For the last couple of days I’ve been working in London and whenever I’m there I meet up with a bunch of friends for a big fat Greek supper. We’ve know each other for yonks and we have the kind of relationship where no matter how long the gap, when we meet we just pick up where we left off and, as they say in the US, we shoot the breeze.
We talk books, literature, fave authors, where ideas come from and how come we always have too much month left at the end of our money. At this point, I usually look at the faces round the table and wonder which of us is going to pose perennial question number 1:”How come none of us have made it as writers yet?”
By “made it as writers” we mean earn the greater part of our livelihood from some form of writing. Of the five of us one is something mysterious in the City, two are civil servants, one is in PR and there’s me a business and life coach.
Out come the old chestnuts about not having time: having a large dog and mortgage to keep; waiting until the kids have left home. None of us can claim to have earned much more than a few hundred quid from our writing in the past year. Yet we are an intelligent (well mostly), articulate, inventive bunch and for my part I genuinely (friendship aside) enjoy reading what they write.
By mid-way through the evening we have disposed of a fair amount of increasingly mellow-tasting red wine but we’re not maudlin…yet. How do I know this? Well because we’re true to our traditions. We have yet to pose perennial question number 2: “Are writers born or made?”
Once we’ve bludgeoned the question to death for the umpty-teenth time, then and only then do we allow ourselves the luxury of drifting into a wistful sort of melancholy which usually ends with bleary promises to each other to do better before we meet next time.
So, are writers born or made?
Can only those who showed a burning passion to write from the moment they could hold a crayon in chubby fingers be successful writers?
Is there some latent writing gene we need to activate or are we just a bunch of panty-waist dilettantes, playing at it?
Answers on a postcard please.