventually that other stuff might catch up with you…but in the meantime, there’s a bloody book to finish.