flexibeast.space - gemlog - 2024-04-26

Being a ‘writer’

i've recently come to the realisation that i feel it's appropriate to call myself a ‘writer’. Not because i'm published, or in any way likely to be, or because i'm writing The Next Great Novel, or because i feel i'm talented and good at it. (i can immediately think of several people on my Facebook friends list who i consider to be far better writers than me.) i'm a ‘writer’ in the sense that i have to write: i have to write to “get things out”, and i feel compelled to keep doing so regardless of the extent to which my writing is actually read, i.e. hardly at all.

For a few years after reading “Lord of the Rings” somewhere around the age of 12, i seriously entertained the idea of becoming a professional writer. My local bookshop - at which i ended up working for a time - had a book called “Writing Professionally”, by Garry Disher, and i bought and read it. (i still have it.) Disher pulled no punches about the reality of trying to get published; it was eye-opening, and my plans got significantly scaled down, from “actively pursuing” to “something i'd like to do, in theory, but basically relegated to the backburner”.

Nowadays, i'm not only posting here on my gemlog/blog, but also writing poetry, often on topics about which i have Feels:


and microfiction, often representing attempts to create a brief narrative from dreams:


and “short thoughts”, effectively an undated-but-regularly-updated microblog:

“Short thoughts”

and documentation, e.g. on the Gentoo wiki, because as both a user and a dev, lack of documentation makes me unhappy[a]:

My contributions to the Gentoo wiki

The latter includes things like the “Fonts/Background” and “IPv6” pages, which i put together from scratch:

Gentoo wiki: ‘Fonts/Background’

Gentoo wiki: ‘IPv6’

i'm actively opposed to the idea that one should only use words like ‘writer’ / ‘musician’ / ‘painter’ / ‘artist’ / ‘actor’ etc. if one is getting paid to do the work. i find it problematic for several reasons (not least among which is things getting defined by their capitalist market value)[b]. Yet at the same time, and despite all the writing i'm constantly doing, i've resisted calling myself a ‘writer’, because it felt pretentious and ridiculous, even though it accurately conveys that a certain activity pervades my life.

It's been a somewhat similar process to finally identifying as a ‘dominant’ - trying to engage less with others' use of the word, and more with the extent to which, regardless of such factors, it applies to me.

“Identifying as ‘a dominant’”

Well, in the sense that “i have to write: i have to write to ‘get things out’, and i feel compelled to keep doing so regardless of the extent to which my writing is actually read”, it seems reasonable to say i'm a ‘writer’. It still feels somewhat pretentious, just as it does to call myself a ‘dominant’. In both cases, however, using the term for myself feels accurate.

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[a] Cf. e.g.:

“On telling users to write the documentation themselves”

[b] Although socially, there seems to be some leeway when one is not currently being paid to do the work:

This friend of his had first arrived on the planet Earth some fifteen Earth years previously, and he had worked hard to blend himself into Earth society - with, it must be said, some success. For instance, he had spent those fifteen years pretending to be an out of work actor, which was plausible enough.

-- Douglas Adams, “The Hitch Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy”