Being a writer - or at least, defining yourself as a writer - requires a few things: being published is nice; having other writer friends is helpful; not having another identity (another job) would be amazing; having people ask you what you are writing or talking about your writing is stupendous. But, in truth none of these things are really necessary. You can be a writer with pen and paper, with laptop and Word document. It is the smallest footprint of any art, the least need for equiprment or specialist training - but I do think being a writer requires one thing: it requires that you at least write.
I have always written prolifically, but there are times when I feel like I hardly write at all. I make music as well so sometimes that takes over; sometimes life takes over; sometimes work takes over. Yet the other thing that can take over are the non-writerly things that come with being part of a broad writerly community. In Manchester you could probably go to an open mic or spoken word night five times a week. In the last few weeks I've missed, Bad Language, Beatification, Verbose, the Other Room, Peter Barlow's Cigarette, Speakeasy, First Draft, Murmur, and Flim Nite, just to name the ones I know the names of. There are nights here there and everywhere. and I can't go to them all. I'm increasingly going to none of them. The nights that I have made it out to have been because friends have launched novels or because its an author I like a lot. In the mean time the missed evenings grows into an ever bigger list.
And that means I miss seeing the other writers who I know. I miss hearing their new work. But mostly I miss having the conversations about what I am working on and what I am reading and have to tell them gently that I am not working on anything and I am not reading anything as the only time I have put aside for that sort of thing at the moment is the time when I could otherwise be going to literary nights. So something has to give, I'm afraid. The other week I did mean to go out to see Verbose in Fallowfield - it has just won best spoken word night at the Saboteur Awards - but I was putting together a little pamphlet of my stories and poems for my visiting cousin and uncle, who were over from Australia.
So I'm not feeling regret that I haven't been to this night or that night. I feel regret if I've not written a thing, or if the poem stays in my notebook, or the typed up final drafts stay in my computer rather than get sent off to a magazine.
I am writer, But currently I'm not much of one. If you don't see me out, there might be a reason for it, I might actually be writing.