Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Lowercase Pursuits

Musee d'Orsay Ceiling - Flotsam of the Mind

At soccer practice, another mom greeted me with, "I didn't know you were a photographer!"

I began to say, "I'm not really," but caught myself. I said, "I'm an aspiring photographer." Then I followed with, "What I mean is that I'm not a professional photographer, but I do enjoy it." I'm pretty sure she thinks I'm a full-fledged idiot.

The definition of photographer is "a person who takes photographs, especially as an occupation." Maybe the appositive at the end of that definition justifies my bumbling, but I doubt the soccer mom wanted to parse dictionary definitions. She had seen the family portraits I'd taken for a friend and complimented them. I thanked her, felt good about myself for a few minutes, then began to contemplate why I hesitate to call myself a photographer.

Here's another definition: a writer is "(1) a person who writes or (2) a person whose work or occupation is writing." I am writing this blog post. Therefore, I am a writer. But I'm not a Real Writer. I have friends who are Real Writers. They earn their living as journalists or screenwriters. They publish articles or books. I'm a lowercase W writer.

Here's something you will never hear me say aloud: "I'm a blogger." First of all, I still think it sounds like a made-up thing. Like I'm going to start mass manufacturing Thneeds and kill all the Truffula trees. I will say, "I have a blog," but only with a dip of the head and a glance at the ground, as if the whole idea were too silly and embarrassing to admit in polite company.

I am not paid to do any of these things, so I feel unworthy of the labels. I'm a lowercase contributor at best. I blog, I write, I photograph, but I am not a blogger, a writer, or a photographer.

Unfortunately, we do not define people by their hobbies and interests, but by their occupations. No one ever met someone at a cocktail party and first asked, "What are your hobbies?"

I wish they did. It would provide more interesting conversation. I'd even have things to add. I haven't had an occupation to discuss in many years, and the one I used to have bears little relation to who I am now. Being a mom is great, but it's hardly a novelty in the circles I hang in. I'd love to talk about photography or writing or blogging. They exercise my brain and my creative skills. They help to keep me sane.

But they are hobbies. They are lowercase pursuits in an uppercase world of occupations. Until that changes, I will aspire to other things but will only admit to being a mom.


  1. So this is interesting for a number of reasons. First, I don't think that, just because you don't get paid to do it, that means it's somehow less worthy than if you did get paid to do it. You are a better photographer than some professionals whose work I've seen, so that would seem to prove that getting paid is not what determines whether it's capitalized or not. Second, I agree with you that conversations would be more interesting if we talked about interests and hobbies rather than jobs. And third, no need to look down when you say you have a blog. It's pretty common now, but I get what you're saying here. Hold your head high instead and ask them if they've read it or ask them to read it. I think everything you do should be capitalized. Big fan. :)

  2. Susie: I'm a big fan of your blog too. I've missed it since you haven't been blogging since last Fri. till today. I know you have company.

  3. How is the persuit of a pull-up coming? Don't give up on that!