Labels. Self-Applied or Otherwise

I have never said that I want to be an amazing fat, smoking, crazy, crippled writer.

I have never said that I want to be a great chubby chaser straight writer.

I have never said that I want to be a wonderful carnivore male writer.

Why would I want to?

I’ve never read something and said “Wow, this is a great female vegan writer.”

I’ve never read something and said “Awesome, I love this gay Buddhist writer.”

I’ve never read something and said “This is the best transgendered psychic writer!”

Why would I want to?

I’m probably missing something. Maybe because I have some form of disconnect with my own identity, wants, habits, fetishes, etc, etc, etc. Maybe because I’m just dumb. But it seems like there are so many people out there – and not just writers, it just happened to work best for my flow style to use that (and, yes, I have seen people refer to themselves as all three of those things listed).

But people feel this need to label themselves and others. “Oh, he’s gay.” “She’s a Baptist.” “They’re vegans.” And so on, and so forth. Which I guess is fine. But when you’re doing whatever it is that you feel defines you, that thing that you want to do, why do you feel the need to tack on a bunch of extra Post-Its that don’t have anything to do with the basic topic?

Again, maybe I’m stupid. Maybe it does matter. But I don’t really think so, at least not in the broad sense. Because to me it feels like you’re limiting yourself when you accept – or worse, self-apply – those labels. I don’t want to be the best straight male meat-eating smoking pseudo-Democratic fucked-up Buddhist crippled writer. I want to be a good writer. Hell, I can even drop the “good” and still feel pretty decently about that; I want to be a writer. When someone asks about me, I want the response to be “He’s a writer.”

It’s like looking at Amazon’s sales rankings. People get really excited when their book is #1 in Kindle Store>Kindle e-Books>Nonfiction>Politics>Philosophy>Ethics & Morality>Food Issues. (And boy, was I surprised to discover that’s actually a bloody category. Going right for the jugular, aren’t we?) Now, yes, I’m all for the pat on the back for hitting the top of your ultra-specific subgroup, but when you’re ranked 75,000th under Kindle>Nonfiction and somewhere in the high millions overall, it suddenly doesn’t seem so awesome, does it?

Being #1 in a group of 5 (or however many) doesn’t seem to me like a good goal. Self-identifying as that #1, or claiming you aim for that spot just feels like you’re giving up. Again, maybe just me. But why stop (or even start) there?

When I read something that I like, I don’t care what the person looks like, what their political affiliation is, what their personal hygiene habits are, what gender they are or what gender they identify as or what gender they prefer to play house with or any combination thereof. When I read something that I like, I say “That was a good read.” Done. The same when I read something I don’t like.

Now, I do think that having a background as one of those things can produce a different sort of writing style, or different characters or concepts that are more or less important to people that may have different lifestyles, but it seems to me that one should be aiming for the top slot, regardless of labels.

Maybe I’m just tired of trying to remember all the politically correct terms for everything under the sun, or all the affiliations and habits the people I read, watch, play or listen to go by. Maybe I just want things to be simple.

But I still think that, as a writer, you only need one label, and it has nothing to do with your orientation, your belief in aliens or your dress size.

One little Post-It. That’s it. Anything else can come after.

And all it needs to say is this:

I am a writer.


4 responses to “Labels. Self-Applied or Otherwise

    • Well, there’s nothing wrong with a little celebration. Lord knows I’ve done the Snoopy dance for selling 5 copies or when a post hits 30+ views in a day.

      It’s when people start using those as “stopping points” or somehow using them as segregationist items that I start to get a little miffed…

      • Oh yes, it’s really discouraging. Like those author blogs with ten followers. I mean, if I tell them I liked what they wrote, they say thanks and that’s it. Which is fine if you’re Stephen King or J.K. Rowling, but us mortals need to engage with our audience. It’s so annoying -_-

      • Pshaw; mortality is overrated! Though, from what I’ve seen, even King and Rowling are more social than a lot of Internet bloggers or indie authors. Although a lot of us are painful introverts who just sometimes don’t know what else to say… Sometimes it seems like, unless they’re interacting on the level of fiction, they just can’t handle it. I sort of sympathize, but you have to try, at least…

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