My name’s Matthew and I’m a writer.
We all play a number of roles and adopt a number of labels in our lives, some of which are more fulfilling than others. On the face of it being able to say ‘I am a writer’ would appear to be a source of greater satisfaction than ‘I have a mental illness’. But if it weren’t for saying the latter I wouldn’t be able to say the former.
My experiences with mental illness and the need to make sense of thoughts and emotions swirling through me were a major catalyst in igniting the dormant spark that urged me to write, on a miserable night – in both senses of the word – in December 2015. And on that cold, rainy night in a hotel room in Tamworth I could not have conceived of just how much of a blessing writing was to become for me.
Four months on from that night am I really justified in calling myself a writer? Or am I just being a pretentious arse?
Well, starting with the bleeding obvious, I write. Quite a bit actually. What’s more, people read what I write. Quite a few of them. And, it would seem, most of them like it.
Does the fact that I write make me a writer? To most people that would care to consider the question (I probably have enough fingers and toes to count you) I would expect that ‘a writer’ would be considered to be somebody for whom writing is a profession; somebody that makes their living from writing work that is published.
Nowadays anybody can start a blog and never has there been a better time to unload your words onto an unsuspecting world (well, on your Facebook friends at least). In the internet age this can be a curse as well as a blessing – as information becomes a more freely available and cheaper currency the opportunity to make a living from writing, to stand out from the crowd and write things that people are prepared to pay for, is becoming more difficult.
Which sounds like a nice attempt to justify the tag of writer without the necessary writing chops to back it up. Perhaps. Although to be fair I have had my writing published on a number of excellent websites and have recently submitted a few posts that I will be paid for writing. Still, I don’t expect JK Rowling to be looking over her shoulder anytime soon.
The reason I feel comfortable calling myself a writer is more abstract than that. It’s also pretty simple: it just seems to fit. I have never been shy about voicing an opinion and it has been said on more than one occasion that I can talk a glass eye to sleep, but writing is for me the purest form of expression that I have found. When I write it feels to me that this is who I am.
This is my voice.
When I write I don’t have to worry about the connection being lost between my brain and my fingers in the way that I experience a shutdown in communications between my brain and my mouth. And when I’m writing and my unconscious takes over and my words spring forth on the page, it is more likely to result in a, ‘Wow! Did I really write that?’ than the, ‘Wow, did I really say that?!?’ that accompanies what comes out of my mouth at times.
(And of course, the beauty of writing is that it can be edited and any embarrassing nonsense that finds its way onto the page can be swiftly deleted. Which may lead some of you to question why I haven’t made more judicious use of the delete key…).
I’ve previously written about how writing has been cathartic for me and has helped me through a challenging time in my life (https://lovelaughtertruthblog.com/2016/02/10/the-cathartic-nature-of-writing/) what I haven’t said is how much pleasure I get from writing. It is a wonderful thing to find something in your life that offers you moments where everything feels right in the world, where nothing else seems to matter other than what you are doing right here, right now. Something that gives you a buzz, a natural high.
For me, nothing quite compares to the feeling of completing a piece of writing, of seeing my thoughts clearly articulated on the screen, often the end result of the merest spark of an idea that grows and spreads its way across the page. It is the very act of creating something from nothing that satisfies. A creation that depends on nothing and nobody but me.
Which is all well and good, but why the need to splash it all over the internet? Why be so presumptuous as to think that anybody else will care about my life, my dramas, about what I have to say?
Well, I don’t presume to think that anybody will care about my life, for really it is not so much my life that I am sharing but the universal experiences of love, loss, pain, hope… those things that make us so brilliantly, so beautifully, so bewilderingly human. By looking through the lens of my life and writing about these universals I have found connection with wonderful new people that I would not have known otherwise. I have found meaning amidst hurt and confusion. I have been given opportunities that are helping me to turn the bad in my life into good.
And hopefully, in some small way, by writing I can help others to do the same.
C’mon People (We’re Making It Now) – Richard Ashcroft