Tuesday, August 21, 2012

On Identity

This one isn't actually politics, today I'm talking about identity as a writer.

For a really long time, I would correct people who referred to me as a "writer". I would say instead that I write, which ultimately seems pretty empty and semantic, but I did it for the same reasons I refused to refer to myself as an artist: I'd known a lot of people who produced next to nothing, but loudly defended themselves as "writers" and "artists", largely (it seemed to me) as a way to claim some sort of status prize and have an excuse for how they were terribly sensitive people and no one understood them and they didn't have to show up on time for anything because they were artistic. I didn't want to be like these people. I also didn't feel- honestly I still don't feel- like I'd had enough success to make the claim. I've had a handful of publications and I certainly couldn't live off my writing. I also haven't produced anything that feels groundbreaking or clever enough to have someone look at it and go "man! that person is really an artist!" It's an aspiration, but I don't really feel like I'm there yet. More work is needed.

I've stopped correcting people. It's less because my reasons have changed, and more because the number of people who refer to me as a writer now has gotten large enough that it's more of a bother than anything else. And slowly, as I've stopped correcting people, I've started embracing embracing the label as something that actually is mine.

I don't really know how I feel about it.

On the one hand, I'm better than I was, and considering myself a writer seems to establish for me a demand of minimum performance- pressure to maintain rather than aspiration. There's no real reason "artist" ought to be tied to "flake" in my mind (that "artist" always has quotes around it. I certainly have people I'm in awe of as actual artists)- that's really handing power for the definition over to people whose opinion I don't respect in the first place.

On the other, well everything I said before, and the fact that I don't want to come off as pretentious. I'm still pretty quiet about the whole writing business except in situations that are specifically about writing. People don't believe me when I say I'm shy, but it's really something I'm not sure how to talk about. I tend to find it easier just to divert the conversation back to something where people won't feel they're offending me if they're not actually interested, or if something I've written is upsetting or offensive to them.

I don't really know where I'm going with this. The internet is the circle where I'm out of the closet- the rest of my life is often the circle where I try not to make a big deal about it. It's just one of the things I am, and often not the one that relates to the people I'm talking to.

And I've had more than one person tell me that makes them feel I'm shutting them out.

So, yeah. Identity. 

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