Our society is one that is filled with labels. You are this or that, as determined - usually - by other people. We are defined by things we like a dislike, by the way we act or the people we spend time with. And you could ask a dozen different people and come away with a dozen different answers, because they are the ones putting labels on you. Labels can be good: Philanthropic, generous, charismatic, kind, gentle, polite. Labels can also be bad: Criminal, monster, punk, addict, slut. And labels can be self-fulfilling. A whole school of thought exists called labeling theory, where the idea is that labeling somebody makes them behave that way. For example, labeling someone a criminal will limit the chances they get and make them more prone to actually act in a criminal sense than others.
But what about the label you put on yourself? To put a writing spin on it (because let’s be real, that’s what I like doing): What genre are you?
I was originally inspired to write about this because my novel for National Novel Writing Month will be science fiction (see here for a little glimpse at the outline for it). I like science fiction, I do, but I have never been an avid producer of it. Beyond my story iLive, it has always just been a genre that I like to consume. But a personal interest in artificial intelligence, the real world advancement in it and other technologies, got my brain stirring.
So, when I normally write horror or fantasy, why not write an entire novel from scratch in sci-fi?
So it got me thinking: Am I a sci-fi author? Do I know enough about the topic to actually write a compelling piece of work? Will I actually enjoy this? And I came to the conclusion that an author may specialize in a particular genre, but they are by no means confined to it. It is interesting to note how many of my favourite authors began their career writing in one subject before making a drastic move into another, yet write both very well. But then things started to get a little more existential.
I am quickly approaching the end of my internship contract, and it has made me think about what I am going to do next. At the ripe old age of 23, I have the majority of my life ahead of me, and it feels more and more like I need to make urgent decisions, quickly. I ask myself if I want to continue in the field I am currently working in, where I want to work, who I would like to work for, what I want my title to be. As I delve further into indie authorship, I question whether I want to work full-time when my contract is up, or take the risk of working only part-time and devoting the rest of my time to writing - while the risk is relatively low and I can actually afford to not work full-time. I continually ask myself what my label will be when I am done in January, what my genre will be, and I have yet to come up with an answer.
But we can take it a step further and look at what genre you fall into in your everyday life. I like to think of myself as a friendly, outgoing individual who enjoys taking a leadership role. My manager at work, however, informed me just a few days ago that she believes one of my areas for development is my assertiveness, as I tend to be more reserved in meetings. If you had asked me to label myself before that conversation, “assertive” would have been high on the list, but now I am trying to envision how other people see me.
So how do I label myself?
I think the only time you are able to summarize a person in a single word or title is if you do not know them. People are too multifaceted to be defined by a single genre. Some of my favourite authors write fantasy, but also publish historical fiction, are photographers and parents. I have met a Poet Laureate who is also a priest. I have met a bartender who is a teacher, and I am sure we all have a friend who is quiet most of the time, but get them in the right circumstances and they won’t shut up. So I don’t think I can label myself, and I also don’t think I want to. Let me leave my options open and let me do what I want. I said I have most of my life ahead of me still, but it is not long enough to be confined to one term, one title. I guess I am just trying to tell you to do what you want to do, and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. And if they throw a label on you, feel free to show them just how wrong they are.