For a long time, too much time within the 5 year span of my blogging, I questioned whether I belonged in certain communities where more seasoned, professional writers would gather.
At some point blogging shifted away from being seen as this superfluous, casual hobby to something of value and worthy of consideration and merit. Those of us who embraced it as a career and acted so began to get on lists that were, until then, reserved for journalists. The tension in the air would often be so thick that you couldn’t help but notice. I had many conversations where journalists would question what it was I did…and how I made my money.
I hesitated for a very long time to call myself a writer. Though people were paying me to do just that. Though I often did so on an award-winning site – my own. But I felt that because I didn’t go to journalism school, and I didn’t dedicate hours upon hours to said career – although one could argue that in pursuing public relations, which is essentially under the same umbrella, and was basically in the same building as a lot of these courses in college, I dedicated some hours – I didn’t feel calling myself a writer was something I deserved, it was not a group I belonged to. I put out a lot of fires this way, “Oh no, I wouldn’t dare call myself a writer,” I would say to a questioning journalist, and I would see the seething judgement calm itself in their eyes. I knew my place. I was clear as to where I belonged.
But as time went by I started realizing that I was living a lie and denying myself credit that others were giving me. In my effort to let it be known that I respect the skill and those who have dedicated their lives to it, as well as trying to make it clear I was not trying to become a threat to anyone’s job, I was denying myself the recognition of growth and development I was going through. I was minimizing the value of my own efforts and of my work and of my career – simply because I didn’t have a diploma from journalism school.
I began to accept who I had become professionally and acknowledge that I was not only a writer, but a good one. And though I am forever working on becoming better, and love the editors for whom I work (because, seriously, we could all use a good editor!), I don’t deny myself credit due to make someone else feel comfortable with the changing landscape and their place in it.
I have met many trained journalists who have wholeheartedly embraced new media and me. I have met a few who are critical and dismissive, but they are so few in comparison to those whom have taken me under their wing, engaged me, and mentored me. They have looked at my work and have embraced me as a fellow writer, and it has been an incredible experience and a great lesson learned.
So yesterday, when a photographer decided to accuse me of “lacking any real knowledge in photography” and “trolling photography boards”, I reverted for a moment to my old self and allowed the voice that told me I didn’t belong to invade my mind.
Foggy morning. Image from my iPhone
But, here’s the thing: I am not a professional photographer, though my photography has been used in publications as far as OK magazine in Germany and my work as an event photographer has been paid. Photography is something I enjoy and take very seriously, as I know that it, along with my writing, helps me convey to my readers the story and journey I want to share.
I don’t know anything about aperture, or f/stop or ISO, though I am trying to learn.
All I know is that I love taking photos and though the camera I use may be what brands call “a camera targeted for moms”, the images I take with it, to me, feel like capturing a piece of very special moments and places – images that have caused people to say how I have “transported” them, “inspired” them, or brought back happy memories.
Dancing in the rain. Costa Rica.
I am not really sure that I can bring myself to call myself a photographer just yet because I hold such high standards for myself in everything I do and am my harshest critic. I still feel like there’s too much I don’t know to even say that. But one thing I do know and that is that I do belong. Like you, I belong where ever my passion takes me. My wanting to learn and surround myself with those who are pros and who can motivate me is not my “trolling”, but my observing, learning, and growing.
For now, I am just someone who really, really loves photography, takes some really nice shots, and is trying hard to learn as much as she can to continue to improve on it. And if my journey into a career as a professional writer has proven anything, it is that when I set my heart and mind to something, there’s no limit to what I can do, whether people want me there or not.
Header photo courtesy of Kris Poling Mulkey