When I was little and grown ups asked me what I wanted to be I would never tell them the truth. I knew what they wanted to hear and it wasn’t the word artist. It especially wasn’t artist but with words. Those dreams aren’t safe or viable nor do they fit nicely into the need to have money to function in society.
Still, I would whisper artist to myself as I told them teacher or veterinarian and weave stories in my head. I loved creative writing assignments in class in elementary school, though on some level I think I enjoyed confounding my classmates with big words much much more. No feeling topped the pride I felt when in 7th grade I not only proved one of my bullies wrong when they told me a word didn’t exist and I gave a dictionary definition but then they had to look it up. The swell of pride was short lived though because that moment was also mortifying.
It took me a long time to learn that putting my words out there for people didn’t have to be mortifying. I stopped writing anything fiction for roughly a decade because variations of that mortification I’d felt followed me around. When I finally rallied the courage to really start back up this didn’t float away but I found there was support out there as well as critiques (well meaning and… not so well meaning).
A few years later I’m still navigating all of it.
And there’s that little kid voice in my head whispering artist.
I can still see a scrap of paper I’d scrawled the word on and folded up knowing I would probably never tell another living soul because I didn’t quite understood what it meant but I understood what I was. An artist, but with words.