Identity in Action (or, DoBeDoBeDo)

A flurry of articles have floated across blogs recently. They are all versions of “I am not a writer, but I write.” The upshot seems to be money–people are declaring that they write a blog or an article and are happy to do it without getting paid, because they aren’t “real” writers. This makes me smile.

My mind went to variations of that statement. “I’m not an artist, but I art.” Maybe that should be “Make art.”  Or, “I’m not a chef, but I cook.”

This agave has both white and pink flowers. It doesn’t know it’s not supposed to do that.

Yes, I recently wrote about the importance of being professional and demanding the money you deserve if you are a writer. And I said that because I am a writer, and people writing for free devalues the profession. But I’m looking deeper into declaring what you are not.

There are reasons for declaring what you are and what you are not.

1. You are scared to death of being responsible for being a better writer, artist, chef. If you say, “That’s not my real identity,” you don’t have to shoulder the responsibility for getting better or being professional. It’s OK, even good writers need to practice and work at their skill. It’s OK not to be perfect and still identify with that activity.

2. You think you can only be one thing. This is part of our culture. You can either be a good parent or a good employee. You can either be a writer or an artist. You can not only do more than one thing, you can be good at more than one thing. Notice that I used “do” and “be” in the same sentence. You can have both of those.

This chandelier is made of both light bulbs and crystals. It doesn’t have to choose only bulbs or crystals. It can use both. And then it can be used for light and for beauty. If an inanimate object can do that, what can you do?

3. You have to have a clear identity. Well, sort of. By that I mean you can define your own identity. When people ask me what kind of artist I am, I say, “I combine words, illustration and color.” The next question is always “what is that called?” It’s easier to talk to someone if you can label them with an identity that is known to you. That is not my issue, although I can help them through it. I might add “Art journaling and collage.” But it’s two things, so sometimes I say, “Mixed media,” because that’s a larger term that covers more.

I think the answer comes down to how you make meaning. What do you do that allows you to explore yourself, your life, your world, and the thing you were born to do in this world? Whatever that thing is, it’s fueled by your creativity. That’s who you are. When you are yourself, that’s your identity. That is what you do.

In the meaning-making life, who you are is what you do. Not always well, but always with purpose. Meaning.

Today, when I purchased some black gesso and clear gesso (they make clear gesso?) I had no idea what I would do with it. But I knew it would involve exploring what i don’t know. And that makes meaning for me. I’ll show you what I did tomorrow.

How are you making meaning today?

–Quinn McDonald has two new bottles of meaning-making liquid in her studio. She doesn’t know what they do. Yet.



12 thoughts on “Identity in Action (or, DoBeDoBeDo)

  1. I love clear gesso, I think you will enjoy it. I may need to experiment more though.

    There are so many parts to what I do, it is little wonder now I think about it, that I sometimes struggle when people ask what I do. So sometimes I am lazy and say live. I live and I try to do it well. And how I do that varies on any given day, whether it is mothering or loving or painting or listening or caring. All of it makes up my life.

    Or maybe that isn’t laziness, maybe it is truer than any other defintion someone would want to apply to what I do so they can put me in a box. And then that is their laziness.

    I fancy myself an explorer, so today that is what I do. 🙂 Thank you for always making me think.

    • You ARE an explorer–of life, of creativity. We are fast to say we are lazy, when what we are doing is observing or listening, or even finding different ways to reach our goal. That’s not lazy. That’s being alive.

  2. When I was a young mother and a teacher trainee, I mentioned how the drive home gave me time to change who I was. When I was asked which of the two I would rather be, I said, flippantly at the time, the one in the back seat screaming to get out. I now realise the truth in that statement – I’m all three. Teacher, mother, ordinary extraordinary me, not defined by what I do but who I am!
    I’m not a philosopher but I think.

  3. Oh..I just love how you’ve stated this. About making meaning – or not – to what we do. It’s so so many ways. We are who we make ourselves. Not so simple and easy..but just like that. Thank-you for this today!

  4. There is an old saying “I am a jack of all trades, a master of none.” I have said that about myself many times with a slight derrogatory edge to it – I have mastered nothing. It is interesting how we devalue ourselves, as you say, by not getting paid enough – or a at all – for our crafts. There used to be a lot of pride is saying you were a craftsperson. When I think about it now, doing many things well, if not expertly, is a not a bad thing. I have taught myself many things and after reading your post today, I will no longer devalue what I do. I paint, write, do needlework, mixed-media, bookbinding, collage, etc. I do many of my own repairs around my home, including painting and building things like shelves. So, I am a painter, a writer, a needlewoman, a bookbinder, collager, housepainter, carpenter, etc. I am a creator. Thanks for another thought-provoking post. I look forward to seeing what you do with your gesso.

    • We become what we do. When we solve problems, make meaning with art, we become meaningful to ourselves and others. You have discovered that already. Congratulations! The gesso didn’t dry in time for the blog, so I did another post today–one on snow or ice dying. Hope you enjoy it.

  5. I’m interested in that clear gesso! Got to look for that when I hit the art shop this week. I agree, we can have many identities, all at the same time. I was a floral designer for 25 years and although I don’t make a living doing that now, I still figure I am a floral designer. I buy flowers at the market and arrange them in a vase just as I did years ago.
    I write and hope to do so professionally some day. In the mean while, I try to respond to blogs and write one of my own. I write in journals, try to write about dreams I have had, all in the hope that by writing as much as possible, I will get a better grasp of what works and what doesn’t. I have a long road ahead of me before I get to writing books so I guess I’m a writer in the process of learning better ways to express myself. I’m okay with that and I plan to keep on writing just the way that I plan to keep on painting even though I might never achieve professional status and be part of an art show. I still say that I am an artist, because, well, I paint therefore I am. As long as I give it a good try and be sincere in what I paint, write or make, then I can use those titles and link them to my name.
    I look forward to all your posts because they make me think. Not just at the time that I’m reading them, but long after when I’m working around home. Food for thought, a phrase from long ago, but so very applicable to what you write. Thank you for that!

    • Your attitude was exactly what I as going for. I’d rather have people write, draw, paint, photograph and dig out meaning in their life than search Google, summarize some unchecked information and call it writing.

      And that clear gesso? I can’t wait! I’m going to do several experiments with it and report back. I have high hopes for it. Keep thinking!

Join the conversation

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.