Labels. Where do I begin? We label everything around us, to acknowledge and understand, and to describe to others what we are experiencing.
We are given a label at birth; our name. Yet we share this name with millions of others that are so unlike us, it's sometimes hard to imagine this label is supposed to encompass all that we are and all that we should be. Have you ever gotten the remark? :
"You don't look like a ________"
Or, "I once knew a _______ . You are nothing like them."
When you look in a mirror and your reflection stares back at you, it's not your name that crosses your mind, it's everything else; your age, your flaws, your insecurities, your achievements, your personality, your happiness, your pain.
Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard had exclaimed,
"Once you label me, you negate me!" Probably frustrated by the limits placed on him, by others. For once a label is given, it's difficult to see beyond that label, true individuality and identity. And this is probably why Ben Shahn professed, "I believe if we left it to artists to choose their own labels, most would choose none."
Labels are limiting (I talk more about this in the blog Are You an Artist?). I am in a constant battle over labels, in my writing. Because words are simply the names of things, I find that sometimes the vocabulary just doesn't exist to describe everything I experience or want to convey.
For example, two months ago I set out to begin a manuscript, in hopes to complete a novel in the years to come. When I began the manuscript, I did not say,
"I am going to write about this______ ", and then write everything I knew about that subject- matter, in the language I already possessed.
Instead, I just started writing about the things that had meaning in my life, in a way that was natural to me. A Juxtaposed, scrabbled, and arcane story emerged. It was a patchwork of memories, conversations, letters, and poems from my own life, breathed into the names of two fictional characters.
When people ask me what my book is about, my response is not a synopsis of the story, but the casual remark of, "It's about life." The label I have given my own creative endeavor, in my mind, leaves nothing out and everything up to the imagination. Because as soon as I say, "It's about love, passion, pain, discovery..." I just left out all the other indescribeable and simple things, that exist and make people tick. I have then also confined my creativity to a linear storyline, where A meets B. And does not allow for the possibility that the story can change, as well as the characters within in it.
A sculpture before it has form, is just clay with endless possibilities. So, why can not the written word be the same?
Wallace Stevens, wrote beautiful verse called "The Man with the Blue Guitar", after being inspired by Picasso's painting, "Blue Guitarist". Here Stevens breaths his own meaning, into the likeness of a musician.
THE MAN WITH THE BLUE GUITAR (excerpts)
The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.
They said, "You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are."
The man replied, "Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar."
And they said then, "But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,
A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are."
I cannot bring a world quite round,
Although I patch it as I can.
I sing a hero's head, large eye
And bearded bronze, but not a man,
Although I patch him as I can
And reach through him almost to man.
If I serenade almost to man
Is to miss, by that, things as they are,
Say it is the serenade
Of a man that plays a blue guitar.
RECOMMENDATION: The book, "The Blue Guitar: Etchings by David Hockney Who Was Inspired by Wallace Stevens Who Was Inspired by Pablo Picasso"