Am I a Novelist?

So…now I have completed the first draft of my third novel. Hmmm…yes…indeed.
I did this through ‘NaNoWriMo’ (National Novel Writing Month) where you are challenged to write fifty thousand words in one month (November). For the second year running I am a winner and have miraculously completed that many words and my novel has a start, a middle and an end (round of applause please!).
If you had asked me whether I was capable of such a thing a year and a half ago I probably would have laughed at you in the way that we often laugh off things that might challenge us. The kind of laughter born of disbelief and fear.
Of course there is still lots of work to do with editing my novel and rewriting. I now have two novels that require such extended work. Only the novel that I wrote for NaNoWriMo in 2011 is in any kind of finished state.
Despite the work ahead it should still be a gratifying feeling to accomplish such a creative feat, and I do feel proud of myself. In a way…
But then, being the miserable bugger that I can sometimes be, I wonder about what it all means. And, yet again, I find myself wondering why I am doing it? The writing I mean…
The first thing, and this is a hard thing to admit, is that it is a bit self-indulgent. If writers (or artists of any kind) are honest, they are often creating to entertain others, and thereby seeking to gain approval from others. We all want to be adored after all? Don’t we?
Although, I have to admit that there is a certain terror when someone I know actually reads something I have written. This is always a difficult thing. If a friend or family member reads your work then aren’t they obliged to tell you they like it, even if they don’t? So you can’t always trust what they say…
Praise from strangers is better. It is a bit like when I play gigs. Singing to strangers is always easier and less precious than singing to friends.
I guess I am just rambling now. My real question is this. Do I dare now call myself a ‘novelist’ simply because I have written some novels? Am I a novelist if no one has ever read my work?
Franz Kafka never had a novel published in his life. He only ever published short stories in magazines (like ‘Metamorphosis’). He later instructed his friend Max Brod to burn all his manuscripts before he died. We have Brod to thank because he ignored Kafka’s request and published works like ‘The Trial’ and ‘The Castle’ posthumously anyway.
Would we call Kafka a novelist if Brod hadn’t published his work and burnt it instead? If we knew he had written novels but no one had ever read them?
I am not sure what I think about this. I suppose if you write a novel (however good or bad?) that makes you a novelist…even if you aren’t published or make a living from it…
Perhaps I will challenge myself over the Christmas period. Often when we meet new people, perhaps at parties, they ask us “What are you?” to which I sometimes reply “I am a human being, what are you?” Or they ask “What do you do?” to which I sometimes reply “I like to lie on the sofa, what do you do?”
Flippant and silly I know, but maybe, just maybe, this Christmas I will be brave and when somebody asks me one of those questions I will answer “I am a novelist…”
Do you think I will dare?
What do you think?


Franz Kafka…very Kafkaesque don’t you know…

Self-portrait of the artist as a ‘Novelist’…
© 2012 Simon Poore