I was at a convention when a woman stood up and shared her story with the room. The very first thing she said was “Hi, my name is Jane, and I am an….artist, and that’s a… really hard thing for me to say.”
Jane went on to talk about her childhood and the joys and sorrows of that time. She talked about her life now and how lucky she has been and how happy she has felt. Her story was one of triumph. It was a sad, sad story with a great, happy ending and it made people (including myself) cry. She finished her story and sat down.
I was at a table full of women eating salad and sipping tea and making small talk when one of my tablemates brought up Jane’s story. I remained silent while everyone took turns chiming in with which piece of her story resonated with them. They spoke about the parts that touched them, how she had bared her soul and about the dark and bright in her life. Just as the conversation was coming to an end, I spoke up.
“Why was it hard for her to say she was an artist?”
No one spoke.
They looked at me completely confused. A few of them looked embarrassed for me. “Oh wow, this Diana lady has completely missed the point of Jane’s story” they must have thought to themselves. Thankfully some kind woman pitied me and answered, “hmm not sure!”
And that was that. The conversation went on to more important things.
The convention was several months ago and there were some great speakers, Jane included. I laughed, I cried and I learned a lot throughout my time there. Sometimes, in between the poopy diapers and the shuttling to and from school and the cooking, only what Jane said would find its way into my thoughts. “I’m an artist and that’s hard for me to say.”
I would try to explain it away. Maybe she was private with her artwork? Maybe she was embarrassed? Maybe she doesn’t want to be an artist? Maybe she feels like being an artist isn’t a good enough thing to be?
And then, today, it hit me. It’s not that she’s embarrassed to be an artist, she thinks art is embarrassed of her. She feels unworthy of the title “artist,” and that sentence had clung to me because I felt the same way about the word “writer”-unworthy.
I’ve said the words “I am a writer” many times, but only when talking about how”writing” is something I do. I meant it as a verb, similar to the way I am a cleaner. It’s something I do–clean my home. No talent is involved. It’s an action. I don’t know that I’ve ever used “writer” as an adjective in relation to myself. I’ve never used it to describe myself because I felt unworthy of that description– the word “writer” would definitely be embarrassed of me. Shakespeare, now he was a writer. What have I ever done to earn that word?
Blogging is a verb, too. No one holds “blogger” on a pedestal like they do “writer” or “artist” or “singer” or “creator” or “actor”. People think those words need to be earned. You can sing, but that doesn’t make you a singer. You can say “I like to sing,” you cannot say “I am a singer”. People have to agree with you before you can claim those titles–or so I thought.
Guess what I learned? When you work at a craft, when a craft is you, when you come alive when creating your craft, you are. Period. That is enough. The people who create do not create for recognition. They do not make for you or for me. The audience is sometimes part of the process, yes, but the creator creates—even if their creation is never consumed. And, they create even if it’s consumed and hated. They create because God made them a creator and their heart burns and their soul is ignited and they come alive when they make. And, so, it does not matter what the audience says. A maker is a maker.
So. Hi, my name is Diana and I am a writer, and that’s a really hard thing for me to say, and I’m going to say it anyway.