Seeking the Label

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We are surrounded by them. We are defined by them. And, truthfully, we even rely on them. 

I posted awhile back about how we can allow labels and our own sense of perceived ability can stop us from taking a step of faith or trying something new and potentially scary -- because honestly, we're afraid to fail.

That's not the type of label I'm talking about here...well, sorta. But, I'll explain...I promise.

Imagine a shelf stocked with row upon row of steel cans with all the labels removed and no other identifying marks. Now imagine that in order to eat, you HAD to pick one of the cans off of the shelf -- and that can, and that can alone would be your sole meal option. No trading, no bartering, no givebacks.

As a fervent loather of fish and most aquatic offerings, I would be horrified to open a can of anchovies. Ewwwh...or imagine pate or pickled brussel sprouts (no offense if you like any of the above...I just don't). Anyhow, you can insert your own "eewwww....gross" food item here.

In this instance, knowing exactly what something is makes all the difference.

However, the last few days (and really the last twenty or so years), I have been grappling with one label that both thrills and terrifies me at the same time.

It's what I long to be defined as, yet it is something that also makes me want to avoid any association for fear I might crumble under the pressure.

My label of joy and dread is....


It's what I've wanted to be since...well, forever. The first time I ever picked up a novel and was transported to a distant land, I was hooked. The notion that people could travel the world, change their life, learn a skill, save a marriage all due to the written word astounded me.

I always did well in primary school in Language. Once I got to junior and senior high, I discovered the joy of research and proving my points and backing up my beliefs and notions. I enjoyed each and every English class -- even the ones that were not so good -- because I got to do what I loved for classwork and homework.

One of my proudest moments was when my dad asked a speaker/writer who was staying in our home to read my senior term paper. I was a bit embarrassed, but curious as to what he would say. I was amazed to hear him tell me how impressed he was by my work and his encouragement to keep at it.

Eventually, I majored in English at college and graduated with a degree. I didn't want to teach. I wanted to write. However, life took different turns over the years as I tried on different hats and careers. I've been hired solely on the basis of my degree and/or a writing sample. However, even some of the job positions I accepted due to the promise of writing seemed to fall through.

A job that consisted of writing day in and day out seemed to elude me. Either we needed the money and I couldn't be choosy or I didn't have enough experience to be considered. How does one even break into the field of publishing and writing? I didn't live in a major publishing city like Los Angeles or New York. I didn't really have the idea or desire to necessarily write a novel. I've always liked the notion of writing pieces for magazines -- infusing some real world examples and infusing them with the sacred, like one of my writing inspirations, Chuck Swindoll.  But, truthfully, I have no clue of how to even make that happen.

So I journaled. I wrote poetry. I traded a bajillion emails with my now husband when we were courting. Friends and family were encouraging.

But then after children came along, all I could do was cope. I am embarrassed to admit I have not completed a baby book for any of my four. I've started journals about their birth and that experience, but have not finished. For a time, it felt like that part of my died. I grieved the loss, but I didn't know how to retrieve that passion and how to redeem the time I lost.

And, then...I found blogging. 

Admittedly, I'm a bit late to the party. But I honestly didn't have a lot of time to spend in front of the computer to write, much less read what others had written. Plus, some of that might have been just me avoiding what I know I would miss terribly.

However, I jumped into the world of blogging and flailed around a bit -- not sure if I should be attempting it and questioning my ability and whether I had a right to be in the blog-sphere at all.

Even my infrequent and inconsistent postings could not quench the joy I felt to once again to be doing what I loved -- and yes, even felt created to do.

So, yes, I was a blogger, but was I actually a writer?

I've struggled with giving myself that label.

And I think as I just typed that, I realize what the struggle has been for me -- "giving myself" that label. After all, it's much easier to accept or take on something when a label has been assigned or given to us. And not all are bad (again, that is another post entirely). I gladly embrace the labels of wife, mother, friend, sister, lover of God, American, Californian, 37-year-old (okay...that one not as much). These are all true. They are all accurate. I am all of these things and more.

However, I think we've all been witness to some pretty horrifying things when people announce, proclaim, label themselves as something either they are not or we strongly question. After all, wouldn't we raise an eyebrow at someone coming into our friend circle proclaiming themselves as a "genius," or "beauty queen," or "prophet."

We've had bad experiences with people who have delusions of grandeur...or maybe just delusions as to what they have accomplished.

So, labeling myself a writer is difficult for me. I would never want to slap that sticker of identification on myself in an arrogant or self-promoting way. It feels awkward because either you want someone qualified to do it (thereby providing the back-up proof) or you have to earn it.

Does blogging earn it?

I publish posts, but I have not been published.

I does that make me a writer?

For now I think that I can settle on the label of writer as being accurate in that it describes what I love...and it does describe what I do...often...with great zeal. As for the "earned part," the I-paid-my-dues or "I got published" label of writer, I am still grappling with that -- because that's more of the who I am variety.

It's who I want to much so that I came back from the Blog Sugar conference ready to take the plunge. I redesigned the look of my blog. I wrote a blog post about my experience and nervously added it to the other bloggers from the conference. I created a Facebook page dedicated to just me as a writer. It felt huge. It felt scary. It felt a little uncomfortable. 

But I realized that if I truly want to be a writer, I need to be...well, a writer. There is no halfway (which is what I've been doing the last 18 months or so). I haven't fully committed. So, now...I'm all in. No holding back. And if I fail and...well, then I do. But, I won't look back and wonder, "what if..."

Interestingly enough..since I've "gone all in," everything around me seems to beg for me to tell a story. It's astounding really. The stream that had dried up to a trickle is now gushing! I don't think that's a coincidence.

So, I guess my new question would be: when does the want of being a writer meet the reality of being one?

And can it be soon?


What's one label you'd like to have bestowed upon you?

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