Own Your Identity as an Artist

I savor the comments readers leave on this blog. But often they are apologetic in tone, along the lines of “I’m not really a writer,” or “I aspire to be a writer.” In the technical sense of the word “writer,” at least as I see it, these statements are a lie. They “wrote” a comment, forming words into grammatically correct sentences. But in a broader sense they have fallen into a linguistic trap, one of mistaken self-identity.

If you want to be a writer, declare yourself a writer. If you want to be a painter, or a musician, or a dancer, declare yourself as such. Then go about acquiring the tools you need to become a great writer or painter or musician or dancer.

The highlight of my visit to Philadelphia on my cross-country road trip was interviewing Nebula and Hugo award-winning author Michael Swanwick. A close second was the Philly cheesesteak I had at this little out-of-the-way joint recommended to me by Michael. Mmm, cheesesteak.

The highlight of my visit to Philadelphia on my cross-country road trip was interviewing Nebula and Hugo award-winning author Michael Swanwick. A close second was the Philly cheesesteak I had at this little out-of-the-way joint recommended to me by Michael. Mmm, cheesesteak.

Part of the problem, I fear, is the English language. We only have one verb “to be.” We don’t differentiate between our current state and who we truly are. But take Spanish, which has two. There is estar, which addresses a temporary state, and ser, which is used for your permanent identity. So if I say Yo estoy confudido, I state that I am currently confused. Should I choose to utter Yo soy confudido, I am defining myself as a confused person. I am often confused, but I would not like to own that as part of my identity.

So someone who is aspiring to create lasting value in an artistic endeavor should consider these two different verbs. Take ownership of the craft as a part of you in the spirit of ser, but be honest about your current state as a writer with estar.

I believe when people say they aspire to be a writer, they actually have a specific target in mind. It could be publication. It could be recognition by others. It could be reaching that level where they feel they are peers with the writers they most admire. But if they are already thinking of these concrete goals, they are already a writer.

For me, my aspiration as a writer is simple. I aspire to be the best writer I can be. As such, I don’t have to worry what happens when I achieve my goal, because it is in many respects unachievable. I may at some point think I’ve reached that point, but we always have the capability of growing. It would seem an unachievable goal is a poor motivating tool, but I learned from my interview with author Michael Swanwick to set my goals high. That way, when I fail, I still have produced something spectacular.

Do you find you limit yourself with labeling? Perhaps you own being an artist, but modify it with negative adjectives such as “poor” or “struggling”? I’d love to hear your experience with creative pursuits and self-labeling.

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About Patrick Ross

I'm the author of Committed: A Memoir of the Artist's Road.

81 Responses to “Own Your Identity as an Artist”

  1. This is really inspiring🙂 Just the words I need, thank you.

  2. I am the girl who fell in love with a spider in her childhood, and went on to write about them. I love this blog, and the words ring true. Thank you for sharing.❤

  3. Spot on post, Patrick!
    I recently started identifying myself as a writer, when previously I didn’t mention it at all because I thought people wouldn’t take it seriously. Writing is an affectation and a hobby for most of the people I know, I don’t actually know someone who has been published. But since I started calling myself a writer, I feel liberated and comfortable with myself and proud to be part of this marvelous zeitgeist.

    To paraphrase James Cameron: If you want to be a filmmaker, take a camera, shoot something with your sister or mother or father at home, edit it, throw in some music, and there you’ve directed a film. You’re a filmmaker. Once we accept what we want to do and are unafraid to get on the path, then we forget all the anxiety that came before when people ask us what we do. It’s a mindset, and the sooner you step into a skin that looks daunting and uncomfortable but is a skin that you want to wear, the more the skin adjusts itself to you and the more comfortable you are.

    I hope I’m making sense with that. Just glad that you wrote about a common hurdle for fledgling writers.

    • I think your post is spot-on. I like the James Cameron reference, with which I was unfamiliar. When I did my 2010 road trip I decided to film the interviews. I edited them down to 5 minutes and in some put in background music and “B-roll,” a term I learned for footage that airs with the interview subject’s voice over it. I had no idea what I was doing, and the early videos (New England and the Mid-Atlantic, including Swanwick) show it. I started figuring things out as I went along, and am proud of some of the ones I did in the West. I haven’t made films since, but I didn’t let my lack of experience stop me. I sought advice from filmmakers, read up on it, and figured it out, bringing with my my own experience as a journalist and storyteller. Did I identify myself as a filmmaker? At some point, yes. An amateur one, certainly. A “self-published” filmmaker (I was uploading them to YouTube, not submitting them to an online publication of film festival), absolutely. But that was perfectly fine. It’s how I wanted to tell those stories, and I channeled my creativity in that direction. Now I am writing about them in a travel memoir, a more comfortable form of expression for me, but I’m grateful I lived the filmmaking experience.

      And I love this in your comment: “But since I started calling myself a writer, I feel liberated and comfortable with myself and proud to be part of this marvelous zeitgeist.” Kudos! Good to be part of the zeitgeist with you!

      (And you do know a published writer now. Me!)

  4. I had several professors in college who insisted that you couldn’t call yourself a writer until you were either published by a big company, or in the New York Times. I don’t think they even lived up to that themselves. I always thought it was silly.

    • You are absolutely right, Lynn. Those are dreamkillers; shocking they were actually instructors. (I do not find this the case with my MFA instructors at the Vermont College of Fine Arts, but there is a stereotype that some writing professors are bitter at having achieved a level of writing success that is enough to earn them a teaching gig but is perhaps less that what they had aspired to; they need to listen to Swanwick.)

  5. Great post and this is an important subject to bring up. Where I lived and grew up there was little or no validation for the Artist’s Way. Imagine explaining to a business person that you spent the day in your bedroom writing poems! Regardless of the fact that you could be the next Walt Whitman or Emily Dickinson, folks often judge you as immature and irresponsible if you haven’t given up your dream to be a writer. Therefore, we use words like “aspiring” or “struggling” to make ourselves smaller in a (futile) attempt to prevent the hostility from hitting us where it hurts.

    • Glad you mentioned The Artist’s Way, as Julia Cameron writes about those people who gave up their own dreams and thus feel compelled to step on the dreams of others. I have certainly known my share of people like that, and at various times in my 20s and 30s I found myself disavowing myself as a “creative writer” (I couldn’t disavow “writer,” because I was doing it professionally) because I felt I wasn’t worthy of that moniker.

      I like your supposition that we use these disparaging labels to “make ourselves smaller in a (futile) attempt to prevent the hostility from hitting us where it hurts.” No one likes to fail. Easy to avoid it if you tell yourself you can’t succeed. But that’s no way to live life.

      • Patrick, very interesting to learn about your experiences regarding your feelings of self-worth. I was fortunate to pick up Julia Cameron’s book in 1993, and I’m blessed to have worked and made a good life as a professional filmmaker. When people ask me what I do for a living and I tell them that I make a living as a documentary filmmaker, I get a lot of surprised looks. I wonder why that is?

  6. wonderful sharing….Just luved it…..

  7. Hi Patrick! Sometimes you write your blogs at exactly the time I’m thinking about that same subject. I really enjoyed this and sometimes it feels very hard for me to be a “writer” without a book or with a regular job. I should start speaking Spanish…

    • Hey Angela, great to hear from you! Well, I think you’re an excellent writer, so you don’t just have to self-identify as one, you can put a great adjective in front of it. We probably allow in our minds a certain vision of what a “writer” is and the life she leads, and if we’re not living that life then we aren’t a “writer.” But I’ve found the commenters here live every kind of life imaginable. If I thought you needed a published book to be a writer I’d be very depressed indeed! It is clearly a goal I’m focused on, and I believe I will reach it, but I remain a writer. Hang in there, Angela!

  8. Thank you for this post Patrick. I started writing young, but i never considered myself as a writer. I aspired to be one but I thought that you need to have formal training in order to actually be one. That and you need to have something published. From now on, I am going to own it. I am a writer! Thanks again for the inspiration.

    • Yay, Irene! Ah, the training dilemma. You might want to search this blog (search bar on the right) for “self-taught.” I’ve done some posts about how I’ve interviewed artists who were self-taught and those who received extensive training. Bottom line? They’re still painters, photographers, musicians, what have you. But yes, it’s easy to fall into that mind trap, along with the “published” one. You are a writer, Irene!

  9. Recently, I had lunch with a writer and I asked him why he thought people have trouble with the label. It seems strange to me that I’ve always referred to myself as a musician simply because I play musical instruments, but the same doesn’t go for my writing. He said he thinks it’s because everybody does/can write, which I thought was an excellent point, as something similar happens with singing — there’s this sense that anyone can do it.

    One of my creative writing professors links the label to habit, and this, I think, is the most useful way of thinking about it. Writers write everyday, so if you tell someone you’re a writer and you haven’t written that day, it feels like cheating. I like this idea because it keeps me focused: every time I think about skipping writing for the day I think about the label “writer” and it makes me pick up the pen, so that the next time someone asks what I want to do I can say with confidence, “actually, I’m a writer.”

    • Wonderful point about making a habit of it it – I didn’t feel comfortable calling myself a writer until I committed myself to *being* a writer. Once I started writing on a regular basis, setting an alarm for 6am every morning and writing before the rest of my household awakes, then I felt good about calling myself “writer.”

      • We live the same life, Andrea! This morning it was 5:30, sometimes it’s 6 or 6:30, but the routine is the same. Go downstairs, grab coffee (programmed to be made), head to desk, write. I love having a mind uncluttered by the day’s distractions, and often I program my mind to percolate on something related to my work-in-progress, and an insight awaits me when I wake. I like the quiet, and it does help me own the identity. I’m glad you found a way to own that identity, through your commitment, which is a very important word in this story.

      • Thanks, Andrea, good to hear you had a similar experience (I, too, found that if I was going to claim the label, I would have to get up with the sparrows!) I think it helps to think of the label in these terms — both as a motivating tool, but also as a way of de-emphasizing publication as the ultimate criteria for “writer.”

    • Like Andrea, I think it’s an important point to raise, the practice. This blog is about living an art-committed life, but it points out the level of commitment, and the challenges related to that, in order to do that. I will confess I find life pulls me away from daily writing (my normal routine), and I feel out of sorts and full of doubt. But I’d hate for people to abandon that self-identity simply because they don’t regularly practice the art, although I have been guilty of that myself.

      As to people writing routinely, that is a point. Perhaps we should change the term to “creative writer.” We don’t do that routinely, most people anyway.

  10. I think my biggest obstacle with labels is that, at least in the US, if you say “I am a writer,” or “artist,” or “scientist,” or “teacher,” the “I am a…” implies “this is what I do for a living.” Since my first job is stay-at-home-mom, I struggle with calling myself a writer when someone asks, “And what do you do?” because I know what they are really asking is, “What do you get paid to do?” I think many writers (and artists, and musicians) who are compelled to create, but don’t get make a living through their creations have a hard time claiming their title without qualifiers (“I hope to be…”, “I’m an aspiring…”) until they feel like they’ve arrived, whether that’s through publications, awards, or a paycheck. It’s uncomfortable at first to claim your identity, but as another commenter said, it’s very liberating when you do. Once you claim the title “writer,” it inspires you to *be* a writer, to really work at it, and share your work, and join a critique group, and submit your pieces.

    • That is an excellent point, Andrea. Here in Washington, D.C., the first question anyone asks you is what you do, and they mean your job. Then, based on your answer, they decide whether to talk to you based on whether you are someone they perceive as being able to help them professionally. Answering “writer” assures they’ll walk away. (Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.)

      The unfortunate truth is that very few artists fully support themselves with their art, and most of the ones I know who do still make the occasional sacrifices to satisfy market demand. Should we set an income threshold we severely restrict our definition. But yes, I could see that is a mindset that many would have.

  11. Patrick… when I decided to be (ser) a writer, I had to convince myself I was a writer. This convincing was important to the selling of myself as a writer. I would cold-call around the film community, knocking on film company doors and announcing myself as “a writer”. I had to say it with conviction. So I practiced. At night, in bed. In the car. While eating. It worked. People would look at me and hire me. And the reason is because very few people can actually say “I’m a writer” with much conviction. It’s a powerful statement. And it’s just possible that by believing the statement, myself, I became a better writer.

    • Now that is a great contribution you have just made here, PJ, and I hope folks read it. I like the notion of getting to the point where you can say it with conviction, and I am not surprised that confidence resonated and helped you professionally. It is, indeed, a statement imbued with power. And what a nice side benefit, that it improved your craft!

  12. This is refreshing. It’s so interesting how different languages can express the same idea very differently. It’s wonderful how you described it, too. Thank you Patrick!

    • You’re welcome! At the risk of violating my philosophy above, I would call myself challenged when it comes to learning other languages, but it is stunning how much cultural preferences work their way into how we speak. It is something we rarely notice, but we should.

  13. I am a poet. There, finally said🙂 I struggle with this because I am a:not yet published and b:so afraid that I will let myself lose this part of me. I suppose I could also say c:because I don’t want to mislead anyone by their definition of a poet being Robert Frost (someone established & famous for their work, while I am yet a college student).

    Thank you so much for this post.
    With love,
    a poet.

    • Kudos, Kari! Yes, don’t use the “Robert Frost” ruler as a guide. I am stunned by the beautiful poetry my classmates produce in my MFA program. Many are unpublished, and none are famous, but their words fill me with admiration and, I’ll confess, a wee bit of jealousy. Own that identity!🙂

  14. Hi Patrick.
    I’m fairly new on the blogging scene and my first love is being an Artist. But as I go along, I find writing is becoming a favorite second spot right on my heart as well. Which these two love being in a partnership together. To be able to describe what the artist is feeling and expressing not only from a visual standpoint, but from the written one too. I have a lot to learn in the creative writing area and most of the time I write what comes to me. I just wanted give you a quick Hello and I enjoy your blogs. Have a great day.

    • Thank you, Marla, for visiting, for appreciating the blog, and for sharing with us! I know many visual artists who explore creative writing and vice versa. They are two forms of communication of emotion and inspiration (let’s add music to that, sculpture, even architecture). You say you have a lot to learn in the creative writing area. We all do. I’m pursuing a Master’s in it, and the more I learn, the more I realize I can never know everything I want to know. I suspect you have found that in the visual arts as well. But I actually find that encouraging, because I know I’ll never run out of new craft tools and techniques. Just keep writing. The best way to improve is by doing.

  15. One of the hardest things to do as a late-blooming professional was to actually declare myself as an artist. I remember how hard I struggled with that, how I felt like a fraud, like if they *really* knew I’d be flushed out as a phoney. It didn’t help when I started gaining some traction and had the courage to do it, and would introduce myself as one to other, more experienced artists, and then they would throw out some deep art history or philosophy conversation to which I had no understanding or experience (having not been to, or through much, art school at the time).

    One of my favorite stories that someone told me back then was that of one of their relatives, who enrolled MIT into not only accepting him, but giving him a scholarship. During his interview, they asked about his background. His response was, “Who I am is an engineer. I just need some training”.

    I hung on to that story, and even used that line. “Who I am is an artist – I just need some training.” I was amazed at how much more confident it made me feel. And with that confidence came more acceptance. And more success, as I took more and more risks – from getting my education (Bachelor of Fine Arts degree) to applying to be juried in as a Signature Member of the International Society of Acrylic Painters (got in the first time I applied), to entering national juried exhibitions juried by internationally famous folks from the art world – and getting in – showing in NYC and more.

    Now, I have absolutely no problem identifying who I am, a professional fine artist with 13 years of experience under my belt. My career has taken many a twist and turn, and I have gone where it leads me.

    It just takes the courage to say, “I am an artist”. “I am a writer”. “I am a musician”. Maybe with “but I need some training” at the end. It takes that courage to be able to proceed – and succeed.

    Of course, you already know this about me – I’m hoping this will help someone. 🙂

    • Amy, thank you for this valuable comment! Readers, you can see my video interview from 2010 with Amy here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uXs9GENxN1Q&list=PL3407F721910744B5

      You know, I find when at my MFA residencies that a fellow student will drop a reference to Flannery O’Connor or Anton Chekov that everyone but me seems to know. They have undergraduate degrees in English and many years of focus in literature. I come at it with a background in poly sci and journalism and a voracious reader of biographies. I’ve come to accept that I will never “catch up” with them, but instead try to learn from them and improve the breadth of my reading.

      Your story is inspiring, because of how far you came both in terms of your artistic growth but also your personal mindset.

  16. Well said. I feel like part of that fear of calling yourself a writer comes from a secret dread that the response you’ll get is, “oh- what have you written?” …and in order to feel seen we all want to be able to mention we wrote something other people have actually read. And that’s when people change “I am” to “I aspire to be”, cause they don’t feel, journal entries, poetry or community newsletters count!

  17. I absolutely adored this post, particularly the ser/estar reference.
    I hesitated and hovered over calling myself a writer until I realized that my own attitude toward writing had shifted. Once I began to take myself seriously, and actually valuing my writing, I began to be able to call myself a writer without that odd unjustified guilt.

    • First of all, thank you for the kind words! I love that you call yourself a writer without guilt, and that you value your writing. Someone mentioned Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way above. She and others teach us that we are our own worst critics. We tell ourselves that this will inspire us to improve, but often it inspires us to walk away or fail to appreciate what we can appreciate. So kudos!

  18. I’ve never considered how English only has ‘to be’, but I completely agree with you about taking ownership of the craft. Well said=)

    • Thanks! You know, a peculiarity of Spanish is that they use “estar” when someone is dead, as in Esta muerto. (There should be an accent on the a in esta.) How can death be a temporary condition? That may be another cultural reflection, their belief that death is in fact a transitional state to another existence beyond; it is a culture steeped in Catholicism. But now my intellectual curiosity has led me off topic!🙂

  19. It must be something internal, connected with how we think of ourselves. You touch on that in your excellent post, Patrick, and that’s key, I think. “If you want to be a writer, declare yourself a writer. If you want to be a painter, or a musician, or a dancer, declare yourself as such. Then go about acquiring the tools you need to become a great writer or painter or musician or dancer.”

    Do we rely on others to define us? Or do we define ourselves? I recently wrote a post about thought coming before anything else, and I was happy to see the concept touched on here, and in other posts I’ve read lately; it seems there is a growing awareness of thought being the source from which everything else proceeds.
    But then there is the concern about self-deluding ourselves; unless the thought is followed by positive action, nothing ever manifests.
    For myself, I consider myself a writer. It was validated by publication, but even prior, I considered myself a writer – just an unpublished writer. I leave what others consider themselves to them – those professors one of your commenters mentioned having such strict criteria for determining who is and who isn’t – you hit spot on the problem there. Bitterness is most likely at the bottom of that!

    • Hi Cynthia! A very thought-provoking comment, but I expect no less from you.

      I’m glad you owned the writer identity before being published. And there is nothing wrong with using the modifier “unpublished” before “writer” when it is a statement of fact. My hope is that writers emulate your approach, that they don’t treat that modifier as a word that actually undermines what it is modifying.

  20. Fabulous post, Patrick. I love that another language makes room for being “in process.” Maybe this is tangential but … this weekend, I was on retreat, and the speaker asked, “What are we when we’re not what we do?” The more I study Buddhism, the more intrigued I am by this question. I was pretty comfortable, early on, with calling myself an artist and, later, a writer because these “doings” have long been so infused into my being. That said, one of my favorite art teachers always refers to herself as a “student.” I like that. I like the implication that we’re always learning, always “in process.” It doesn’t bode well, however, in the brave new marketing/self-promotion world. So I play the game. I’ve earned the worldly titles: artist, writer … so I use them where they’re needed. But, in my heart, I’m a student.

    • “But, in my heart, I’m a student.” There is no better way to go through life. And while not highly trained in Buddhism, I do feel that just about everything in my life is a journey, not a destination. I learn so I can proceed to another step, but I don’t delude myself into thinking I will ever “get” there. I can’t remember where I left this comment recently, but I was letting someone know that a great thing about my MFA program is that I’ve learned how much I don’t know, and I’m excited to continue to learn more as a lifelong student of writing, not worrying that I will never learn it all.

  21. Absolutely spot on! Self affirmation is a very powerful tool. One I am taking hold of this year. So many things can be birthed when we stand firm in our true identity and worry less about ticking the right boxes/labels that limit our free thinking and being.

    Stay true x

    • Love this, Catrina: “So many things can be birthed when we stand firm in our true identity and worry less about ticking the right boxes/labels that limit our free thinking and being.” I’m going to carry that with me.

  22. Reblogged this on A leek writes and commented:
    This is beautiful. Amazing.

  23. Wonderful post. It really speaks to me. I have loved writing since childhood and for a long time I struggled with calling myself a writer because I am not a “Professional Writer”. I always described myself as “aspiring writer”, or “wannabe writer” until a friend pointed out to me that i am a writer and to stop with the nonsense and own it!

    I feel good about claiming myself as a writer, but I’m still uncomfortable with my identity in some other creative endeavours (photography), but I’m working on it!

    • Kudos to your friend! You’ve reached that mental acceptance point with writing, I’m sure you’ll get there with photography. Self-awareness is the necessary ingredient, and you would appear to have that now.

  24. Hi, Patrick.
    What timing!
    I myself wrote exactly about this same thing on my blog today – about my transition from a life of law to a life of letters and what it takes to call myself a writer: http://fromlextolexicon.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/elevators-to-success-are-out-of-order/
    I’m serious about doing this and want to be good at it. But at the end of the day, I’m only a writer, if I write.

    • Glad we were in synchronicity! One of my instructors with the Vermont College of Fine Arts, Larry Sutin, left the law profession to become a writer and writing instructor. I will check out your post.

      The conceit of this blog is returning to an art-committed life, and doing what it takes to stay on that path. Welcome to joining us on it!

  25. Thanks for the encouraging article! I’ve been calling myself a writer for years. I started writing a novel series when I was twelve. I am eighteen now, and the first novel is “almost” done. (It’s been “almost” done for a long time, but I’m having such difficulty getting it “done” done.) I keep getting discouraged. I suppose I should just hunker down, keep calling myself a writer, and continue working towards achieving my goal.

    • Morgan, congratulations! That is remarkable. My daughter is eighteen as well. She’s focused on photography, and I really admire her dedication to that art/craft.

      The done vs. done dilemma is a reality for all creative writers of any age and experience. It can be paralyzing. I sat on an essay for a year, convinced it wasn’t ready for publication but unclear what more needed to be done to it. Finally I submitted it to a literary journal and they accepted it the next day. At some point you just need to let go and say “This is as good as it can be at the level of writer I am right now. I’ll now start something new, and it will be even better.”

      Keep writing!

  26. I so whole-heartedly agree, and I LOVE the Spanish verbs for “to be” as an example. I’ve never thought of it in exactly those terms. Great post, Patrick!

  27. It maybe useful not to get too caught up in self-labelling. Because that can be limiting too. People start to see you according to that label and don’t look beyond for other facets of self.

    I am an amateur, lazy artist. I’m not doing stuff to exercise my latent artistic muscles. Yes, I am a blogger which to me combines both writing and some visual art: I do want a blog to be visually captivating as well as engaging in writing style.

    • Jean, I found myself agreeing to the fact that labels can be limiting in that it colors how others see you. That happens all the time with job titles or professions, right? You meet an accountant, you think boring numbers geek, but perhaps she is an award-winning gardener or has a show dog who wins Best of Show.

      Then you label yourself as amateur and lazy. Perhaps that was for ironic purposes. But I will say that blogging can most certainly be a way to be creative, and I encourage that in my blogging classes. And I greatly admire bloggers who give me a full experience beyond words; combining the visual and the prose is not my style. So keep posting, and keep growing.

  28. Since I started blogging (like 2 weeks ago), I’ve identified myself as a writer. I walk around, feeling a little better about myself, because, gosh darnit, I’ve put something out there for the world to see. But I’m beginning to realize I’ve always been writing, for work, journaling, writing letters, emails, papers in college, submissions for workshops, notes to my kids. If I’m writing, for myself, for a patient, for a class, for an invisible audience, I’m technically a writer. In the doing, I’ve always been becoming. I don’t know why it took slapping stuff on the internet to make me feel like a “real writer.” If I’m not an artist for myself, then I can hardly expect to dazzle anyone else.

    I want to be a good writer, and I realize that takes an insane amount of practice. Thank goodness I’m just crazy enough for it.

    Thanks for the post. It hit the mark I needed today.

    • I love this comment! First of all, welcome to the blogging world! It can be exciting, infuriating, time-consuming, rewarding and invigorating, sometimes all in one day.

      You have a great insight on all the writing you’ve done. In a comment above I raised the notion of perhaps referring more specifically to “creative writer,” because I was doing a lot of writing during a period in my life when I wasn’t pursuing creative writing. But the craft of forming sentences and being understood applies across the board. So you can bring all of those skills to the table in your quest to be a “good writer.” I’m excited for you!

  29. Hey, it’s the first time I read your blog. I’m from Ecuador and in spanish an expression such as “yo soy confudido” does not exist. I get the idea of what you are trying to say but is not as simple as that in my language. “Estar” is something that you use for a permanent OR temporary state or physical location, like “estoy en la playa” (I’m at the beach), “estoy llegando en 5 minutos” (I’m arriving in 5 minutes) or “estoy casada” (I’m married), “estoy enfermo” (I’m sick), “estoy feliz” (i’m happy)… etc. “Yo soy” can also be used for something permanent or temporary… like for example “soy la esposa de Pepe” (I’m Pepe’s wife), “soy músico” (I’m a musician) or “soy pesimista” (I’m a pessimist). I’m not a grammar/language teacher but believe me… if you say in spanish something like “yo soy confundido”, “yo soy cansado” or “yo soy en la playa” you’ll be the “gringo” who can’t speak spanish properly… it’s always “estoy confundido”, “estoy cansado” or “estoy en la playa”. I’m sure there are rules for that but I’m not language teacher. I wish my mom would read this though.

    • Well I am definitely a gringo who doesn’t pretend to be fluent in Spanish. Thanks for the guidance here. As a native English speaker, however, I can say my thesis holds true, that we do not have any sort of distinction for “to be.” That larger point raises a lot of questions for me, and makes me wonder what our English-speaking culture might be like if we did have such a distinction.

      • Yes, I get your point🙂 And yes… there is not any distinction for “to be” in english. That happens to me in Spanish with the “yo soy” (I am) which I think has similar “power” though. Language is such a powerful thing and people almost always under rate it.

  30. Interesting viewpoint Patrick.I totally agree! Thanks for the perspective😉

  31. I never realized how powerful labels can be. Wow this is so inspiring especially today when I’m so down and doubtful of my own skills and capabilities. I now choose not to label myself, by doing so I’m restricting my own capabilities and I no longer wish to do that.

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

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