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What's In a Name?

What's in a name?

What are you?

So, what do you do?”

Oh, I… uh… I draw sometimes… I write, a little, I guess… it’s nothing, just messing around…”

Does that sound familiar? Can you hear your own voice saying a similar response when posed with the question “are you an artist?” or “are you a writer?”

I know I can.

So I’m going to take a second, and disrupt the flow of this post, to say this; you are an Artist, and you are a Writer. This may be a bit out of the blue, especially at the beginning of a blog post - after all, I haven’t backed up my claim yet, or even explained the issue at hand! But I stand by my assertion; you are a creator, and you deserve to be called such.

Too many creators, through their own actions and inactions, deprive themselves of these names. And there is danger in that deprivation - disappearing. Heck, for hundreds, if not thousands of years, approximately half the human population was denied even the courtesy of calling themselves writers and artists; women, girls, and those who weren’t ‘man enough’ for the ruling class were kept from such titles and the recognition that would have accompanied. Because the title was kept from them, history and the modern interpretation of history has all but forgotten that they existed! This article from January 2019 by The Atlantic demonstrates how denial of the title of Artist can prevent artists from being remembered at all; it took archaeologists with the help of physicists to shed light on an artist (and, unintentionally, a whole class of artists - women manuscript illuminators) who had been previously washed out of history.

Admittedly, the woman with Lapis Lazuli in her teeth is an extreme example. Not many of us have plans to move to remote, religious villages in Germany in order to illuminate manuscripts. But there is still a take away; without a name, it's too easy for artists to be forgotten.

On the Inside

It’s important to understand that refusing to call yourself an Artist or a Writer is much more than the lack of outside acknowledgement; it is the damage that can be done internally, to one’s self. There is something inherently self-deprecating about refusing to calling oneself An Artist or A Writer. And I want to draw some attention to that phrase specifically; self-deprecating. That phrase literally translates to “self disapproval” and came from “praying against oneself, as if against evil” - not a great feeling to be carrying around with you. And yet, self-deprecation is something that so many of us do, and do too easily. For many, myself included, it’s second nature to introduce yourself as something lesser - “I’m just someone that doodles sometimes”, or “I just dabble a little, write some nonsense every once in a while.”

Words and thoughts have a lot of power; thankfully, that applies to both the negative as well as the positive. So I’m here to say that, whether you believe it right now or not, you need to call yourself an artists or a writer. Say it. Out loud.

Like, right now - take a couple of seconds, and say it -

“I am an Artist.”

“I am a Writer.”

“I am a Creator, and I deserve to be called such.”

Did that feel weird? Maybe. Was it important? Heck yes.

Many artists and writers (all of you reading this!) will face criticism, negativity, gatekeeping, trolling, and devaluation from other people; the story from The Atlantic shows that even archeologists and art historians can get in on the judgment! Those of us who make derivative works (fan art and fan fiction) may face this even more frequently or to a higher degree. And the criticism or devaluation may even come from close friends or family, and be all the more hurtful because of it. That can be really heavy and discouraging stuff to think about - so, it's incredibly important that we, as writers and artists, start with some positivity at the very beginning; inside ourselves. Don’t talk down to yourself; there is going to be plenty of naysaying from others, so there is no reason to bring yourself down at the beginning of your own process.

Don’t be another one of the negative voices - screw them! Be the positive voice that starts the ball rolling. Stand up for yourself, even if it’s to yourself.

If you have to “fake ‘till you make it,” so be it - call yourself an Artist.

If it’s an act of showing respect for your own creative process, that is enough of a reason - call yourself a Writer.

If the only person you please with your creation is yourself, that’s okay - call yourself a Creator, and be proud of it.

So, what is in a name? This.

There is a lot of psychology behind the Naming of things. As Robin Wall Kimmerer wrote in Gathering Moss (2003) “The names we give ourselves are a powerful form of self-determination, of declaring ourselves sovereign territory” (emphasis added). Research on mental health, aging, and prejudices tell us the same thing; what you name something - especially within yourself - matters. The more you use negative or devaluing names for yourself, the more reinforcement those names receive - the more power those names gain. So, don’t do it!

But, as I mentioned before, positive naming has the same power; so, the more you call yourself an Artist, the more it will ring true. The more you call yourself a Writer, the more you’ll come to believe in everything that name stands for. I know you love writing, drawing, painting, and creating - it’s why you’re here on PaperDemon; I know it, and you know it. If you’re creating stories and creating art of any kind, as far as I’m concerned, you’re already there; you are a creator.

So, say it out loud, and practice saying it every day. Practice does make everything easier, so practice saying it to others, introducing yourself as such, and saying it without hesitation. No matter where you are in your journey - from a beginner just learning, to someone making a living off of their craft; say it.

Because, you are an Artist.

Because, you are a Writer.

Because, you are a Creator. And you deserve that name.

Image attribution: by Pexels at Pixabay