It’s a question to which the answer has never been obvious to me. So let me start with what I’m not.
I’m not a professional writer. I have a day job. I’m a middle-ranking manager in a large multimational corporation and consequently I write in my spare time.
I have no formal training as a writer. My degree is in Chemistry rather than Journalism or English Literature or something more relevant.
I’m a blogger. In some people’s eyes – those who seem to think that writing is solely for professionals with talent while blogging is for amateurs with opinions – that automatically disqualifies me as a writer. What utter codswallop. There is a difference between writing and blogging, but it’s like the difference between CGI and an oil painting. They are simply different media and to do either well requires entirely different sets of skills. One is not automatically better than the other and it is possible to do both.
There are some amazing bloggers out there turning out well-written and engaging content for nothing. There are also some extremely mediocre writers being paid to hack out sensationalist, lowest common denominator drivel dressed up in a shabby veneer of professionalism. (I suspect many of these are the ones who look down their noses at bloggers and claim they’re robbing them of their livelihood.)
So what am I?
I’m a dad with three young kids who regularly and willingly sacrifices sleep to sit at his keyboard into the small hours to record my reflections on fatherhood, TV and professional cycling. I work hard to improve my technical writing skills. I’m even paid a small but steady secondary income to contribute ten blog posts every month to a major national website.
I’ll never write a best-selling book. You’ll never see my by-line on the front page of a newspaper. I’ll never give a masterclass on how to be a successful writer or blogger.
Every day I read content – whether it is books, newspapers or blogs – which blows my mind. In the parenting and family niche alone, there are so many bloggers out there who inspire me on a daily basis. Many of them are better technical writers than I can ever aspire to be. Many have far more interesting stories to tell than I: those who have lost children, victims of domestic abuse, single parents on tight budgets doing the best they can. Others tell their stories in a more creative and engaging way than I will ever be capable of. Flipping heck, some of them are even poets.
None of this puts me off. At times (more than I would care to admit) it leaves me feeling inadequate, invisible and small. Mostly, however, it inspires me to push myself that little bit harder, to create something that people will find that little bit more interesting to read. It makes me want to sit in front of my big screen in my little study with a mug of strong coffee at two in the morning and just see what happens. The simple pleasure of watching letters and words flow from my fingertips and coalesce into something I can share with others is something that is difficult to explain to those who have never felt it and immediately familiar to those who have.
Writing isn’t about talent or qualifications or what medium you choose to publish in. Writing is, for want of a better and less hackneyed term, a state of mind.
I’m never going to be a great writer. I don’t think I even qualify as a good writer. But I am a writer. That makes me happy, and that’s good enough for me.