I am not a fan of labels.
Giving something a label, ultimately, is about trying to define a thing, an activity, an individual, whether you are outside looking in or inside looking out.
On one level, this makes sense as it gives us the tools and resources of common language.
Where this is a problem for me is that it tends to establish boundaries in our minds of what something is and what something isn’t.
My cousin and friend, Ian MacDonald, just published a blog post about the labels craftsman and artist, and the semantics game that swirls around those terms in his music and photography.
In my own teaching experience, I have witnessed innumerable students striving and struggling to achieve Art; in some cases, frozen in sheer terror at what they believe is unachievable and ironically, unwilling to work on the craft of writing. Unwilling to create dreck on the way to Art, however they define either.
To minimize these boundaries and yet still be able to communicate with people, I strive to use the broadest terminology I can. This is why, when pressed, I refer to myself as a storyteller.
I tell stories with my writing. I tell stories with my photography. I tell stories in my social interactions. I tell stories when I am alone. I tell stories with my body language. I tell stories when I sleep.
Are my stories a craft? There is an element of that, particularly when I tell stories for money.
Are my stories an art? That is a personal choice of whomever experiences my story, including me.
Am I more than my stories? Most certainly. I am not my stories.
My stories are how I interact with my universe. They are a vehicle of communication.
Storyteller is just a label, a definition; but I do not let it limit me or my sense of self.
I lived a large portion of my life in search of the next label. I am now content to be.
My thanks to Ian for his blog post. Even if you’re not interested in photography, his web site is worth checking out. At the risk of labeling him, Ian is quite the philosopher.
Award-winning screenwriter Randall C Willis is Story Analyst & Coach at So, What’s Your Story? (Facebook page). He also teaches screenwriting in Toronto at Raindance Canada and George Brown College, and you can find samples of his photography on Instagram @createdbyrcw.
(How’s that for labeling?)