So, here is my weekly indulgence. It’s a time where I take a paragraph and examine it however I wish. I struggled with this one. I picked up a magazine, something I’ve been doing for this column recently, and opened at random. I landed on a really great first paragraph and thought ‘this is it!’ Then I made the mistake of reading further to find out what the next paragraph was about, and the next and the next. About a quarter of the way through I found the right paragraph. I have nothing against the previous paragraphs, each one is good in its own right. I have nothing against the paragraphs following, they are also good in their own right. This one just fits, this one screams ‘ME!’ Yes, in capitals.
Starting out is often a secret thing. We shun the title ‘writer’ because what authority do we have to claim it? But we write anyways, unnamed, unsure about the process, because we’re driven to. Because we have a character, a place, a story to tell. Because writing keeps us sane, helps us makes sense of the world, brings us joy. Because we want to prove we can, if only to ourselves.
And there it is, in its perfection. But why does this specific paragraph scream at me? It’s because this is me. It describes how I started perfectly. And there is nothing more to say than that. But I’ll elaborate.
I started writing for my blog in April 2009. I had zero aspirations of being a good writer. It was something I had been told to do, to write a blog to support my business where I was selling pre-loved books online. Kath told me to get the links to my website in, to work in the key words and create traffic.
I sat in shock. We were very small business people and Kath had offered to do some business coaching as a group. We came together weekly, I still have my notes. I did what I was able to do but there were things blocking me…mostly me. Something I’d never admitted even to myself for a very long is that I wanted to be a writer.
But what makes a writer? Is it to be published, in novel form, in magazines, in blogs? I’ve no idea, I’m still trying to understand. But Kath told me a blog would be essential for my business. She then ran an exercise which unblocked my thinking. By the time I hopped in the car I had a wealth of ideas for articles, and driving home gave me many more. I haven’t had to look at that list for several years.
2009, it’s not that long ago, but my life has changed so, so much. At the end of 2014 I admitted, on my blog, that I wanted to write. Which is funny because I was already writing, but at that point I didn’t think blogging was enough for me. I’m not sure where I wanted to go but just writing for a blog wasn’t going to cut it. Twenty minutes after that went live I had a message from a friend. Sandi is ever supportive, she knows what it’s like to have a life-changing experience. In her case she was gifted with some new lungs, she treasures them and the life they’ve given her. She had messaged me to tell me she’d read my writing.
At that point I had to tell my Travelling Companion. We got in the car for our summer holiday and I told him. All I’ve received since then from him has been encouragement. It may not have always felt like encouragement, but hindsight leaves us with a different viewpoint.
Having been back to school to finish my VCE, and then from there to university to get a degree I’m back to the paragraph I’m talking about. What makes a writer? I’m still not sure. At this point I’ve been writing for my blog for eleven years, that’s longer than most bloggers I know. I’ve been published in magazines. I’m in the middle of writing the history of my synagogue. Does any of that make me a writer?
All though university I described myself as ‘aspiring to be an emerging writer’. I thought it was clever and totally sidestepped the idea that I might actually be an emerging writing. This year something has changed. I’ve had a number of people refer to me as a writer, my blog has changed to represent this. I am now a writer. I have all the hesitations, all the internal thoughts about unworthiness, but I now claim the title.
And that is where I come back, once again, to the paragraph. ‘What authority do we have to claim’ the title of writer? I’ve no idea, but thanks to my friends I’m claiming it anyway. And this article lends credence to my words.
The article was written by Emily Brewin in ‘The Victorian Writer’, the magazine published by Writers’ Victoria in June-July 2019. If you’re aspiring to be a writer, or you are a writer you need to join your local writer’s association. This is the one in Victoria. I joined them a few years ago when I was secretly planning to be a writer, before I admitted on my blog that this is what I wanted to be.