The other day, someone asked what I do, and I said, I am a writer and storyteller. I said it out loud. Someone else was introducing me to a friend when we ran into each other at the grocery store, and she said, "Sara's-- are you a writer?" I said, yes. Sometimes I follow up with, "I also do tutoring and parent support groups." Sometimes I don't.
Every time I say this, that I am a writer and storyteller, I feel a little panic. A little bit of the imposter syndrome comes back, and I wonder if I have any right to say it. It can be scary, to claim a name or a title that you are unsure you have any right to have. It's like I've claimed a throne, and I'm afraid someone will come and depose me or call for revolution against me.
In order not to feel like a fraud, I am taking steps to legitimize my claims. I joined a local storytelling group, and I'm putting together the funds to join the National Storytellers Network. I had my first guest post published last week, and I'm working on a writing project with a very cool developmental movement therapist. See? I tell myself. I'm a real storyteller and writer.
It's hard sometimes-- I look at my debts and bills, and I think, I should get a real job, something that will be a steady paycheck. I would wear heels and clothes from the mall, and I would be legitimate. But as my friend
Will said to me, there aren't that many real jobs these days, and none of them are guaranteed to be long-term or steady or well-paid. With that kind of uncertainty, it is better perhaps to be pursuing my dreams and doing work I love.
Names are powerful things. Just think of Rumplestiltskin or Tom Tit Tot. Knowing the name of the little man who could spin straw into gold, gave the young queen the right to keep her child. In many stories, the Fair Folk never tell you their true name, for that name gives the speaker power over the named. Even T.S. Eliot noted in "The Naming of Cats,"
The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter,
It isn't just one of your holiday games;
You may think at first I'm as mad as a hatter
When I tell you, a cat must have THREE DIFFERENT NAMES.
First of all, there's the name that the family use daily,
Such as Peter, Augustus, Alonzo or James,
Such as Victor or Jonathan, George or Bill Bailey--
All of them sensible everyday names.
There are fancier names if you think they sound sweeter,
Some for the gentlemen, some for the dames:
Such as Plato, Admetus, Electra, Demeter--
But all of them sensible everyday names.
But I tell you, a cat needs a name that's particular,
A name that's peculiar, and more dignified,
Else how can he keep up his tail perpendicular,
Or spread out his whiskers, or cherish his pride?
Of names of this kind, I can give you a quorum,
Such as Munkustrap, Quaxo, or Coricopat,
Such as Bombalurina, or else Jellylorum-
Names that never belong to more than one cat.
But above and beyond there's still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover--
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.
To claim the name of Storyteller and of Writer, is to claim the power of words. To declare myself to be something, means, too, that I owe it to myself and others to be true to that claim, and to allow it to be real.
I am a writer and a storyteller. My name is Sara. Who are you?
Sara is a storyteller, writer, artist, teacher, wife, mother, and singer living in Minnesota. I write about storytelling, and about living a life with stories.