When should you call yourself a writer?

It wasn't until I received my first pay cheque that I actually said: "Now I'm a real writer!" The cheque was for an article I had published on an American website a few years ago.

How wrong I was.

I have been paid for my writing quite a few times since then, not just for my novels but for articles in magazines too. Yet, I always was a writer -- even if I didn't call myself one.

The first person who put any value on my writing was one of my school teachers, Mrs Robinson. Mrs Robinson was young and trendy and she spoke about controversial issues: "Do you know we could all be blown up by an atomic bomb at any time!" I was fourteen and she worried me to death.

Yet, I loved her lessons. At night I read magazines like 'Loving' and 'Love Affair' under the bedcovers by torchlight. The stories were written in the first person and obviously meant for grown ups, although they were pretty tame.

So, in English lessons I wrote my own stories. It's no wonder I love TV programmes like The Sopranos today and films like The Godfather, because back then I remember writing a story about a man who killed his wife, chopped her up into little pieces and disposed of her body in a hay baling machine! I don't know if any other teacher would have read out my story to the class but Mrs Robinson did!

When she read my stories and the bell went before the end, some of the girls would gather around outside the classroom door while one of them read the story through to the end. So I was a natural story teller way back then, although I didn't realise it. Didn't think I had any particular talent.

It wasn't until around 1999 that I joined a creative writing class at a local library, by then I was nearing forty, and feared the rest of the group would be very high brow: men wearing dicky bows who smoked pipes and women in tweed suits! How wrong I was. Despite being the 'baby of the group', some were as old as 80+, I learned a lot from them and realised they were just ordinary people like myself.

Attending that writing group gave me a good grounding as we critiqued one another's stories and poems, but I still didn't feel able to call myself a writer.

Receiving that cheque and contract in the post a few years back didn't make me a writer either. You see, I always was a writer practically from the moment I was able to write -- I just didn't know it.

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