So how often do you get asked "What do you do?" And when we reply we usually use a label - "I'm a photographer." (insert your own example!)
Mark Nepo, the American poet and philosopher, talked about this in a podcast he took part in for Elizabeth Gilbert's (author of Eat, Pray, Love and Big Magic) Magic Lessons podcasts.
When people say - you should become a photographer "you're being told to be a noun" (not inherently wrong of course!) - "But vitality of life is in staying a verb" In other words it's the doing that really matters and is really who you are.
I was really struck by this as over the years I have been many 'nouns' - daughter, wife, mother, trainer, manager, photographer... which is the real me?
And if we attach so much importance to the noun we are, then if that is taken away from us - divorce, redundancy, retirement, empty nest, creative block etc - is it any wonder that we suffer mentally and emotionally from the strains of not being 'ourselves'?
I talked in a previous blog about how I have had a challenging few weeks and one of the things that suffered was my creative time. And I suffered because in essence I am someone who takes photos more than I am a photographer. Taking photos is what gives me the most sense of self that I will ever get (being a Mum comes a close second!). It's something I have done since being a teenager - it's what I have always done. So being a photographer is more a by-product of something I was already doing.
And I can only get that from immersing myself into the act of image making totally - which only truly comes when I'm 'playing'. The work that I do here is more authentically me because it's not for anyone else - even if I subsequently produce it commercially. And the emotional release of doing this work benefits the commercial work I do and the training that I offer as well as my relationships with my family and friends.
So when I respond to the question - 'What do you do?' - it will be - I take photographs. I may be or have been all the roles above but I am , simply, ME.
If all I am is wrong And all I have is gone Then how am I to live? I can only be who I am
Laura Mvula: Who I Am: The Dreaming Room: 2016
I can really recommend both Big Magic, the book and the Magic Lessons podcasts. Thought provoking and entertaining.