Wednesday, May 6, 2015

IWSG: Stop Putting Yourself In A Box

It's that time again! Insecure Writers Support Group time! My post this time is about boxes and why we shouldn't put ourselves in them.

Humans like to categorize things. They like to label and organize, in hopes they'll understand and have some control. The only trouble is a lot of things can't be labeled or even understood. We have a lot less control than we imagine, and that's not a bad thing. When we have no control we're forced to trust something bigger than ourselves. When we don't understand we're nudged into learning about the subject we question.

One of the things humans like to categorize is other humans. That means you. We like to paste on labels like "teacher", "lawyer", "sewage plant worker" as if that can sum a person up. I don't know what we do when someone changes jobs.

Men have a harder time with career as identity than women. This can leave them directionless and empty when they lose a job. For those without careers, their hobby is their identity. "Todd is a Reds fan. He's always sporting team colors during the season. Frank is a downhill skier. He won gold in the last olympics."

But what happens if Todd stops watching baseball or Frank is injured and can't skii anymore? They don't simply disappear or shrivel up, but they might feel like it. They lose confidence and begin searching for a new identity, something to latch onto that will say "This is who I am."

I've encountered so many labels throughout my life, and moreso now that I'm trying to build a career in freelance illustration. While I want to do everything, marketing dictates I choose one thing and push that as hard as I can. Only once you've made your mark at one thing will they let you push something else. This is very hard for me to accept. All my heroes dabble in multiple subjects, spread themselves across a variety of platforms. They are writers, artists, animators, directors, character designers, but they all had to start with one thing. They had to fit in society's box before they could break out of it.

What keeps me determined when I feel I'm being stuffed into boxes is a fluid identity. I know I'm not just an artist, writer, library clerk, art teacher, blogger or whatever I happen to be working as. Each of those are things I do, but they all spring from the same source. It's creative, adaptive, playful, imaginative, childlike, intelligent, patient, and sharing. No matter what my job is, it will involve those traits. As long as I connect to that source I will never be unhappy.

This is why individuals shouldn't put themselves in boxes. Society will always categorize, label, and cattle-prod you into a little cube of what it thinks you are, but you were born to be fluid, to be adaptive. As long as you keep in touch with the source of who you are and find a way to express it, no matter what your job is, you'll be happy.

So what're you waiting for?


  1. That's why so many men die after retirement. Their job was all they had. Fortunately I have many things beyond my job, including writer, musician, and husband. And ultimately, the only label I need is 'Man of God' because everything else can spring from that.

  2. It's a sad thing to happen, Alex. Glad you have your sights set on something higher. Man of God should be what every man centers their life around.

  3. I like my organization as much as the next person but sometimes it can be difficult as well. I feel you on being labeled one thing when you want to be more than that can be difficult to shake. I like what you said about not doing it to yourself, everyone else is sure to do it, but we need to not put ourselves be put into boxes and always break out of them.


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