Sunday, September 16, 2012

When is a writer not a writer?

The realisation has tacked back and forth across the ocean of my mind (the kind of ocean that houses a vast, voracious, rubbish-filled gyre at its centre) many times that, although I write for a living as a copywriter, I am not a writer.

Similarly, although I spend innumerable hours trawling the great Sargasso of the internet watching, reposting, reading and commenting on posts, articles and other peoples' blogs, this is only my third post in nearly 4 years, so I am patently not a blogger either.

I've been humbled and embarrassed on occasion that friends and colleagues have thought me possessed of enough talent to be a novelist/blogger/scriptwriter. They tell me it's just a fear of failure that holds me back from writing something other than ads, and of course there's a fair whack of truth to that; I'm smart enough and honest enough to know that the thought of expending months or god forbid years of my life on a writing project only to recognise that it's just average, or competent, would be way too depressing.

I used to wonder at my lack of enthusiasm or ambition for it, explaining it away as because I write for ads it feels too much like my job to come home and do more writing, especially work I'm not and quite likely will never get paid for; there's truth in this as well.

So while there are more than enough examples of copywriters who successfully shed the 'copy' to become simply 'writer', from F. Scott Fitzgerald to Salman Rushdie to Peter Carey, I simply haven't been able to muster the desire to do so myself.

But one evening as I sat before my computer racking my brain for something witty or provoking to post as my Facebook status, the not-exactly-blinding realisation - more the dim illumination from a motion-activated night light - emerged from the Gyre, and that 10 watt lightbulb was: I have nothing to say.

Oh sure, it's taken me four paragraphs of rambling to make that point, and that I'm even bothering to blog this makes for a somewhat lukewarm contradiction, but I know it to be more true than the fear of failure or of slogging away at a second job.

I find this curiously liberating, not to mention a refreshingly honest and surprisingly enlightened self-analysis for someone who has enjoyed a career in spin. It occurs to me that more people could benefit from this little piece of Charles Colton-esque wisdom.

And that leads me to a small paradox: that perhaps I do have something to say after all.