I was having a drink with John and Malcolm the other week and made the mistake of saying that I thought that on some level I had always defined myself as a writer. John was very quick to point out that I had apparently said on an earlier occasion that I had always defined myself as an artist.
Note to self: must stop having conversations in which I come out with nonsense like 'define myself'
I suppose the truth is that I definitely saw and see myself as an artist. Drawing was the thing I got kudos for at school, from teachers and from other kids. If someone had asked me what I did, for years I would have said artist, or illustrator or cartoonist or some combination of those things. For years I struggled to decide whether I was an illustrator who painted, or a painter who illustrated. Honestly - I really did struggle with that. Artists can struggle with stuff like that for surprisingly long time.
The reason I said what I said about writing, is because I have always written. It was also something that was noticed at school and I started writing things in my own time. At college I wrote poetry and began two unfinished novels. When I left college I started writing short stories - or at least roughing them out. Some of those stories ended up in the Tales of Terror books. So I've always thought of myself as a writer. I just didn't have the nerve to tell many people about it. Am I a writer or an artist? I suppose I'm both.
The reason I was thinking about this is because I survived much of the unpleasantness of school by having drawing as my 'thing' - the thing that sets you apart, that buys you some respect. Other people could do maths, or dribble a football, play electric guitar, or whatever - I could draw and paint.
My son is much more of an all-rounder than I was (which is great for him) but though he does not necessarily see himself as an artist - he definitely is. As this lovely drawing that he brought back from school yesterday shows. I know lots of adults who couldn't draw as well as this. . .