Today I read some of Rod Dreher’s beautifully written book, How Can Dante Save Your Life. The prose, the style, Dreher’s life, Dante’s life. You feel so connected to them. Everything seems to fit in their place. I was even reading it today at a high schooler’s graduation party. A couple friends and I went for a walk. And I couldn’t help but read instead of, well, socializing.
During the walk, we went to this small children’s park and got on the swings. I was able to finish a chapter there. When walking back to the house, I felt like a hypocrite.
I mean—since I was a kid, I wanted to be a writer. Not an artist. That came later. What I wanted was to be a writer. Eventually I decided to be an artist because, well. I “had talent.” Or I guess other people believed in me. And grammar was hard.
When I finished reading the chapter from Dreher’s book, that childhood dream came back to me. I want to write. That was my dream. Am I hypocrite for saying that I’m an artist? Or for trying to be one?
I don’t know. But I think a lot of artists and writers have this notion that they have to be a “true” artist or writer to be called that. You have to get national awards, or make a living off of it. We see the titles of “artist” or “writer” like something to be deserved, merited.
David Khalaf in his latest blog post wrote about how his dream of being a “writer” is now being put on the side. It’s heartbreaking to read the post. And he ends by questioning: “Am I writer? For a time I was. I hope I still am.”
And it brings me back to what I felt – like a hypocrite. I haven’t had any big breaks as an artist. I barely have a following on social media. I’m not complaining, I’m stating the facts. And being an artist wasn’t my dream as a kid. Can I call myself that? An artist?
I don’t know if I can. But what I do think is true, is that not knowing whether I’m an artist, a writer, a hobbyist, or just a kid searching for a place in this world, shouldn’t impede me from creating. Creating is beautiful, and a gift we should allow ourselves to enjoy.
Just because I don’t have the title, just because the identity makes me squirm—I feel like a tiny kid in adults’ clothing, trying to find my way amidst the excess cloth—that shouldn’t keep me from creating. Feeling like you don’t fit the title shouldn’t impede you from creating.