On being Definitely Not a Poet

I get this comment a lot, it’s all over the blogosphere – if you write, or blog, even the tiniest bit – you are a writer! Don’t deny it, if it’s a thing you do, then you’re the doer!

To me, that’s like saying you have a camera, and take nice photos, therefore you are a photographer. I’m a picture-taker with an expensive camera; I take pictures of my friends, my cat, but have never had a paid gig. I don’t search out for paid jobs, or do volunteer shooting, or try to gain more exposure. To me, that means I am Definitely Not A Photographer.

(Kim, shhhh. Just hear me out).

I get lucky behind the lens a lot – I’ve had a Canon 60d for four years and still use it primarily on auto. I’ve shot two weddings for friends/families, one maternity shoot, one engagement session, two sets of family pictures, one set of graduation photos, and a bunch of random portraits. Regardless of how often people ask me to take their pictures, I’m not a photographer. A photographer understands the craft, and works to improve their skills. They have a large knowledge base about the tools available to them, and how to use each appropriately for the setting.

It’s the same reason why I called the blog Definitely Not A Poet. I may have written about a bunch of different topics, in different situations or styles (but lets be honest, not really different styles – it’s all free verse), but I don’t hone my craft. I don’t edit. I barely read others poetry. I don’t expand my vocabulary or push myself to write the things I don’t want to. I have a minimal knowledge base about the poetry world, and even less about the tools (language) used to create it. I don’t even check my grammar or typing before uploading something to the blog. Sometimes I don’t even save a final version of it somewhere more permanent than on the web.

But I write, sometimes. So maybe one day, I could be a writer. Like one day I could be a photographer. First I need to take off the training wheels, and actually challenge myself to be better. To reach new audiences, to tell new stories, to learn new words, styles and forms. Learn to write a proper sonnet. Or go to a reading, have my own reading. Get published, or publish my own collection. When I start to do one of these things consistently, then I’ll call myself a writer.

Like when I finally turn my camera from auto to at least AV priority, or take a paid gig, or get my photos on a website somewhere, then I’ll be a photographer – like when I have to claim it on my taxes; until then, I’m a regular working shmuck.

Why do I let myself get this worked up about it? Because I don’t want to be a writer. I don’t want to be a writer because the feeling out there is that writers live in this fantasy/horror world in their own head, are out of touch with reality, are homebodies who lock themselves in the basement, married to their unwritten words. I don’t want to be bogged down with not being able to get words out. I don’t want to have an alternate universe running around in my head, I’ve had it before and I’m pretty sure it’s “this” close to actual insanity. So I’d rather be a wannabe, who is in touch with their family, community, and the culture at large. I don’t want validation, criticism, or even ‘to be heard’. I just want to spew, slightly spitting because I speak so fast that any words come out – not the right ones, not the ones that are most accurate, not even all the words. Just words, of some sort, in any order. I just need room. Space. For spitting words.

And I would rather pretend to write, and have whatever I produce be at a level that people can understand it, than to be a writer. I want a voice that people in my blue collar/mill town can understand, not one that just gets acknowledgment in small circles of other writers with vocabularies that make their heads swell. I don’t want to be involved in those circles of people, who all go to the same readings all the time, and create this circle of I’ll pay $20 bucks for your book, if you pay $20 for mine – and then we’ll all sit together and drink beer, talking about our matching libraries*.

So I’ll continue to deny the ‘Writer’ label, and just continue on saying ‘not really, sorta, maybe, on a good day’. I’m sure there is an argument to be made that I am at least Maybe a Poet, on a good day, but I still Definitely Don’t Want to be a Writer.

And I know that there is a good reason for saying people who write are actually writers. Stand up and take the label! Be who you want to be! I don’t mean that people shouldn’t be encouraged in their pursuits, whether artistic, scientific, literary, etc; what I mean is, that I personally, don’t want the pressure that comes with that label. Because I put too much pressure on myself anyway, adding that label would make me stop writing, stop blogging/posting/tweeting. I’d think to myself “never post anything unless you think it has value, merit”, and then I’d never share a damn thing. So while the you’re a writer because you write, should free me to write and blog, it has the opposite effect. I’m going to scribble, angry type, finger stab, but I won’t write. 

I’m not pity-partying, I’m defying labels! Look at me go! It’s a riotous act! Free the people!

okay. I’m done now. This has been another case of The Evening Pages spilt all over the blog. One day, when I feel like maybe being a poet, I’ll actually poeticize.

*(Nothing against beer, or libraries. I really do love them both. I worked at both of them for a year, though unfortunately, not at the same time. Library work was a better life choice anyway).

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About definitelynotapoet

View my work in Skirt Quarterly, Untethered, Vagabond Citylit, the Quilliad and Tracer Publishing.
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4 Responses to On being Definitely Not a Poet

  1. Kim says:

    You know where some of my “if you write, you’re a writer” comes from? I need to believe it. For me. Which, of course, means it seeps out.

    Husband asked me if I thought of myself as a writer the other day. I said yes. Then he asked me if I thought of myself as an author. I said no. He asked what the difference was. I said that, to me, a writer writes and I do that, so yes I can be a writer. But an author? That’s some mad talented, published shit. I’m not spectacularly talented, I dabble, and I’m certainly not published.

    In a nutshell? I get this. Semantics, amirite?

  2. Kim says:

    ALSO. I forgot that I’d wanted to address this:

    “I don’t want to be a writer because the feeling out there is that writers live in this fantasy/horror world in their own head, are out of touch with reality, are homebodies who lock themselves in the basement, married to their unwritten words.”

    That’s the other reason I KNOW I’m a writer. I fucking live that shit. My head, my friend, is a chaotic cacophony. It is not awesome. Writing can quiet the storm, for a bit, sometimes, though, which is pretty awesome.

    • I’ve got too many relatives with paranoid-schizophrenia so the imaginary/in-my-head world sort of terrifies me. OMG maybe that’s why I don’t write fiction, I’ve created some sort of mental block! Hmm…where’s my psychologist husband when I need him?

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