Friday, April 8, 2011

Titles And Pretenses

Lately, I've been giving a lot of thought to what I ought to be calling myself. It's my understanding that titles are either earned, bought,(often a little of both) or bestowed by those qualified to do so. And so, you can see why I feel a bit like a fraud every time I call myself a writer. Yes, I call myself that -- among other things. I even have the designation 'Writer' listed on all of my calling cards, as though it were some desperate attempt to justify myself. True enough, if I would have instead called myself 'High Queen of the Fire-Breathing Elephant People', VistaPrints wouldn't have cared in the slightest, nor stopped to question my sanity.

At least when I call myself a mother, I can hold up one of my beautiful, squirming spawn as proof of the claim. Okay, so I do have a finished manuscript now. I suppose I could hold up the flashdrive backup copy and feel better about declaring myself a writer. But even as I consider that inane bolstering of my self-esteem... I get this image in my head of a galloping Richard Simmons crying out, 'I'm a Pony! I'm a Pony!'

Just as Mr. Simmon's claim and imitation does not, in fact, make him any more Equine -- I don't see how having written something necessarily makes me any more of a writer.

For the sake of argument, I'll expand my concern out into other related and somewhat subjective forms of human expression... At what point does one cross the line from dabbler-with-a-hobby to true Artist? When can a musical performer be called a Musician? -- Is there a magical number of fans one needs to accrue (outside of one's obligatory familial relationships)? Perhaps a board of experts on the skill that get together and vote?

I'm sure these questions have already been beaten to death and then flogged for good measure, but it's my blog, and I'm asking them anyway. ^_^

Unless I'm missing something, there don't seem to be any hard-and-fast rules. (I hate not knowing the rules. How is one supposed to bend, break, or petition to change them if no one knows what they are?) I've read the opinions of dozens of published authors on the subject of when they -felt- like they'd truly become a writer. Some said it was when they won their first contest and basked in the fickle glow of peer-approval; others claimed the title at the moment they received monetary compensation for their work -- regardless of how meager the sum; a confident few just seemed to always 'know' that writing was what they were meant for; and still others admitted that they still didn't -feel- like a writer, in spite of their undeniable accomplishments.

Personally, I don't yet fall under any of the above categories. And I continue to wonder if I'm ever going to feel like more than a chronic daydreamer with a slightly above-average vocabulary.

In the end, I'm not sure how much it matters. So maybe it's just a subjective label that describes an activity AND makes me feel a little better about myself. Until someone highly qualified tells me otherwise, I'm fairly content to live out my imagination with the utmost gusto... Which may or may not involve personalized mementos that support my delusions.

So, I want to hear what YOU think. What do you call yourself, and why?