Thursday, August 6, 2009

Who are you? who who who who..who are you who who who who?


This is a tree - this is a ? ....


I was thinking about Naming Things or Naming Situations or Naming People - labels, whatever. In Tender Graces, Virginia Kate says she likes to give things names, that's what she does. It centers her world, makes it feel more concrete. The mountain Is. The mimosa Is. The owl Is. It is because it is named, noticed, made real by its telling, by they fact that she is a part of it and calls it forth in the naming. By the fact that perception gives its due.



I've been noticing many things since TG has been published...noticed things before that too, but, coming from this side of it, some other things become clear.

I thought about the days when I didn't know if I could call myself a writer. I thought, well, I write. But that wasn't enough. I said, let me publish something first. I did. Not enough. Let me publish something else somewhere else. I did. Not enough. Let me get paid something for that work. I did. Not quite. Let me publish here, there, this that. I did. I guess I can call myself a writer, finally, I thought. When Tender Graces was published, I thought. Now. Now I am for sure sure sure a writer. I have written novels, one is now published. Someone asked of someone, "When do you call yourself an author?" Sigh. There's another word. Okay, I'm a writer and an editor. I am the author of Tender Graces. Another voice says: publish more books, then you will really for sure be considered an Author! Geez. Whatever. Labels. Names. What makes a writer, though? I visit blogs or talk to people and I hear this over and over and over--and I remember it, the days I was afraid to call myself a writer. I hear so often: "Can I call myself a writer even if I haven't >>>>>fill in blank here>>>>?" Oh the angst!



Made me think how if a hair stylist had one client whose hair she cut in her house and that client was her mom, would she still be a stylist? Well, I think so. If a doctor had one patient that she saw once a year, is she still a doctor? Well, yes she is. If a fireman never put out a fire, is he still a fireman? Yes he is. I could go on, but you see how there are some professions that are concrete, that bear their names no matter the circumstance. There are no gray areas.



I think out of all the "labels/names" out there, the arts are the most difficult to clearly stamp upon a person. When is a writer a "WRITER," when is an author an "AUTHOR," when is an artist an artist, when is an actor an ACTOR, etc. And who puts these restrictions upon the others? Ourselves most times; however, others put these restrictions upon us as well. I've heard authors pull their noses in the air and sniff at those who call themselves writers: "When you have accomplished what I have, then you can join my club, otherwise *sniff*..." To be judged by your peers is the harshest of judgements, isn't it? I have no idea how I will be judged by my peers - time will tell.



When I attended the author reception, I was sitting with another published author and two unpublished writers. When someone stopped by our group and asked a question and wanted a photo, the two unpublished writers quickly said, "Oh, we're unpublished writers, these two are the authors...." and they said it near-apologetically. I remembered feeling that. I remembered wanting with a Want of WANTs to be a member of "The Club." Now I feel as if I am, right? Well, guess what? There are still all these other clubs, all these other stairs one must climb to get to the rooms where the Others are. Have no books published - go to that room. Have one book published with a small press: go to this room. Have a book published with The Big Guys, go to the room over there. Have more than one book published? Go here. Are on the NYT best seller list: here you go -go on in that room. Are a million-dollar author? Oh, well, you are up in the ivory tower - we'll take you there on a golden chariot. Self-Published - get down in the basement.

I have so much more on these thoughts, but, when blog posts are too long, they look scary, and this one is Long Enough.



What are your thoughts on this subject? Do you ask yourself--Am I Worthy of THIS TITLE....whatever that title is? What do you Name yourself? Do you feel you want to attach a label to show others who you are and what you do? When someone asks, "What do you do?" how do you answer that?

15 comments:

sheila said...

Awesome post. Awesome tree. I hate labels.

Barry said...

I never realized this writing business was so full of angst.

But now that you're talking about it, if you're not sure you're a writer or an author, what am I, who only writes a blog?

Do I in fact exist?

YIPES!

Sharla said...

Great post, Kat! I've talked about this, myself, and struggled with it too. I love your analogy of the different rooms, too funny! Ivory tower vs the basement...*LAUGHING*

I wrote poetry when I was young and everyone knew that, but that was easy to me and not a big project so I didn't think anything of it. When I started writing stories, I kept them mostly to myself...it was a hobby. When I started writing the first book, I was scared to even mention it. After all, who in the "real world" does that? I owned a bookstore, you'd think I would have realized it wasn't a short list, but still, I thought "regular" people didn't do that.

Just in the last couple of years have I stepped into the light and called myself a writer...thanks in very large part to the online writing community that opened my eyes to all the other "regular people" doing this very same thing. I have written short stories and one novel, so I'm a writer in my mind. But I realize now that I was a writer already, because it's just what I am.

Now---an author? That is to come...when I can be like you and be in the "published" room with the grownups!! LOL

Jessica said...

Hmmm, great post. :-) Yeah, I think of myself as a writer. But I feel weird telling other people that.

Terri Tiffany said...

LOVE LOVE THis post cause I have said this same stuff in my head a zillion times. But it goes like this for me: If I my book get published does it have to be a really huge company for me to be considered a real writer from a well-known place. Not thinking that maybe just maybe the point is that if one person reads my words and enjoys it--that is good enough:)

Michelle said...

Oh god, yes indeed. Every single time I say "I am an artist" feel like the worlds biggest liar!
Why, I don't know. I paint, people have paid money for my work.....do I have to wait till I am dead and mentioned in some boring art tome before my ghost can say, 'oh yes, I was an artist?'

Is funny isn't it. Are we only these things if someone else tells us we are?

Argh....

xxx

Michelle Wittle said...

I think we all want labels because it makes us feel like we can now rest because we are defined and now we belong in some type of category with others who are just like us.

However, we will never stop being labeled. We can NEVER stop being labeled because if we do then there is no sense of growth. As we get new life experiences, we get new labels.

We are fluid and labels stops us from moving. Therefore, labels can never really stick. We we all wear many labels and that is fine.

Are we worthy of the titles given to us? It all depends. If we have earned them, then of course.

But the label that is most important is the one that we give ourselves. If you feel you are a writer because you have a published book...then you are and no one gets to say you aren't.

Very nice, thought provoking blog.

Cathy said...

I love the picture of the last tree!

I agree with Michele - it's nice to have a sense of belonging. Who gives us the label? Has some collective determined the definition of what one must do to be labeled as XXX or do you label yourself? I've tried my hand at writing (in addition to blogging). I have not finished a book - do I call myself a writer? Yes - on good days and No - on bad days.

Barbara said...

I loved this topic, in fact, it's what I set out to write about today. So wierd this blog world of like minds! So I mentioned your post in mine. I totally understand where you're at, because I often wonder if my definition of success is scewed by my friendships with other "successful" writers. Who always seem more successful than me. It's all relative. But in the end, we are who we say we are.

Sandra Leigh said...

Labels are frightening things. Either you have one, and it limits you by defining you, or you don't have one - at least, not the one you want - so you feel inadequate.

I'm Sandra. How about that?

Somebody once said that there will always be someone who is prettier than you, smarter than you, richer than you (etc. and vice versa) - so there's no sense in getting all in a lather about it.

And a wise man (with a pipe and a can of spinach) said "I yam what I yam."

p.s. That just has to be an Elephant Tree.

Sandra Leigh said...

Oh, and p.p.s. - Happy Birthday to Daniel!

and p.p.p.s - I loved your slide show, Kathryn. Where is that paved footpath?

NCmountainwoman said...

I paid money for your book. I read your book and thoroughly enjoyed it. I lent it to friends and recommended it to others. I'm looking forward to your next book. So I can say emphatically and without a doubt, "YES, YOU ARE AN AUTHOR!"

So far you have written only the one book. So what? Would anyone discount other true authors who have written only one book? Like Harper Lee, for example? Think about it.

Lazy Writer said...

I wrote a blog post about this once. In my opinion, if I can call myself a mother, and I can call myself a wife, I can also call myself a author, even if I've never been paid for any of it. It all defines a part of who I am. Thanks for stopping by my blog!

Analisa said...

In Proverbs 23:7 it says, For as a man thinks in his heart so is he.

I think that sums it up for me. Say want you want to be. I want to be a writer.

Call yourself that even if you have never been published or written anything for anyone elses eyes yet. It starts that stirring in your heart.

People get uneasy and ask for proof of who you say you are. Have you been published? Do you write for a living? On and on but have courage, it is not easy to say what you are but say it anyway.

You might just give them the courage to start saying what they really are and hope to become.

Deb Shucka said...

I just had my very first business cards printed. I'm 57, have worked in the world for most of my life, and these are my first cards. I called myself writer, teacher, facilitator. I figure once my memoir is published, I'll add author to that list. It makes me smile to see those cards.

I know there's always another door, a bigger prize, someone ahead on the path. It's too exhausting to pay attention to.