Who Decides if You're an Artist?


Never before have I thought I was worthy or good enough to call myself a writer. Spelling has always been a challenge.  Grammar the same.  A best friend in high school corrected the notes I would pass her in red pen and give them back to me.  I once passed another friend a note and while laughing hysterically she pointed out to two other friends that I'd spelled write like "the Wright brothers".  In college my senior year an art professor told me " your writing isn't college level" and I stopped writing, even for myself.  Who get's to decide if I'm a "writer"?

It was my 10th birthday, my parents handed me a package from Portland Oregon, sent from my auntie Sue, (my god-mother).  A small, white journal, the ends of the pages dipped in gold, an unnecessary lock adorned the book, it was a diary.  I was awestruck by the blank lined pages.  Unbeknownst to me, the moment I unwrapped that little white journal a writer would be born within, and it would take me the better part of the next 24 years to step into that label.  From 10 on I wrote religiously.  In high school journaling become an almost daily practice before bed while my eye lids drooped and when I was so tired I couldn't see straight.  10pm on a school night I'd be tucked into bed with my diary and a pen sleepily recounting fights with my mom, crushes on the lead in Guys and Dolls or what happened in chess club (no that's not a joke, I really was on the chess team).  In college I journaled often, but I had much less time for it.

Directly out of college I rarely wrote, probably a block from being told my writing wasn't college level.  Anyway adulthood was happening, working my first full time job, figuring out how to pay my little mortgage, and deciding what my life would look like, thinking I had to have it all figured out.  Depression slipped in quietly and uninvited with the lingering notion that working soul sucking jobs would be my lot and no, I wouldn't change the world for the better solely because I was now a Guilford college graduate.  I'd come home from work, make dinner, go to bed early and do it all the same the next day.  Exhausted with depression it took a spark to nudge me into yoga which slowly pulled me back to life.   In that very same yoga studio I found a yoga book by Kimberly Wilson (Hip Tranquil Yoga Chick) and her writing prompts on creating your own vision statement re-ignited my own writing.   My lesson is this, when I don't write I'm lost.  It's writing that helps me sort out life.  Through writing I create the life I want.  

Elizabeth Gilbert says you're the only one that has to believe you're a creator.  I'm paraphrasing here, but the gist is the question I started with and one she asks students in her "Magic Lesson's" podcast.  The question is this "who get's to call YOU a writer, a poet, a performer, or an artist"?  

Ultimately the answer has to be me.  I decide.  No one else.  

I must believe that I'm the thing I most desire, or I'll never be it.   I've been mulling this over for a while and I've come to the conclusion, 

I'm a writer.

I'm a writer, not because I simply say I'm a writer, but because I write 3 pages of morning pages every day, 1-3 times a week I pen blog posts and because I've been writing at least 500 words a week on my first fictional novel for the last month.  A writer is one who writes, therefore 

I'm a writer.

I'm reminded of a quote from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams Bianco "It doesn't happen all at once,' said the Skin Horse. 'You become. It takes a long time".  24 years after I received my first "diary" and countless full journals later I can tell you that it didn't happen all at once, it's taken a long time, but I've become.  

I've become a writer.  

It's not important that I still can't spell, or if you think my writing's bad or good, and it certainly doesn't matter if my grammar's a touch off.  I spend my free time journaling, thinking up blog posts to share with all of you and working on a little novel that's taken hold of me.  I write thousands of words a week for the pure joy of creating.  I don't even get paid for it.  This is a calling and here is where I decide, and I've decided

I'm a writer.   

What have you decided you are?