What is a Writer?

I went to an English grammar school. That’s where I learned about English grammar. We had a great English teacher (doesn’t everyone who loves the English language have at least one great English teacher?). I borrowed a battered copy of 1984 from Mr Clarkson’s class collection and I’ll never forget being mesmerised by George Orwell’s gripping story as I sat on a bench at the edge of the reservoir, when I should have been getting the bus back from school… a spotty teenager, I knew this was fiction, but in a profound and alarming way it was also about Real Life. So, affected by books, I wanted to read English at university, and chose the trendy ‘new’ University of East Anglia, whose staff included famous writers Angus Wilson and Malcolm Bradbury. They were knighted after they set up the original Creative Writing Course: Sir Angus and Sir Malcolm. The former told us he got into a tight spot on a desert expedition, and gave away part of his working manuscript to get rescued… the latter wrote in a caravan, and fought depression. Later, during a dark time in my own life, my literary saviour was Bill Bryson: his comic writing, reflecting his love for this country and crafted with all the skill of an excellent journalist (he was a subeditor on The Times) made me laugh and gave me hope. I wrote to thank him, and he wrote back with such grace and humility. They haven’t knighted him yet as far as I know, but he should be Sir Bill Bryson.

What’s my point? Writing isn’t easy, and most writers don’t become famous, or get a title. But if you write, you don’t know how your writing will affect your reader. Yes, reader, singular, because every reader is one person, with a unique reaction to your writing. As a writer, you can help, support, encourage, enthuse, amuse or delight someone. Or rescue them. And usually, you don’t know you did it.

If you’ve been affected or rescued by something you read, email us. At Betterwrite we help writers to affect and rescue readers.

Rob Matthews
Betterwrite Managing Editor

Posted in Advice to Writers.

One Comment

  1. It is said that everyone has a book in them. Being famous is not the driver for me, it is having the ability to get my thoughts down in a roughly organised manner. Suppressing my vivid imagination to include everything I am thinking. Only writing the interesting bits is hard. A published author once told me to practise ‘free writing’ (look it up in Google!) and then edit it until only plot-specific material remains.

    Writing is hard, but great fun.

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