I Am Not The Label


It must have started once I got the hang of forming sentences into paragraphs.

That is, I started writing all the time.

First on college lined paper in my Trapper Keeper.  Then when those lost their hey-day, I moved into spiral notebooks that I’d decorate the cover with.

Mostly I’d write poetry, short stories, and long drawn out journal entries about what I was feeling and seeing in my life.

Then, in my junior year of high school I had a writing teacher that was stern and serious and looked a bit like a chicken.  I hated going to her class because she demanded so much from me–and as much as I loved to write–I didn’t care to do it when someone else was calling the shots.  So most of the time I was pissed off and angry—wishing I was in Art instead.

The chicken lady would have us start off each class with 15 minutes of free writing in a notebook based on some topic she had scribbled on the green chalkboard.  One of those days she excused me from the assignment to speak to me in the hall.

I remember I was wearing my favorite jeans with holes in the knees when she asked me if I was considering being a writer with my life.

I was shocked.  What was she talking about?  Me?  I was an Artist–that’s how I saw it.  My writing was just something I did because, well, I don’t know.  It’s just something I did.  But I was going to be an Artist I told her.  And that was it.

Right after high school I went to Art School–where the thing that totally surprised me was falling in love with Art History.  Freshman year I had a professor that was a real nutty guy.  We always walked into a dark classroom with some slide of Art projected on the wall and music blasting from the speakers.  He was my first taste of what Art History could be.  He found the most crazy ways to shed light on the dark and gritty side of Art.  But what really hooked me is that he had a way of showing us how what we  young students were doing  had a much needed place in the whole scheme of things.  He didn’t teach us Art History–instead he was more like a folklorist or someone that was interested in passing down a rich legacy.

He encouraged my writing–he loved it when I shared my opinions–and went on tangents on what I felt and thought Art should be.  Instead of being overly concern with siting other Art Historians and regurgitating someone else’s thoughts and meanings–he just let me be me.

I changed to a double major after that class.  I wanted more Art History–but really, I wanted more chances to write about the things I loved so much:  Art and life and raw creativity.

I guess I could keep going.  My love affair with writing has certainly evolved and changed since then.  But I’ll spare you the details and get to the juice of why I find myself reminiscing.

Since December I have barely picked up a paintbrush.  The most I have done is putz away at my pod project.  But that’s it.

But I’ve been writing like a mad woman.  Journaling first thing each morning.  Writing just to write. Tangling myself in words and ideas.  Letting language pour out of me.  Releasing demons and solidifying dreams.

I write to my God and I write to my heart.  I write to my son who hasn’t been born yet.  I write to those people I’ve been angry with and those that I love incredibly.  I write, like I said, like a mad woman.

I write and I write.

Then suddenly last week I started to feel bad about it.  Like I’m neglecting something I should be doing. How can I be an Artist I thought?  How can I call myself a FEARLESS® Painter if my brushes are loaded with dust?

So I  thought shopping would help.  I went out and purchased new paints–even loaded the car up with canvases too.  Got everything up into my studio and then sat there wondering what to do.  All I want to do is write.  I have no interest in painting right now.  That usual lure of new paint tubes–ha!  They had absolutely no power over me.

I struggled with this.  Believe me.

And then I talked about it to a dear friend who got my wheels turning.  Who helped me see something.

Everything in my life is changing–it’s obvious by the size of my belly.

And so is how I see myself as an Artist.   How I define what being an Artist means to me.

I don’t know why I almost forgot the one thing that  always defines me as an Artist–and that is the freedom to be me.

I see it everyday in my workshops.  Artists beating themselves up because they aren’t good enough, don’t create enough, haven’t sold enough, aren’t this, aren’t that.  And I’m the one always there telling them it doesn’t matter.  What matters most is that they honor their unique creativity–that they embody their own truth of what an Artist means to be.

So I’ve put down my paintbrush for awhile–who knows, maybe indefinitely.

My creativity is still running rapid.  My eyes are still open.  My heart is still pounding freely.

I am not the label I place upon myself.

I am the breath, the blood, the living force–

a soul that simply finds refuge in the label.

It’s how you live your life behind the label that makes the real difference.

Not the label itself.

I write, I paint, I teach, I breathe, I am in the end–

Just me.

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