Tuesday, February 23, 2010
This week I took a one-day class at UNLV from a businessman/instructor who walked by my car on the way to class wearing a hat with a long yellow feather sticking out from the top. (I love eccentric people like that! He later said he works as a clown on the side.)
Later during his lecture he asked the class, “Do we have any writers in here today?” I felt my arm flinch, wanting to raise it, but I didn’t. Then I sat there and wondered what I would have to do to feel able to call myself a “writer.” I write a weekly blog, so does that make me one? I’ve had a few articles in newspapers - does that qualify? Or do I hold the “writer” label up to higher esteem – maybe you have to have published a book, or have to be paid to write, to be called that lofty title.
There are many labels for myself that I wish I had, or ones that I wonder if still apply. For instance, I was a professional singer/dancer for fifteen years. I don’t perform any more, so can I still be called a singer, or a dancer? I could still do it, so does that qualify? Is an elderly woman who used to dance still able to call herself a dancer? If it is deeply ingrained in you – in who you are – does that allow you to keep the label?
I can’t help but think that quality and quantity have to apply. Someone who has had two weeks of dance classes cannot be called a dancer. Someone who sings in the shower isn’t a singer. So, have I earned those titles during my career – so much so that I can use them all my life? Or am I relegated to using them in the past tense?
I have had drawings and photographs accepted into art shows, and have even won awards and sold some of my work, but does that make me a photographer? I don’t think so.
There are two titles I would love to proudly display, those of “writer,” and even broader, “artist.” I think maybe I’ll be able to call myself a writer after I finish my book – my goal is to finish it this year, and then move on and tackle the 600 pages of a previously abandoned book. But the title of “artist” is more reverent to me. My mom was an artist, in every way. To me, an artist isn’t just a painter or someone who creates – the word means the person has a gift, a way of life, a view of the world – all which combine into someone who has earned the title. If I am ever able to call myself an artist, it will mean that I finally have gained true confidence.
So, who am I? (That sentence was a clue to the title of this post, for the musical theatre people who will get it.) I am one who does not claim titles irreverently. To me, you must earn them. I look forward to the day, someday, when I can proudly boast of who I am. For now, I write. I paint. And I create. And I’m happy with that.