I do. My friend Maggie tells me I'm an amazing artist.
She doesn't have to believe it, I tell her, she just has to be happy for, or acknowledge, my enthusiasm for my art.
Maggie has introduced me to a group of her friends as "a writer" long before I was ready to call myself that, when it was still very much a hobby and I'd published only a few pieces. Long before I made any money at it and before my corporate writing career was in full-swing.
Now, I can't believe that I hesitated. What was that all about?
By tagging an introduction with "she's a writer," she forced me accept my aspiration, if only to the person to whom I was being introduced. It was out there in the open waiting for me to claim it. After all, I couldn't deny it. That would make us both look foolish. And I wouldn't do that to her, which I am sure she knew.
Those three words "she's a writer" legitimized my dream.
Maggie wasn't even aware of the impact those words had on me. After all, I was already employed as a writer. I was earning a living writing copy for corporations, so to her, "writing" was just a matter of the work that I did. She didn't see it--as I did--as artistic expression. Or maybe she did. She had asked for a copy of one of my handmade chapbooks of poetry. In that small collection of poems she might have seen my passion for that particular writing form. Later, Mag told me that she loved the poems, but that she hadn't the faintest idea what they meant. I love her candor. Her remarks may have been hurtful to a younger artist, but to me, at that point in my creative life, it as something to laugh about because this "writer" business seemed to matter only to me. Mag still thought of me as a writer, even if she didn't "get" my creative work. Early on, it was her introduction of me as a writer signalled an acceptance. It told me that she supported me.
With a successful creative career like yours (commercial and artistic), I know that you understand what I mean. Take my example and apply it to your personal life.
The next time that someone introduces you to another person as "the artist who used to" (be successful, be married to...slept with...whatever), feel free to clarify the remark, or respond with something like:
- Yes, while that is indeed true, I don't like to live in the past. I like to look forward to the future.
- Thanks, Susie. One day soon you will refer to me as [insert outrageous career goal].
- Thank you, Susie, but I don't feel as if I'm defined by labels such as 'ex' or 'former" anything.
- Pleased to meet you.
Let me know if it works.