Last week, a friend sent me an email with some texts he wanted my feedback on. The email was titled “Every reader thinks that he’s a poet,” which I thought was lovely. This sentence got stuck in my head. Is he right?
Of course there are people who enjoy reading very much who’d never think about putting pen to paper themselves. But I do see some sort of correlation between friends who read and friends who write. Of course an interest in both seems logical: when you’re interested in writing narratives, you’re probably also interested in how other people do this, so you read their books. However, the skills are very dissimilar. Reading can be a very passive activity, whereas writing requires huge amounts of creativity. We all learn to read, but only some of us have the ability to write.
Many of my friends write, and they all have a very different attitude to reading. Some read ten books a month, some read books on how to write, some read a very different genre from the one they write, some just don’t read that much. But no matter how much or little they read, they all relate to the books they’ve read in one way or another. Maybe my friend’s quote is true, because we put writers on a pedestal. We have these romantic ideas of writers and poets as eccentric people writing at night, bursting with creativity, producing something we adore, and we want to be like them. I’d love to be able to be a full-time writer, and maybe the ideas we have about this bohemian lifestyle of writers is part of that longing.
But are these ideas so wrong? Maybe we have a flawed idea of what being a writer is all about, but maybe we need that idea. Putting your writing out there can be incredibly scary and maybe the idea of being rewarded with this romantic life is what helps us take the leap. If we’d focus on all the crap with negotiating your royalties, reaching deadlines, arguing with editors, getting shot down we’d be too terrified to even consider publishing. Maybe we need the hope of maybe, someday, being called a writer or a poet.