Words bring an incredible richness to life, allowing us to describe and share experiences, emotions, and thoughts. Words also have the very real capability to limit or restrain, offering a shorthand with which we can more readily – and yet with little specificity – understand the world around us.
There have been many posts on this blog, particularly within the Self-Reflection category, that go into detail about how my worldview is often starkly black-and-white: either something is good or it is bad, helpful or hurtful, interesting or boring. This certainly also applies when labeling myself. As I finished writing another exploratory email to a potential publisher, I mused on the fact that I still don’t consider myself “a writer.”
In the past 10 years I’ve only been on stage in a handful of formal theatre productions, yet internally I still consider myself “an actor.” I don’t participate in the improv group I helped build and maintain over that time period, but that week-in and week-out experience, whether polishing my own craft or helping others with theirs, let alone having my degree in Theatre Arts, really allows myself to stay in the “actor” column, even if I’m not actively pursuing it today.
How then is writing different? I have nearly 200,000 words on this blog, including the as-of-yet unpublished stories and fiction entries, which is a truly monumental achievement – at least, I think it should be, right? I have one-off stories, reflections on my youth, even full series of ongoing adventures that span multiple genres. But in all that, I still can’t consider myself “a writer.” Someone who writes, certainly, but not categorically a writer.
A friend with whom I often have philosophical and societal discussions spoke on the idea of what makes someone “an author” instead of “a writer.” She posited that being an author requires a specific work or body of work that one can or does point to, able to claim “I have written this,” while a writer is, on some level, more general in scope. Would a newspaper columnist be considered an author, no matter how prolific their career? These are the kinds of questions that don’t have universal answers.
I don’t know when or even if that little adjective toggle in my brain will switch over from “someone who writes” to “writer,” and I wonder if in my mind I won’t be “a writer” until I actually have something published for broad release.
This type of introspection reminds me of answering the question “what do you do” with more than just one’s profession. We are all much more complex than the little boxes we or society put ourselves into, and I am often intellectually reminded to admit the same for myself, even if I’m not quite there emotionally yet.