I’m a slasher. I freely admit it, and it’s something I’m not likely to change.
No, not the kind of slasher featured in horror movies. (Duh.) The kind that makes frequent use of the / key when describing what I do.
As in, “I’m an artist/writer/singer/songwriter/creativity coach/teacher/etc. etc. etc.”
Recently such use of the slash has been the subject of hot debate in a corner of the blogosphere. It started with this post by Mars Dorian, which begins:
Hello fellow digital crusader !
There’s one thing that’s bothering me lately, and I see it EVERYWHERE nowadays. I see it on Facebook accounts, Twitter profiles and about pages. I see it in email signatures and tweets. It’s making me want to vomit in my mouth, and it’s keeping YOU away from success.
It’s a terrible description that more and more people give themselves.
It goes like this:
I’m a writer / entrepreneur / traveler / consultant / designer and blogger.
That’s the sound of shooting yourself in the foot.
You know what this tells me ? That YOU suck at each and everyone of them !
The Glove is Thrown Down
Baker Lawley of Catfish Parade responded with this post, in which he admitted to almost changing his slasher description of himself after he read Mars’ post. Instead, he ended up championing the cause of slashers everywhere (and mentioning me in the company of several other online slashers I admire – thanks Baker! – which is how I discovered this whole debate in the first place).
The conversation happening in the comments on these three blogs kept me up waaaaaay too late late night, and I figured an “official” response was in order. So here it is.
One Title or Many?
If you spend the time to read the comments on these other blogs (recommended – interesting stuff there), you’ll find that Mars claims that’s he’s not actually saying that people cannot be good at multiple things (though it’s understandable why anyone would come to that conclusion, given his rather bold opening statement.)
What he is saying (or at least what I understand of what he’s saying) is that breaking your career identity into a series of slashes is shooting yourself in the foot. In other words, if you want to have impact, if you want to leave a legacy, it’s much better to combine all those slashes under a single umbrella.
This is debatable in itself, and Emilie shares some good counter arguments in Mars’ comment stream. But let’s stop there for a moment to ponder.
Finding the Umbrella
Integrating my various identities into one whole is, in fact, precisely what I’ve been trying to do in the past year of blogging about my journey to follow my evolving Blisses and (re-)create the life I really, really want. How to combine all of my gifts under one title? I was honestly tired of the split identity that all these slashes implied, and have put a lot of thought into how to integrate them all.
I tried on Renaissance Woman for awhile.
The problem with this approach, though, is that it doesn’t give a clue as to what I actually do.
Finding the Handle
Categories, labels, niches drive multi-passionates crazy, but the truth is that human beings also seem to have an innate need for them. And as Michael Martine of Remarkablogger pointed out in a comment on Mars’ blog, the systems humans have created to find what we need – from the phone books and card catalogues of days past to search engines and Wikipedia of today – are not friendly to anything that doesn’t fit into a category we already understand:
The thing is not to pick one thing as you [“you” being Mars] suggest, but to put more thought into the overall theme of all that you do and describe it better.
I don’t need to say I’m a copywriter/blogger/designer/SEO/marketer/strategist. I say I’m a Blog Consultant, which seems like one thing but isn’t. If you think about it, you’ll see how I just solved a marketing/branding/SEO problem all in one stroke. Google “blog consulting” and you’ll see.
Clients need a “handle” by which to understand you and their own problems. It’s a naming problem. In no way does it mean what you suggest: that we abandon other disciplines which we may in fact be better at than most people. That is astonishingly mistaken, in my opinion.
However, it’s somewhat understandable. People who should only focus on one thing often fail to understand that multipotentialites or polymaths (pick your term) excel at multiple disciplines to the extent most people can only excel at one.
I think you would have been better off bringing this idea up as a question rather than as a polemic.
But that still leaves someone like me a bit out in the cold. Is anyone out there using Google so search for “Renaissance Woman” or “Creative ARTrepreneur” (or even “Creative Entrepreneur”)? Um, yeah.
Which points to the need to describe what you do in terms of how, exactly, you help people. A naming problem, as Michael puts it.
Still Solving My Naming Problem
Let me now take a brief detour to mention that I’ve never been fully satisfied with Multi-Passionate Creative ARTrepreneur for precisely this reason, and have been hunting around for a more descriptive title. A “handle” by which clients can understand me and their own problems.
Catherine Caine pointed out in our session the other day that the theme underlying everything I do is Creative Abundance. But how to express the various things I actually do atop that foundation? Among other things, I:
- create art to inspire – ie, I’m an artist. (And a calligrapher. Or artist/calligrapher, which leads to its own philosophical naming issue, implying, as it does, that calligraphers are not artists. But we won’t go down that road in this particular post…)
- inspire others to live their own creative lives – ie, I’m a coach…? (Or guide. Again, I seem incapable of limiting myself to a single word. Plus I do this not just through coaching, but also through writing, and through the art that I create.)
- mentor and empower creative types to share their gifts with the world – ie, I’m a.. what? a coach again? a mentor? a guide? a marketing teacher?
How in heaven’s name does one encapsulate all of this into a single title?
I kind of like Creative Abundance Goddess and Guide, but it still leaves me with an SEO problem, and no clear “handle” by which clients can understand me. The truth is, a slasher title – something like Artist/Writer/Coach/Creative Living Consultant, say – while less entertaining, would probably work better for SEO.
So what’s the answer?
I don’t have one. Though I’m thankful to Mars and Baker and Emilie for initiating the debate (and Michael and a whole bunch of others for contributing) because it got me thinking about it.
It seems to me that there’s a place for all of this. There’s a definite trend online toward setting yourself apart with a unique, even grandiose title:
Tara Gentile of ScoutieGirl is a philosopher of creative living and DIY culture & lifestyle design expert. Leonie Allan of the Goddess Guidebook is a Goddess. Laura Hollick of Soul Art Studio is an Artist & Shaman. Alexia Petrakos is an Expedition Leader for Creative Explorers. Caleb Wojcik of Pocket Changed is a World Changer.
I could go on.
Personally, I think these grandiose titles are fun! They give you a sense of the bearer’s personality, even if they don’t necessarily give you a clear sense of what they actually mean.
But it would seem to me a wise move to also break that title down in a way that people can more clearly understand what you’re about.
The funny thing is, even if you do your best to avoid all slashing, I suspect there’s no way you’re going to stop other people from slashing you. With all these crazy-ass titles, I can see scenes such as this becoming commonplace:
Person A: “Melissa Dinwiddie? Who’s she?”
Person B: “Oh, you know, that Artist/Writer/Coach/Creative Living Consultant over at Living A Creative Life.”
What do you think? Do you think slashing is shooting yourself in the foot? Do you think it means you suck at everything you do? Or are you an unrepentant slasher? Perhaps with a crazy-ass grandiose title as well? Share your reactions in the comments below.
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