From the Diary #16: What Being a Writer Means To Me


There is a story from writing lore that often pops to mind in moments of self-doubt. It is about Monica Ali on writing Brick Lane. I’m afraid I’m going to have to paraphrase this as I read it in a interview over a decade ago, but it goes something like this…

One morning, in her thirties, Monica Ali woke up and knew it was time to begin her novel. So she sat down that day, and  every single day after that, until she completed and sold her rather wonderful debut novel, Brick Lane.

I find that this story straddles the boundaries of inspiring and depressing.

Inspiring because *it can happen!* A woman can decide the time is right to throw herself into writing and sticks to her commitment of writing a book all the way through to publication and distribution.

Depressing because…? *it’s never happened to me!* ~ ha!

I don’t just mean this in a sour grapes way. That way of becoming a writer, granted in its most pared down form, seems so simple and linear and it has just literally never happened to me. In becoming a writer, in claiming that title, it has been a much slower, gradual process. No sudden light bulbs. No perfectly formed linear sentences marching me from page one to page 400, accompanying me to a literary agent’s office then to a publisher.

So, if I’m not a multi-award winning novelist what does claiming myself as a writer mean to me? For that I need to get right down to basics…

  1. Living a thoughtful life of reflection

P and I often jokingly call ourselves ‘sociable hermits’. Hey ~ I like meeting up, but there’s not always time for it. Not because I’m out on another social engagement, but because sometimes I have to prioritise my thinking time. Not always a popular choice or one that everybody understands. But without time for reflection there is no writing life. And without a writing life, there is no writer.

2. Using the written word to express who I am and what I’m thinking

Well, you’re thinking “D’uh? Of course, a writer has to be able to write.” But this means commiting to writing pages and pages of drivel until I can distill what I’m thinking into something that I can share with others. For every page of poetry there is a hundred pages of the mind spewing itself over patient journal pages.

3. A passion for reading other writers

I don’t know any other way of learning about structure, format and possibility other than reading other people’s writing. I’m convinced that the best writers are those who read and think widely, and that a commitment to reading has the capacity to make me a better person and thus a better writer. So there!

4. A commitment to writing and reading everyday

This is, of course, so much easier on summer days, on holidays, on long days waiting for my teaching practice to begin again (like now!) But I know that being a writer also means doing this on the short, dark January days ~ when I’ve been out of the house for thirteen hours and I’m tired to the marrow. I put one paragraph in the journal. I try to put into words what I’m thinking, how I’m feeling. I resist the temptation to put the t.v. on as I slide into bed and I open a book, even if I’m slipping into sleep after barely a page.

5. Seeking out writing communities and readers

There has to be a motivation in writing. One part of it is exploring who I am, but that is incomplete without the other side ~ putting this into relation to the world we live in, and the people who live in it. But in a world of hundreds of thousands of writers (which is a fabulous revolution in itself), the readers don’t necessarily come seeking the writer ~ as a writer I have to do what I can to make myself seen, and give my words a chance of being read.

So, I’m a writer. I live thoughtfully, I write, I read ~ I do this everyday, and then I seek out readers to join the conversation.

But what does being a writer really mean to me?


It means truly being me. It means being happy.


16 thoughts on “From the Diary #16: What Being a Writer Means To Me

  1. Just found your blog. What a gem. This post is very inspiring I rarely share my aspirations because of that thought….. ahhh it’s out that what if I can never achieve this!!


  2. First time I visited, I couldn’t finish reading. Second time my comment was eaten. Third time’s a charm. “But without time for reflection there is no writing life. And without a writing life, there is no writer.” That line is where I live . You know my life with the little one. I love your piece. I write to find out what I think I know. Glad to have found you. Don’t let me lose you.


    • Oh, so sorry for your traumatic site experiences ~ I’m so glad you got to leave your lovely comment in the end so that I got to read it 💜 Glad to have found you too ~ let’s travel along the way together x

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Beautiful post that I relate to, although I don’t write enough. I agree with Dal, I think you would love Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (book or podcast) x


    • The world would definitely benefit from more of your heartfelt writing, Nichola 🙂 I have loved the Magic Lessons podcast ~ and would you believe I have won a signed copy of the book via The Book Mama?! So excited to receive it :)))

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you so much for this wonderful post! It was exactly what I needed to read. It helped bring me some much needed comfort and encouragement where writing is concerned.


  5. Claire, what a meaningful and thoughful post – this IS what it’s about, the process, the journey, a way of being that enriches life. I think you’ll love Big Magic, it discusses this a lot. As for being published…it’s so hard, Is it really so linear for some people?! My friend’s book has been published in Australia, my friends and I loved it but she is struggling to find a publisher here. But the process of writing her rather raunchy memoir has been healing beyond words, really.


    • I’m sure that the linear story of publication is just a myth that has taken a long time to die in my head. I’ve had individual pieces published, but a book? Yes, that’s the next part of the journey ~ but I won’t fully embark until I know it’s about the journey and not fetishising the end product! Thanks, Dal 💜


  6. Oh dear Claire, you put it so well! Thanks for your words and your courage. Your some steps ahead of me, but that’s fine, that’s the way I learn. I wish you well, from the bottom of my heart. You have talent, you have courage, you have love – just continue in the direction you’re going, walk your path. And maybe one day we meet to take these pictures from the top of a double decker bus, who knows? Would be a joyful day 🙂
    From heart to heart,


    • What a lovely, heartfelt comment, Eva and *yes* it goes straight to my heart 💜 Thank you for your words of connection and encouragement, they mean so much to me. The photo-bus journey is just a plane ride away, and we can use it to cheer on each other x


      • Hello dear Claire, thanks so much for your lovely reply, made me so happy! And yes, it’s just a plane ride away… Maybe one day… 🙂 Enjoy you’re weekend, I send you love, Eva


        Liked by 1 person

  7. Ok, so that picture of you at the bottom… it was beautiful, unexpected, unguarded – it was even erotic in a raw, lost in passionate life moment. I write to try and capture that melange of feelings and reactions, wherever I encounter them.

    I liked this post very much. I recall Burt Bacharach when asked about waiting to be inspired before writing, and his answer was something along the lines of “well, if you’re working everyday, you’re more likely to be writing when the inspiration comes along.”

    Keep writing, you have a real talent and you’re one of my favorites. Mosk

    Liked by 1 person

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