Not too long ago I was talking to my seven-year-old about a project he was making. It’s important to know that he is a really creative kid, and pretty much every day comes up with new science experiments or art projects he can make. I was complimenting him on his work and told him how proud I was of him, and how creative I think he is. This was his response:
“Well of course I’m creative.” Well of course, is his new catch phrase–to be spoken in a voice which suggests I couldn’t possibly know anything he doesn’t, as we have now reached that stage in our relationship, in his ripe old age of seven, where he and his friends know more on any given subject than I ever could.
(Case in point: One day his friend told him that the word “dude” actually means elephant butt hair. Despite my vigorous protests to the contrary, my son just looked at me and said, “Nuh-huh, Mom. Ricky told me what it really means. And he’s eight.” Right. Little Ricky and I will soon be sitting down for a good long heart to heart.)
Anyway…My son said, “Well of course I’m creative.” Then he added, “I am an artist.”
“Well of course I’m creative. I am an artist.”
Those words rolled so easily off my son’s tongue. He creates, therefore, he is creative. He does art projects, therefore, he is an artist. No hesitation. No pausing. No second guessing himself. My son knows who he is.
“I am an artist.”
Contrast this with the fifteen minutes I recently spent agonizing over a box on a form I had to fill out. The box was marked “Occupation” and it caused me to have the same one-sided conversation with myself I’ve been having since the day I first started writing fiction five years ago:
When do I get to call myself a writer? When I’ve been writing for a certain amount of days/years? When I get an agent/book contract? When a good review of my book comes in? Because what happens when bad reviews come in (as they inevitably will), or my book proposal gets turned down, or I experience rejection in any one of the number of ways that are common to the writing life? When can I call myself a writer?
I don’t know what I marked in that box that day. But I do know that I thought of my son’s words and realized the truth, and the bravery, of what he said. He’s creative because he creates.
I know that one day, time may change my son’s response. That it’s possible he’ll believe the lies that say your artistic endeavors count only when they’ve been validated by the “professionals” in the community. I know I won’t be able to prevent him from hearing the negative voices in this world that are quick to dismiss and discount his creative impulses.
But I also know this, none of those voices will be mine. And I will try with my own voice, and my actions, to counter them. Because my thirty-something adult self is choosing to listen to my brave seven-year-old son who knows that it’s in the act of creating itself, regardless of the value others place on our work, that we are found to be creators.
So I finally have an answer to the question I’ve been asking myself for years: I am a writer, for the simple fact that I write.