A little over a year ago, we got a new executive director for my department at work. As is always the case when there is new top management, he had grand plans for how to change things. He told us a story about visiting some start up tech company where all the employees were called artists instead of programmers or engineers. The theory was that by calling them artists it would help them embrace their creativity. We were told that our titles would be changes to help us redefine how we work. At first I was on board, I know the power words have, but then the new job titles came out. We went from having managers and technical experts to gardeners and helping hands. It’s been over a year and I don’t feel these titles have had the desired effect. In fact, I know a lot of people in my department that refuse to use them.
It took me a long time to fully understand why these new titles were a failure. Why did creative titles work for that tech start up and not us? The answer is perception and prestige. There is a certain level of societal esteem that comes with the title Artist. It’s something people strive to become and are proud to call themselves. Whereas my department’s new titles were silly and childish. I know for me personally it felt like a slap in the face to go from a technical title to one my preschooler has. Because as much as we might not like it, titles hold power and can be part of a person’s identity. Once I understood this, I realized that I had been doing the same thing with my writing career and selling myself short.
Impostor Syndrome is very common within the writing community. It’s something I struggled with a lot when I was first starting out and still do from time to time. It’s the reason this website is hollyashwriter.com instead of hollyashauthor.com. I didn’t feel like I had the right to claim the title of author because I hadn’t published yet. In my mind I was less than people who had published and didn’t deserve to call myself an author. This is garbage. I had every right to call myself an author and once I did, my confidence shot through the roof.
It took me longer to own the title of Science Fiction Author though. I started out believing that I didn’t have enough technical knowledge to truly be a sci-fi author and that I didn’t have enough science in my stories. So I started by saying I wrote “soft” sci-fi and allowed that qualifier to cut into my confidence. It took me a long time to really own my place in that genre, but there is so much power in embracing it. It’s saying this is me and I belong here.
I still struggle with owning my title sometimes. Like when I asked the amazingly talented Heather Spooner of Ampersand Lettering Lab to create the sign in the picture above to use for my in-person events. When she asked me to confirm the verbiage I wanted I hesitated. Could I really put it in print for the whole world to see? What if someone called me out on it? I went so far as to close the email, determined to come up with something else. It took me about an hour to realize how ridiculous I was being. With a renewed sense of confidence, I emailed her back confirming that I wanted “Holly Ash Author,” because that who I am and I choose to own that title and all the power that one word holds.