“I’m a writer…I don’t have the time to write…”

‘I don’t have the time to write!’ We all say it. We are all terribly busy people.

I know writers who wrote when loved ones were in hospital. Personally I think that those situations are the ones where you absolutely-positively need to be let off the hook, but it impresses the hell out of me that they managed it.

I know writers who write when they have kids. I know writers who work full-time. I know writers who work full-time and have kids. I know writers who work full-time and have a variety of interests they pursue. I know writers with several jobs and kids and passions. And they write.

I also know a writer who is something absurd like six years late for a project that they’ve been paid for. I know people who spend years talking about the book they keep meaning to write once they have time. I know people who can explain to you in excruciating detail what happens in their book and why it’d make a great movie and how they’d market it – but haven’t written a word of it. I do not have an awful lot of respect for these people, particularly when they insist that yes, they are WRITERS. In capitals.

I am wary of the ‘Writer’ label because of this, because of these people who think that Writerliness is some kind of state of mind, some special condition that you have, something innate and magical. (On the flipside to this, though, Alison Wells has a great post on describing yourself as a Writer rather than an Aspiring Writer over here and it’s well worth reading.) Writerliness is something that you work on. Something that you nurture. Something that you make the time for.

We are all terribly busy people, but busy people need to prioritise things. If you insist on calling yourself a WRITER, remember that it’s not a label that you get at birth and get to hold on to, like a nationality or a star sign (we’ll leave aside political upheaval and wacky new-fangled astrological stuff for the moment). It’s like saying you’re an athlete when you haven’t been in training for years – even a natural affinity for something isn’t going to get you all of the way there.

Being A Writer does not mean seeing the world in a special fuzzy insightful amazing way. It may mean that, for many people, but it also means actually getting those special fuzzy insightful amazing thoughts down on paper. If you ‘just don’t have the time to write’, but insist on your special Writerly status . . . well. Just don’t start up a conversation with me, okay? It gets a little tiresome.

About clairehennessy

Writer (mostly YA fiction), creative writing teacher, tea drinker, book junkie. View all posts by clairehennessy

13 responses to ““I’m a writer…I don’t have the time to write…”

  • RFLong

    Yep. This!

    Writers WRITE! 🙂

  • alisonwells

    Yes I totally agree! I love the bit about seeing the world in a special fuzzy insightful amazing way, that’s not enough, you can’t call yourself a writer then. And I agree, you may feel like a writer and want to write but you have to be struggling with the word whales if you are to call yourself a writer, you have to be doing against all the odds and in the middle of the busy situations you find yourself in. Great points, great article.

    • clairehennessy

      Thanks Alison! 🙂 I know, it’s like people think it’s about having this amazing Vision, and… well, the hint’s in the title. If you want to be a ‘visionary’ then all well and good, but ‘writer’ does involve the act of putting stuff on the page.

      And I am mightily sympathetic to the various difficult and stressful and busy situations find themselves in. But there are an awful lot of people out there (myself included a lot of the time) who use their time badly.

  • Tweets that mention “I’m a writer…I don’t have the time to write…” « Claire Hennessy -- Topsy.com

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Melissa Hill and Claire Hennessy, Bob Burke. Bob Burke said: RT @clairehennessy: http://wp.me/pDHXn-eK <— On writers who don't have the time to write & writerliness as special state of being… […]

  • Alexandra (Nina Bell)

    One of the reasons I hate talking about the book I’m writing is that if I were to talk about it, then the creativity would go into the talking rather than getting it down on page. So I’d agree. I’d certainly say to any aspiring writer ‘don’t discuss your book with anyone unless you need to (ie for research purposes). You risk its soul flying out the window.’

    Occasionally someone asks me what I do, and I say ‘writer’. They then ask if I’ve had anything published. I say ‘Seventeen books so far.’ I don’t think this happens to people in other professions.

    • clairehennessy

      Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

      Yes, I completely agree with this – I know people who can manage to talk about their work and it keeps them motivated, but I can’t discuss my works-in-progress beyond anything super-vague – I need to write it, not talk it!

      And the “should I have heard of you?” style questions. Definitely special… 😉

  • The Plath Diaries

    I agree with this post so very much!

    It’s that kind of pretension pseudo-writers embody that puts me off anything to do with literature, writing, being creative. And makes my respect lie with those like JD Salinger who quietly worked away for decades, not looking for accolades or singing and shouting “I’m writing a novel!” from the rooftops.

    Have you seen the film, ‘Wonder Boys?’. The scene where the “writer” Q gets up in the lecture theatre and declares “I am a writer” sums up exactly my sentiments! How self-indulgent! But at least Q actually wrote and didn’t dance around it!

    • clairehennessy

      I have to wonder why so many people are clamouring to claim the label. It’s the mystical-airy-fairy dimension to it they seem to want, not the sit-down-and-work part.

      I adore ‘Wonder Boys’! Have you read the book? ‘Tis fabulous.

  • It’s not just about the time. « Claire Hennessy

    […] We find the time or make the time to write. It is […]

  • thf2

    Claire! I just came across your blog, and I love it! I was an english major in college, with a tilt towards creative writing. I even jumped into journalism and I loved that…the deadlines were my biggest pain, yet my biggest pal at the same time.

    What you doi at the BSWF is so very cool, so very needed today. I am of Irish/Scottish roots, and am itching terribly to get to visit Ireland. I feel you are so very fortunate to live in such an amazing place…



  • Excuses Vs Reasons « Claire Hennessy

    […] consensus as to how often a writer writes, though. But most of us are fairly certain on this point: talking about all the great ideas you have or the special and unique way you see the world does not a writer […]

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