Dan and Gemma in Tandem: Male vs. Female Writer
I remember the first time I admitted out loud that I wanted to be a writer. I was nineteen, a year into my English with Creative Writing degree and had just finished reading The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. Sat in my small bedroom, I was in awe of what I had just read and whilst I always knew this was what I wanted to do, this was the moment I knew I wanted to transport people somewhere else and make them feel. That night I said, out loud, I want to be a writer.
I’m not sure why I never felt like I could call myself a writer when I was younger and perhaps it was because at school I never read poetry or novels written by female writers. The only female author I studied was Jane Austen, and at the time I didn’t appreciate what I was reading or why it was important. When I realised this, some years later, I didn’t understand why (and still don’t) I was only being taught about white, older men that I couldn’t connect with. Outside of school I read books primarily written by women because they wrote about characters I could relate to and see myself in.
It was only when I came to university that I finally critically analysed female writers. This is where I found all of these diverse, brilliant and incredible women, who were not only authors but also my lecturers and friends. I realised there was a bigger world out there, one I desperately wanted to be part of.
I’m still trying to find my voice. It isn’t easy, especially when there are other around that may be louder. It’s a work in progress. Since being at university, I have found like-minded women to connect with, this has shown me that I can move away from that shy first year I once was and have the confidence to say, ‘I’m a writer, and it’s my turn to be heard.’
I used to write because I wanted to tell stories. That’s still the case today, I think. Making people laugh, cry, smile, and feel through words… But the world is more open to new stories and new voices now, with different mediums and modes of storytelling. It’s a really fun bombardment of opportunities: does this work best as a script, or prose? Hey, why not try some poems today?
There was no distinct moment where I thought I was a writer; I always knew I was creative – I’d acted, I could make up stories, I was occasionally funny – but at no point did I think I couldn’t be that, that I couldn’t be a writer. As much as writing was on a pedestal, only destined for the most skilled, there was an entire backlog of people in the canon like me that screamed at me: you can do this.
But with a canon of old white guys behind me – all of the greats and not-so-greats to live up to – do people really want yet another white guy? There’s nothing that can stop me from writing, being creative, pushing boundaries, and trying to break the mould, but it’s a serious question: am I really helping the problem? I want to be in this industry, published in some form for all to see, but am I the voice people want to hear?
Like all writers, it’s a duty to use that voice and be responsible with it. Knowing what to say, when to say it, how to say it. I’ve got to ensure that I’m not just another generic male writer, I need to stand out. I’m not new or different, so what about me is special enough for someone to want to publish my work? I am the only me there is, so I better use that.
by Gemma Oxley and Dan Hunt
About our tandem pieces
In these pieces, we ask two writers to tackle a theme or a topic together. Gemma and Dan are the first to try out this form and they have written for Falwriting as a tandem before. Read their piece about our writer’s room here: In The Lighthouse.