Writing as Identity and Action

Snapchat pic in Shakespeare Garden with notebook and coffee

A long time ago I read something Kevin Smith said about how if you ever thought you might be a filmmaker, guess what: you are. I don’t remember how he said it exactly, but what I took away was that if you want to be a filmmaker, you have to both decide you are a filmmaker and, y’know, actually make films.

I’m not a filmmaker, but I’m a writer. I identify as a writer. It’s easy because I’ve been one all my life. I have the body of work: I’ve written books, songs, plays, poems, articles, recipes, a memoir, movie reviews, and much more, and at least something in each of those formats has been published, produced, or performed. (When my 2004 article on vegan Cajun and Creole cooking came out in print featuring my recipes, it was a highlight of my life.) I don’t know how much of that I’d have needed to have done first before I’d ever decided I could call myself a writer, but it never got to be a big question because I started out writing so young, and then I just kept writing.

I’m also other things. I’m a speaker. A consultant. A reader. A music lover. A vegan. My identities are many and multifaceted, and they’re also activities I do, but there are few so central to my life’s sense of meaning as writing.

I don’t sit down to write every day. I mean, I sit at my computer most days, but there’s a difference between doing the stuff that fills the time and putting in the time to write in a focused, disciplined way. In fact, sometimes a few days go by where I don’t write much more than emails and tweets. But I’m still a writer, still looking at the world as a writer, overhearing snippets of conversation as a writer, playing with words as a writer.

I do often write just for myself. I’m one of those people who genuinely means it when I say I don’t know what I really think until I write it. But some of what I produce has to interact with others at some point. For me the goal is always to find those words that make me want to cast them out to a wider audience. It’s not always because I’m sure I’ve found the right words; it’s sometimes the opposite. I know I have to keep putting stuff out there to learn what makes sense to anyone else.

It’s not quite a conversation, but it’s not a monologue either. It’s an opening, an attempt to reach the world and connect, and see what comes back. I can’t just say I write, and hide it from the world. And I can’t just write without having who I am shaped by my work. The identity informs the action; the action provides the identity.

That’s how it is for me, at least. And I’m throwing it out there to see if it makes sense.

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