I am not a poet.
Those are bold words, but are they believable? My behavior here on ivyblackwater.com would indicate to the public that I believe myself to be a poet, but do I?
Hi everyone. I’ve decided to start a blog about my experiences and perspectives as a writer. Until today, all my posts on this website have been creative—either poetry or prose. I now feel it is time to spread my butterfly wings and travel a little farther outside my comfort garden. You are currently reading the first entry into my new blog, The Reflecting Pond, and the topic for today is:
An artist’s right to define herself.
I’ve been teaching myself how to write fiction ever since a man and a woman started talking to each other inside my head on a snowy afternoon around seven years ago. I had no clue who those people were, or why they were talking to me, but I stopped what I was doing (playing with my kids on the living room floor) and fired up the computer to take notes. A year later, I had finished drafting a novel I never intended to write.
When Aaron and Katrina’s story first fell into my head on that winter day, I had no clue how to write fiction. Since then, I’ve done much research. During seven years of growth as a writer, I’ve worked on developing many skills, such as finding my voice, enhancing character development, and understanding story structure. But there is one element of fiction that I hold closest to my heart—prose, which, for me, walks hand in hand with poetry.
Aspects of poetry (e.g., alliteration, rhythm, and imagery) flow into my prose. In my opinion, poetic elements enhance fiction, and this is part of the reason why you see so many poems here on ivyblackwater.com. I’m practicing. My poems aren’t just poems—they’re exercises in creativity and writing words that connect in ways that cause a reader to feel something. If a poem doesn’t fill me with emotion, I know it is either unfinished or unworthy. I carry this drive for emotion into my fiction as much as possible.
A journey from timidity to confidence.
After four years of educating myself and preparing my manuscript for the intimidating task of querying literary agents, I knew it was time to set up a website. If you are familiar with my website, you know that my tagline is Sensual & Psychological Poetry & Prose, but it wasn’t always this way.
My website was public for about a year before I embraced that tagline. This means that I had been writing with serious intent for a full five years before I was comfortable stating I wrote both poetry and prose.
I was hung up on the word poetry.
I felt that poet was a title for a special sort of gifted being who was not anything like me. Poets were brilliant English students who later suffered life as college professors because they had to put food on the table. Poets were mysterious crafters of magical words and phrases that lived in quaint cottages built near babbling brooks. Poets were young and vibrant explorers of the free life I left behind when I became a parent. Poets were not busy behavioral scientists. Poets were not dead-tired mothers who wrote fiction while the family was sleeping. Poets were not people like me. Poets were not people like me. Poets were not people like me!
You know what?
I repeatedly told myself that my poetry wasn’t strong enough; therefore, I wasn’t a poet. The title poet frightened me. I worried I would be judged by those brilliant explorers of babbling brooks. I would be ridiculed. Revealed as a fake. A fool!
My tagline used to be something horrific.
Do you want to know what it was?
This: Writer of Sensual & Psychological Things
Things. That’s one of the worst words a writer could use in a description of herself.
And then, when I became braver and more confident in my writing, I changed my tagline to the slightly less noncommittal Sensual & Psychological Writings. This tagline was better but still all sorts of…*gag*
Why were these taglines problematic? Well, it’s because they didn’t embrace what I write. They were vague and uncertain. They made it sound like Ivy Blackwater didn’t have confidence in what she was doing. And, at that time, she didn’t.
But that’s not the case anymore.
I’ll be honest. I struggle with confidence as a writer. I’m confident in every other aspect of who I am, but claiming the title of writer/poet is hard for me. I’ve spent most of my life striving for achievement. I have a Ph.D. I study hard. I work hard. Higher education and my career have taught me that those who are talented enough and work hard over time will be rewarded by success. A certificate. A diploma. A solid income.
But guess what I learned…
It’s not that straightforward for a writer, a fact that is hard to accept.
There is always room for improvement, but many writers spend years creating fantastic stories or writing beautiful poetry that publishers (and literary agents) push to the side for various reasons that sometimes/often have nothing to do with the quality of a writer’s work. I have finally accepted this fact, and I have decided…
I will no longer allow myself to feel insecure.
Many great stories are never published and many published stories aren’t great.
Claiming a title (writer, poet, artist, influencer) tells others what a person does, but it doesn’t say anything about quality of work. Just because a person has been a [insert title here] for 30 years doesn’t mean they were ever any good at it. Outside appraisal of effectiveness or quality has no relevance to the act of creation. Therefore, I am a poet because I write poetry even if others think my poetry stinks.
I have a right, as an artist, to define who I am because I am the creator of my art.
As long as I write poetry, I’m a poet.
As long as I write romantic women’s fiction, I’m a novelist.
As long as I write with the intent of sharing it with others, I’m a writer.
As long as I take photos with the intent of sharing them with others, I’m a photographer. (So, do you like my bees? Photographer is a new identity I’ve recently adopted for myself after finding that I love taking photos. If you like the images I placed in this post, maybe check out my Instagram.)
And, maybe someday, I’ll add author to my list of identities. I choose to reserve that special term for someone who has published a book.
So…what do you think? Have you ever struggled to embrace an identity due to insecurities? Have you ever hidden part of yourself due to fears that society will either reject or criticize the true you? If so, where are you on your journey toward self-acceptance and confidence?
As always, I wish you the best as you travel toward your destination.