Sunday, April 21, 2013

Asking for Permission

Not long ago, I sent an email to a friend, and referred to her as a writer. She replied and said she was flattered; that she doesn’t consider herself one yet. I replied back, telling her that of COURSE she was a writer. Of COURSE.

What she may not remember was a moment in 2010 when she and I had the same conversation, but I was on the opposite end. I was just about to publish my first cookbook, and I was trying to decide if I had done enough of the work – after all, I just compiled the recipes, most of them weren’t mine – to be called an author. And, if I wasn’t the author, what would I say on the last page about me? “About the Compiler”?
She did a search on Amazon, and came back with her results. I was an author. I may not remember correctly, but I believe that what she said was something along the lines of “You’re an author, toots.”

It took a lot to get there, but I now call myself a writer. I put it on foreign customs information; in profiles I fill out; I even put it down as my occupation when I got an eye exam before I left the States and ended up selling a book because of it. It took me a long time to get here, but it’s not the only thing that I am, and there are many things that don’t feel comfortable to call myself yet; one of them is author. It may feel like splitting hairs, but for me it has felt like an important one to split. I realized why not long ago: I am waiting for permission.

Permission. I have a degree in print journalism, I have written two books that are published and several more that are not. I write every day, and yet some part of me is waiting until I have published something wildly popular – like a bestselling novel – before I call myself an author. It’s a moving target, you see: no matter how much I strive toward a goal, I always find myself only halfway there, waiting for someone else to tell me what I already know I am.

This isn’t my only example. I don’t call myself a chef because I’ve never gone to school. I don’t call myself a Spanish teacher because I don’t have a teaching degree. I don’t call myself an expert in how to create the life of your dreams, because there’s no degree for that, and because I haven’t quite figured it out myself yet, even if I have started to compile the steps through years of trying to figure it out. I am waiting for permission, you see, and I have just stumbled upon a realization: I’ve been waiting for permission from the wrong people.

It all has to come from me, you see. I cannot wait for someone else to tell me what I am. I cannot wait for all the markers that apply to doctors or lawyers to be applied to writers, authors, life coaches, or adventurers. Even if I do all these things well, I have been shying away from calling myself anything that would cause someone to say, “Wait a minute, what school did you get your degree in travel addiction from?” and I would have to defend myself. No more.

My friend is a writer. I am an author, because I say I am, and because in the end, it’s me that has to believe it. I am also an inner voice coach, an adventure coach, a life of your dreams cheerleader, a Spanish coach, and a damn good cook. I am none of these things because someone gave me a certificate that said them; I am all of these things because I say I am, and I’m the only one I need to ask for permission to call me whatever I am, and whatever I want to be.

Love and authored kisses,