I’m just sitting down with a freshly poured grande-coffee-with-soymilk at a Starbucks in the Nashville airport. With my scarf slung around my neck and warm beverage in hand, I seek out a nook where I can settle comfortably and begin writing the next entry for my blog. I’m utilizing time between flights to write, but really, I’m doing this here because the idea inside my head was so loud I felt compelled to get it out before anything happened to it.
This scenario reeks of modern blogger, that secret profession that remains so little-recognized in the physical world yet reigns supreme in the cybersphere. Yet what does it take to call oneself a blogger? Is it the simple act of creating or maintaining a blog? Does it have something to do with statistical revenue, or maybe it boils down to traffic numbers? Am I still a blogger if no one reads my blog?
This issue weighs heavy on my mind, not because I feel particularly compelled to identify myself as a blogger on my next immigration form or when the relatives ask, “So, what are you into these days?”, but more because it highlights the fine line between passion and profession.
Here’s the backstory. I’ve been writing since I was 9 years old. I started out with short stories about badass girls becoming astronauts, dealing with broken family issues, and exploring the moon. I then personified the space shuttle and its booster rockets in a highly popular tale (in my mind) called “Spock The Space Shuttle”. Later, I received my first rejection letter from Highlights Magazine about a kangaroo that a boy stole from the zoo and took home with him and then tried to discipline and was surprised when the wild animal didn’t obey his wishes, which marked the beginning of the next 20 years of my life spent treading water in the rejection piles.
At least I started learning the lesson of Rejection as a Writer early on in my writing career.
I’m pretty sure someone will want something of mine. Someday.
But then something changed. In 2012 I made a big decision to quit my day job and move to South America, and once I got there I found myself afloat in the abyss, profession-less and bursting with ideas and motivation. The real goal of the abrupt lifestyle shift was twofold: learn some damn Spanish, and finish those damn novels. I spent my days writing, my nights bartending, and my conversations hem-hawing about how I spent those days. When people asked me what I did, before I even had a chance to respond I’d get a sharp nudge in the ribs from my best friend who would then lean forward into the conversation and respond concisely, ‘She’s a writer’.
I denied this for a long time. How am I writer? I asked her. I have nothing published except for a few meager travel articles. For god’s sake, you can barely google me!
But eventually I came around. This was the change, the defining shift. Somewhere between the self-criticism and the fear that someone would leap out from the shadows and scream, “A-ha! I caught you! You’re not a real writer!”, I managed to become comfortable with the concept of being a writer.
Which is silly, when you think about the fact that it’s pretty much the only consistent thing I’ve been my entire life, aside from also a girl and a little spacey.
For some reason, it is a terrifying and difficult proposition to claim the title of enacting your passion. The most persistent goal I’ve had since as early as I can remember is publish a novel. I wanted to do it before I knew how and why, and I was writing these stories since I could hold a pen. I even learned how to program our old Commodore 64 just so I could get something printed onto a page. As I’ve grown older, I’ve realized that publication isn’t the goal as much as getting out all of the thoughts and words that sit inside me, vibrating and pulsing and getting hotter and hotter like spliced atoms in the Hadron Collider.
Seriously, it’s dangerous if I go too long without writing. Stuff gets backed up and I act irritable.
Now let’s fast-forward to more recent endeavors. Since my travels began, I’ve been writing almost full-time (because I’m a writer) and my project list has swelled considerably. I’ve found that a lot of my creative expression has been manifesting itself in the form of blog posts, all sorts of articles about my life, others’ lives, and life in general that I never once foresaw on my Docket of Creative Writing Endeavors.
I blog. A lot. And it inherently involves writing, so…does that mean I’m a blogger?
I find myself with the same hesitation in adopting this moniker. What’s the harm in claiming the title? Just like my best friend wrestled with me over the idea of what constituted a writer and why I rightfully was one, there is no golden height marker that we aspiring bloggers must pole vault over in order to be considered “part of the team”.
The difference between Pre-Writer and I’m-A-Writer Shannon was the fact that I finally accepted it. Not only had I been wearing the underwear the whole time, but I finally began to tell people that I was wearing them and it felt great and they weren’t even too snug or giving me a yeast infection.
But there’s another aspect to the hesitation in adopting monikers. While writing constitutes the bulk of my lifelong passion, something I feel like I can accurately claim has been one of the persistent fires in the pit of my belly since the dawn of man, it’s limiting. I don’t just write, or blog, or work on novels. There’s a bunch of other stuff I do too. Which is why the immigration forms and those dreadfully tiny boxes translate a bit too literally in my mind to ‘boxing me in’ to one life path.
Writing is a part of my life, and for concise society’s sake, at least for the part of all of us that feels the need to get an “at-a-glance” concept of who we are and what we do, writing is what I do. It’s how I spend my days, or at least a significant part of each week. But by the same definition I’m also a cook, a yogi, a house-organizer, a translator, a partier, an advice-giver, and a variety of other hats that constitute the fabulous hat rack of life.
Also, I’m a mermaid.
What matters is what matters to you. We humans are complex creatures, far more intricate and deep than one or two titles. It’s important to remember this when asking someone, ‘What do you do?’ Because the answer we get – I’m in HR, I play football in college, I program computers, I cook at a restaurant – is only ever one small facet of an otherwise beautiful, sparkling myriad of expression contained in one human-shaped flesh casket.
And because I’m a writer, I can get away with ending this post like that.