(This was a short essay I wrote for my Creative Writing Club.)
When I was younger, all I wanted to be was a famous author. After reading novels like James and the Giant Peach or Harry Potter and learning that younger people could publish too, I focused on writing chapter books that would one day fill libraries everywhere. And because of this, I felt that to be a writer, you should write at least one novel in your career. So, that was my goal and that was what consisted of most of my “writing practice”: to write long chapter books. Every summer since the 2nd grade I’d sit down after consuming dozens of books from my local public library to write the “next great novel.” Needless to say, it never happened. I was a terrible planner; the process took too long and all I wanted to do was jump into the action. But without a plan, the gas eventually ran out somewhere in the pages of chapter five. Even though I was never successful, I continued to think I’d write that best seller novel one day.
One year I attended a creative writing class for a summer studies program, and the scope with which I looked at writing was reshaped drastically. I was exposed to the world of short stories and poetry, and how to elevate one’s writing and make it three dimensional. From it I found that I really enjoyed penning poems. My writing style loosened from the rigid molds of styles I was trying to imitate, and I was beginning to meet myself in my writing. It wasn’t just about trying to be published anymore—it was about writing, too! And even though I began to take greater pride in my poetry, I struggled to call myself a “poet.” I didn’t really fit the model—someone once told me that to be a deep poet, I had to be sad and depressed, emotionally bruised and hurt. I wasn’t really any of those things. So, was I not a poet, then? Watching Spoken Word, I would see people write dark and deeply emotional free style pieces, delivering lines of loneliness, depression and anxiety rapidly, with eruption of “snaps” following. Colorful stories detailed in carefully selected syllables filled my ears. As much as I was awed by their works, I had never endured any of what they endured. I wanted to be a poet, though, so I tried to write dark stuff too. But I never felt or believed in what I was writing, and it began to fall by the wayside.
I bounced back to the effort of writing a novel. I started projects up again, but I always became deterred if I tried to begin one with a plan. For some novels, I would get farther if I had the exposition and the ending in mind, but I’d run out of steam without the knowledge of what to write in the middle. I’d dabble in poetry, too, continuing to write with a darker tone than what I really felt. I was trying too hard to entertain the definition of “deep” in my works. At this point, a few years ago, I didn’t know what I was. Was I writer? A poet? I didn’t feel like I was doing anything right. And there was my problem.
In the process of trying to validate myself as a writer by forcing myself to do something I didn’t really enjoy, I was preventing myself from exploring as a writer. I was drowning in the fear of labels with the belief I could only be something if it had a label. But the thing is, being a writer doesn’t work in one way. Being a poet doesn’t work in one way either. I regained my enjoyment of writing poetry, finding the ability to abandon my worries about what a poet looks like. Poetry doesn’t take one shape, and it’s not driven by just one tone. We forget that just because we don’t perform the exact way another writer does, it doesn’t mean we are not just as a valid. The challenge of identity was one I struggled with. What kind of writer do I want to be? How will I be that writer? I’ve decided to not label myself. I’m not a novelist, a short story writer, or really a poet. I just enjoy writing in those forms, but I don’t concentrate myself in one area.
I’ve decided to just label myself a writer. Because a writer writes, and that is what I do.