Since I was little, I have always wanted to be a writer. I grew up reading Blyton, Lindgren, and Hitchcock, wanting to be just like them—having the ‘superpower’ to create a parallel world and transport people to experience different lives and undergo different adventures. I spent my teenage days writing stories. During the weekends, I typed and typed and typed, only went to bed at around 4 or 5 am with a jittery feeling of not knowing how the story will end.
When later in life some of my short stories and travel narratives got published in an omnibus by two of Indonesia’s major publishers, I was so proud. It was like an achievement in itself: a dream come true. When I caught a glimpse of those omnibus on the shelves of a bookstore, I thought to myself, “Now I can really call myself a writer!”
But here’s the thing: I don’t feel like a writer anymore.
I posted a question on Instagram a few days ago as I was pondering about this issue, and I’m so relieved that some of you are kind enough to let me know that you are also facing the same dilemma and even share your struggles.
Have you ever felt trapped by the label you gave to yourself? Have you ever felt as if you’ve outgrown the label?
I didn’t know when the label ‘WRITER’ started to bother me, but it must have been getting on my nerves for the past few years. Not that I am not into writing anymore—on the contrary, I am still writing and I can’t stop thinking of future book projects (something is brewing for the end of the year!). However, oddly, these days the ‘writer’ label I have glued unto myself feels somewhat suffocating. When I have to speak in front of an audience or delivering a workshop, when the organizer introduced me as a writer, I feel like a fraud, a liar.
“But, why?” you might ask.
I don’t know. I can’t precisely pinpoint the reasons: maybe because I don’t feel like I have been productive. Maybe because I have experienced the feeling of ‘being a published writer’ and now that I have known the feeling I was no longer curious. Maybe because I wanted to do more than ‘just writing’. Maybe because I’m a little bit bored with this whole ‘writing thing’. Maybe because I have just started expanding my creative expressions to drawing and filming. Maybe because that label feels too limiting and doesn’t give me enough room to experiment in life.
Whatever the reasons might be, it’s not about reasoning at all. It’s more about how I feel; no matter how irrational it might sound.
The thing is, lately, I have learned to trust my feelings and rely on them more. I mean, who am I to call myself a ‘writer’ when I don’t feel like one?
Only then it dawned on me that I was the one who gave this label to myself. Even if the label was attached to me by someone else (publisher, workshop organizers, etc.), I was the one who decided to embrace the label, voluntarily. Thus, I actually have the power to ditch the label when it no longer suits me. I can bid the label farewell. I don’t have to walk around carrying the label on my shoulders when it feels too heavy. When I decided to drop the label, I don’t have to conform to what other people might expect from that particular label.
So, I decided to do it today: to drop the label and not to think of myself as a writer anymore.
I was feeling a bit scared, actually: should I do this?
But then I realized that this is a label I created or embraced for myself. It’s only a label. Just because I decided not to call myself a writer anymore, it doesn’t mean that I can no longer write. Maybe, I can even write more and better once I am done associating myself with the label.
I am having fun trying to find a new label that might fit me better at this stage. Some of you might say, but what’s the point of ditching a label to attach a new label unto yourself? Why can’t we just be humans without labels?
To which I would say: I am trying to get there. To be who I am, no labels attached.
However, for practical reasons, I still need to label myself with something (new). At least for myself, so I won’t feel too lost. Then, of course, to introduce myself to potential clients during meetings or networking events. (Do you know that since I quit my job and work independently, I haven’t printed my name card because I still couldn’t decide what I wanted to put as a title?).
So, after listing down the things I’m doing now (personally and professionally), plus listing down the things I would want to do in the future (personally and professionally), I am happy to attach a new label unto myself.
I am a creator. A creator of experience in life, a creator of content in the digital world.
I think, for the time being, I like the label. It fits me nicely like a new pair of jeans. Surely, just like a new pair of jeans, it’s still a bit stiff (and, you do know that faint smell of ‘the store’, don’t you?). I would need to wear it more, so I can wash it and crack it a little bit to make it even more fitting. Oh, and in the next few days, I will also need to adjust my bio/profile here and on other social media platforms. Indeed, more work and adjustments, but it’s okay.
So, here I am, with my new label, intending to create more playful and meaningful content (or experience) on and off the Internet. When it comes to working, I could say that I help my clients to do just the same—and during workshops, classes, or retreats, I am basically sharing about the same thing.
On another note, maybe I’ll also get tired of this label one day and granted myself a new one in the next 3, 5, or 10 years. Who knows? However, I guess that’s the point.
Life is about forever rediscovering something new about ourselves. It’s about growing and evolving. And why should we feel bad about retiring an old label? We’re not supposed to feel bad when we’re retiring a piece of clothing that has become too tight or too worn out for us, aren’t we?
With that being said, maybe I can start designing my name card and get them printed out next week.
PS: If you could drop a label that has burdened your life lately, what would that label be, and what would you embrace as a new label?