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  • Writer's pictureElira Barnes

What Makes A Writer - by Laura Buckley

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember. Longer in fact, my parents saved a copy of the first story I ever wrote, and it’s the only reason I know that I wrote it. It was a harrowing tale of one goat’s journey, though rain, through fear, to the top of a mountain. Called “The Goat That Went UpA Mountain.” It was illustrated and everything!

The first story I actually remember completing was when I was about ten years old, and it was called “The Red Spot”, for reasons that escape me now. I guess I thought it sounded suitably dramatic. It was, from my best recollection, about a victim of bullying.

I remember having to work out how many pages I had left in the notebook, and how I was going to finish the story to have it end within that time (but not so soon as to waste a load of pages).

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In my teens I wrote FanFiction, and enjoyed playing around in the dollhouse of somebody else’s universe. I know a lot of people have mixed feelings about FanFiction, but I have extremely fond memories of the things I wrote in that time and I know I grew a lot as a writer through that exploration. This was when I wrote my longest complete piece of fiction to date, encouraged chapter by chapter by my loyal readers (including my younger brother, who has remained one of my most reliable writing cheerleaders). It was the first time I’d put anything I’d written out to a wider audience, and while I had periods of inactivity I always came back to it, determined to see it through. I can still remember the feeling of finishing that story, coming to an end point after months and months of work and eagerly awaiting the reactions of those who had been reading along since the beginning.

And then I didn’t finish another story for almost a decade.

I wrote on and off through university, switching between a couple of different projects. I never got to the point of writing ‘The End’ on either of them, and I felt like that was a failure on my part. It was frustrating, and as time went on and I kept going back and starting over, or rehashing the same bits of plot, or reworking my characters, I started to feel like I’d never have the discipline necessary to be a ‘proper’ writer. What I didn’t realise, or didn’t think about, was that you don’t have to finish a certain number of projects to be a writer. To be a writer, all you have to do is… write.

In roughly twenty years of writing, I’ve finished five long(ish) stories, maybe double that number of short stories or pieces of flash fiction and a scant handful of poems. I’ve written the odd personal essay, and I try to write something for my blog at least somewhat regularly. I don’t write every day, sometimes I go days or weeks without touching my current story, and it’s been longer than I’d like to admit since I last wrote a blog post, but in the same way that having six weeks away from school during the summer holidays didn’t stop me from being a teacher having a holiday from my writing work doesn’t stop me from being a writer.

It was the writing community on Twitter that really helped me accept this – a couple of people noticed and (in a supportive way) took issue with part of my bio: “aspiring writer”. They pointed out that I didn’t need to qualify it, that one doesn’t have to be published or accomplished or even that good at writing to call themselves a writer. Do you want to be a writer? Do you write stuff? Congrats, you’re in.

Once I’d really internalised the idea that writing was all it took, I started to look at all those unfinished projects in a different light. Rather than failures, examples of my inability to see things through, they were practice. Instead of considering them as evidence that I’d never be a writer, I saw them as part of my long history of being exactly that. I finished a first draft of my story a few months ago, right now I’m neck-deep in re-writes and revisions, and as far as I’m concerned that’s all writing as well!

So if there’s one thing I want to say to all the hopeful writers, the wannabe writers, the maybe-one-day writers out there, it’s this: you don’t need to wait. I’ve been a writer for as long as I’ve been writing, and so have you.


Laura Buckley

Laura is a chemist by education, a teacher by training and a writer at heart. She lives in the North of England and writes blog posts and YA fiction in her free time to stay sane.

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Laura Buckley

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