It is sometimes - though not always - reassuring to hear other (more famous, more published) writers talk.
Desert Island Discs, Radio 4, 17th June, 2011
Kirsty Young: When did you realise you were a writer?
Andrea Levy: Any day now.
Even one as Andrea Levy struggles with seeing herself as a writer. Writing, putting marks on a paper which form symbols that others can interpret, is something the majority of the population in this country do in one form or another, at one time or another. Yet to be a writer appears to be mean more than this.
Margaret Atwood (Negotiating with the Dead, Virago, 2003) suggests:
'A lot of people do have a book in them … But this is not the same as “being a writer.” Or, to put it in a more sinister way: everyone can dig a hole in a cemetery, but not everyone is a grave-digger. The latter takes a good deal more stamina and persistence. It is also, because of the nature of the activity, a deeply symbolic role. As a grave-digger, you are not just a person who excavates. You carry upon your shoulders the weight of other people’s projections, of their fears and fantasies and anxieties and superstitions…' (p23)
It has taken a lot for me to own the title writer. And it is still a work in progress, especially when the reviews are bad. Or, worse, there is no feedback at all - no-one is interested in what I am doing. At moments like that, the only way forward, for me, is to keep putting those strange symbols down and hope at some point they will make sense and have meaning to another person.