random thoughts: self-definition (and something of a confession)


I'm writing this on one of my flights to Greensboro, North Carolina, and when I'm not online surfing (marveling the fact that good!-heavens!-I'm-on-the-Internet-while-hurtling-through-the-sky!), I'm in the middle of reading the new book This I Know: Notes on Unraveling the Heart, by my friend Susannah Conway (you would have met her recently on my blog here). 

(Actually, before I go back to my point, let me just say it is a beautiful book:  Susannah is a gifted photographer, and the book is peppered with some of her breathtaking images; moreover, if you're currently experiencing any grief or loss and are trying to figure you way back to the surface, this book is a wonderfully gentle guide to do so.  Do yourself a favour and grab a copy.)

As I was poring through the book, on a whim I suddenly flipped to the back flap to read her "about the author" blurb. 

Susannah Conway is a photographer and writer ..."

I started.  She said she was a photographer first, I thought. I always put "writer" first.

Ever since I stopped practicing law, when I meet someone new and they ask what I do, I always instinctively say "writer" before I say "photographer."  Sometimes I even forget to say "photographer," even though I use my camera almost every day.  Even thought the truth is that I'm not sure I could write anymore without also taking a photograph.  Isn't that odd?

But the more I think about it, the more I realize that I still feel very much a novice when it comes to photography, but I've been interested in and passionate about writing since I was a child.  I've always loved language, and have been a voracious reader all my life.  (In fact, I remember my mother begging me to get my nose out of my books when I was a kid, and instead go outside for some fresh air.  I always just took my book outside and continued reading).  I wrote extensive letters to friends when I was younger, and still try to write one each year to all my close friends.  My favourite part of practicing law has always been the creation of contracts and other documents (much to the horror of my more eloquent colleagues, who always preferred the courtroom).  The decision to start a blog was an easy one:  not for professional purposes, but for personal ones.  I had to write.

Photography, on the other hand, is a relatively new endeavour -- even though I've been shooting for quite a while, unlike writing, it's an interest I cultivated in adulthood.  I still feel like I have so much to learn about post-processing, about framing, about using different lenses.  Even though I've achieved a certainly level of proficiency, I can easily see that I have a long way to go before using the word "photographer" to describe myself rolls of my tongue.  It's still a description that feels a little foreign, like a bespoke dress that still needs a bit of tailoring.   I mean, I call myself a photographer, but the truth is that even I'm not fully convinced.  I'll mean it 100% one day, I'm sure, but not ... quite ... yet.

I continued reading, and a few pages in, I read Susannah's words

Of my two passions it's my photography skills I feel most confident about. 

I smiled.  This doesn't surprise me:  although she's a talented writer (and in fact, was a journalist in a former life), Susannah began her professional journey in art school.  It's not surprising that a visual medium is where she is most comfortable.

It's interesting how we define ourselves, I think:  education, of course, can make us feel confident in the titles we use to refer to ourselves; but I think also experience, and deep passion, and calling make a difference as well.  So I was wondering:

What words do you tend to use when defining yourself?  Which ones feel absolutely spot-on?  Which ones do you use because they feel right, and which ones do you use because you're still "having them tailored"?   Have you ever made up a word for yourself?

Because I think I need to come up with a word that really encompasses everything about me.  Maybe "writershooter."

Or something.

SongUnraveling by Deb Talan