Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Blame Sean Williams

A few months back I was having a debate with myself along the lines of “What actually constitutes a writer?” Meaning, do my passionate scribblings – as yet conducted in a private arena – really count as “writing”? Is it big-noting yourself to identify yourself as a one-who-writes? Or is it a necessary step on the path to publication and promotion?

At what point does one step up to claim a position in the vast community of those who strive with their pens and keyboards? When does one cease being an invisible neophyte and earn reader-worthiness? And how the heck do you know?

This was swirling around in my mind when I stumbled across a blog post by Sean Williams, an Adelaide writer well known for his prolific successes, as well as for being a real human being that you might run into at the SAWC on Rundle Street.

Having been asked many times for his advice, Sean compiled a short but pithy list of first principles for new writers, “The 10 ½ Commandments”. I’m a big fan of serendipity, so when a short but pithy answer drops into my field of vision, I pay attention.

The whole list made perfect sense, and I nodded as I read, but I paused to contemplate this:

4. Define your version of success and take concrete steps towards achieving it.

Yes. It sounds so simple. Think about what’s important to me. Set some goals. Then get shufflin’. Genius advice, and not at all self-evident in an endeavour where success rests upon what other people think of what you do. This was the prompt I needed to think about how I would focus my efforts.

I could feel the conveyor belt of an idea very slowly creaking into motion as I read on:

7. Be visible.

(Pause for digestion).

Thank you, Sean, very much. I’ll just take a moment and absorb that. Be visible: give myself permission to identify myself as one-who-writes.

From now on, I will turn up to writers’ events and make conversation and learn the secret handshakes. I’ll stop treating my writing like a covert operation. I’ll start talking about my achievements (self-defined, see #4 above) like they’re something to be proud of, and the not the poor cousins of what I couldawouldashoulda done in that alternate universe where I was a superstar by age 25.

In short, I’ll eschew my persistent habit of being invisible.

And, since writing is my chosen medium of self-expression, how better to do this than in actual writing? And thus, Commandment #7 was my personal tipping point to create a public blog with my actual real name on it.

So, blame Sean Williams for the spike of inspiration that jolted this blog into being. Not only because his words gave me the push I needed, but because the force of the jolt itself demonstrates the alchemical possibilities of writing.

Thanks, Sean.

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