Tag Archives: name

Names, Not Labels

31 Jan

I love words. Obviously. I’m a writer. “Love words” is kiiiiind of in my job description. Words are lovely, useful, wondrous things with a great deal of power. And I understand that it’s important for people to have words, to have specific terms with meaning, they can use to describe themselves. To understand themselves.

But all the same, sometimes I wish we didn’t use some of the words the way we do. Because as important as naming terms are, there can be a lot more damage done when they get turned into labels. When a word is no longer purely an identification but a categorization. Identifications expand an existence. Categorizations shrink them.

I wish that certain words would describe but not delineate. Specify but not separate. Define but not divide.

Words like trans, male, gay, butch, woman, and straight. Words like disabled, elderly, mentally ill, druggie, cutter, and poser. Words foreigner, Democrat, GOP, Libertarian, celebrity, homeless.

These words are not an evil unto themselves. But too often we – you and me, people – use them to draw a line between us, the “people,” and the others. By calling someone a label that we don’t share, we push them beyond the realm of the experience we have in being human. By carving humanity into little boxes of likeness, we lose sight of the fact that we are all, in the end, human.

And inevitably, some – even ourselves, even if unwittingly – are bound to assign a “naturalness” to one of the terms out of a group. “This is what’s normal, this is what the null hypothesis looks like, this is the ground state of humanity.” And the ones who don’t fall under that term become something strange. Something different from that which resides within us. We deny full legitimacy to those without our particular label and come to understand them only in terms of deviation.

Thanks to The Lazy Yogi for the image.

Thanks to The Lazy Yogi for the image.

But what if we didn’t look at all the ways humans can exist as deviations from ourselves? What if we recognized each as a fully true expression of all the possibilities of what humanity looks like? What if we viewed the human condition not as bound and filed in a dictionary but as interwoven with no particular hierarchy into a novel? What if we stopped categorizing all the words we might type out of those four keys in our DNA and started seeing how they all fit together to make a larger sense? What if we gave ourselves names, instead of mere lists?

I’d like it if human thinking as a whole could move beyond trying to force us all into our separate encyclopedia entries and started using all the words we’ve got around to describe, not prescribe, instead. I want an identity, not a categorization.

You can get more information out of a narrative, anyway. Encyclopedias and dictionaries have always been so limited in what they have to tell you.

New Things

26 Dec

Well, it’s time for some updating. Getting personal. Chatting with y’all. All that jazz.

Get ready for some not-so-serious kinda-brain-dead rambling, though. No, this isn’t going to be one of those posts where I really talk about the dark and deep and dangerous. This is just some jibbering I’ve got to get done.

Because, first update, I’ve spent the Christmas holiday fairly mentally washed out. A few days ago, the world of microbiota apparently decided that it wanted to give me a Christmas gift as well, in the form of a sinus infection con headache con sore throat con cough con stuffy nose. I know. The world of microbiota really outdid itself this year.

And yeah, being sick over the holidays has sucked. Especially since this was supposed to be the least stressful part of my winter break. I’m in Miami with my boyfriend and his family, away from the cold and the snow and family tension. But you know what? Being sick has inspired a few niceties of its own. My boyfriend has further proved himself amazing, giving me hugs and tissues and water bottles as necessary. Today, he even made me hot chocolate. Because I’d seen a commercial that happened to have hot chocolate in it and suddenly wanted some. And we’re not talking the Swiss Miss, microwave a cup of water and dump in a packet of cocoa powder. We’re talking William Sonoma, heat milk slowly over a stove, whisk in chocolate shavings while standing there for ten minutes kind of hot chocolate. And damn, was it good.

My literary world, on the other hand, is exploding in a much better, entirely mucus-free kind of way. I’m loving my Facebook feed – over the past months, it’s become increasingly more concentrated with updates from authors and poets, many of whom I’m now privileged to call friends, who are writing new manuscripts and publishing old ones and submitting articles and going on writerly retreats – and it’s awesome. Sure, sometimes I get intensely jealous of what I see everyone else is up to, but the impetus is inspiration, too. “Look at all these things that other people are doing; Mike Rosen is submitting poems, Tim Manley turned his Tumblr into a novel, Kim’s posted another stupendously colorful blog entry – I want to do all these things.”

Sure, I’ve got a couple of freelance jobs underway, and I’m in the middle of the mire that is my five year old manuscript that I told myself I’d finish editing this year, and I’ve started sketching out some ideas for future novels… but somehow, none of it seems “serious” enough to me. I’m building up relationships with other “legit” authors and artists and publicists, I’ve gotten a few short stories out there in various publications, a few of my blog posts have flown off the hit charts this year… but still, I feel stagnant. I don’t have an official editor or agent. I’ve yet to make it from the realms of Barnes & Noble’s online store to their actual shelves. There’s still a lot of work I could do. Should do. Want to do.

Just… gotta get rid of these clarity-consuming germs first 😉

And then there’s a change I’ve been thinking about for a while…

My blog name.

“The Quill Writings” – formal, professional, and if you ask me, flat-out boring. It’s not catchy. It doesn’t have any personality. It’s not distinctive or descriptive. It’s just… Eh. Blah. All those sorts of onomatopoeic monosyllables.

So. I’m thinking about changing it.

I chose it about a year ago, when I was looking for something to headline the industrial effort that was my foray into more public writing. It was simple, discrete. The quill as a writing instrument is something I’ve always had a fascination with. It’s deep in the history of writing, giving writers a physical tie to one’s work. It recalls a time when one could distinguish writers by the ink left on their fingers. Even these days, a quill is a writerly gift. And then, of course, there’s the presence of quills in the classrooms of wizardry students like Harry Potter. Harry Potter? Done and done.

But… as colorful a background as the quill might have, as a word, it’s still pretty meh. I mean, I think about the names my favorite bloggers have entitled their sites: Katherine Fritz’s “I Am Begging My Mother Not To Read This Blog,” Allie Brosh’s “Hyperbole and a Half,” and my friend Kim’s “Terror and Frosting.”

Yeah. I could do better.

I don’t have many ideas right now… Germs and brain and cytokines and all that. So, while I’m still here, recovering from this lovely holiday visit from the world of microbiota, I’m inviting you all, if you’re looking for some procrastination material, to throw some of your own ideas at me. Brainstorm some high pressure systems. Mind spew! I’ll be here in the meantime, cuddling with my tissue box.