I went to the Old Town Book Fair in Fort Collins this past weekend, not as a reader or as a writer, but as an artist/maker.
Of course, I am a maker. I wholeheartedly embrace that identity at art and craft shows, and amongst my friends and acquaintances in the Etsy crowd. I love being a maker and I certainly earn more income from selling the things I make than I do from writing. I don’t expect either of those things to change anytime soon.
Still, it felt strange to represent myself as anything other than a writer at an event conceived to celebrate books. I’ve been a writer for decades longer than I’ve been a maker. My degree is in writing, not art. Writing is as central to my identity as my first name. Despite not getting paid for it, writing was never my hobby.
My hobbies include etymology, carpentry, and video games. Writing isn’t a hobby.
I agree. Writing is a job that requires months or years of spec work before getting paid. It’s a job I’ve put thousands of hours into, both in formal education and in practice. It’s work that I could very well do my whole life without seeing any financial success. If that happened, I still wouldn’t consider it a hobby.
And yet, with no book to promote, there I was, at the book fair as a maker. As strange as it felt, it wasn’t bad. In my little maker booth, I got to meet several of the women behind Northern Colorado Writers. I had a chance to meet and talk with writer, Jamie Raintree, before her workshop on social media. I was able to chat with book lovers about the stories they loved and the books that shaped them. I watched shoppers roll my Unblockers dice and saw new stories blossoming inside them.
As much as I feel compelled to choose between being a writer and being a maker sometimes, the location of my booth doesn’t really matter. I’m living with a foot in each world, and that’s okay. As Whitman said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)” I can be more than one thing at a time. Right now, my choice is to be both.