There is a story I heard, or maybe read on the internet and it grates that I forgot the source. (If anyone knows it, please let me know). Here, I will paraphrase as I remember it:
“I play the guitar.
I am not trying to play the guitar, I play the guitar. Yes, I only started playing the guitar a week ago. One might be tempted to say,” I am learning to play the guitar.”
But, that would imply that there is a definitive moment where one moves from learning to play the guitar, and actually playing the guitar. Will you ever stop learning to play the guitar? Even a virtuoso, one with 30 years of playing the guitar, surely even they have something to learn on the guitar?
As I learn how to play the guitar, do I not make music? Do I not have joy and happiness and expression? Do the strings not vibrate?
So, I do not qualify what I do. I will learn, but mastery will not precede act, it will be concurrent with it.
I play the guitar.”
This story, struck a chord with me. You see, I can be an insecure writer, often daunted by the excellence, the brilliance of those that come before me. When I refrain from calling myself a poet, it is not from a false sense of modesty, it is from an ingrained awareness of my deficiencies in poetic dictates.
Yet, I wrote. I wrote a story of a girl who left me Breathless. She loved it. I wrote about a woman who inflamed my passion. She loved it. I wrote a dedication to a muse, she loved it. And, I kept writing, until #49Crushes was born.
I wrote about lust, capitalism and mental health. In words, phrases and paragraphs, a story was formed… A story I liked. This story was collected, edited and compiled into an anthology. The anthology won a #RoilBAA for best literary non-fiction.
I wrote about tea, and cheese, and prayer. Calling to metaphor and imagery to capture the angst, the pain, the hopelessness of living in a dictatorial state.
I wrote, then, and (sometimes) now, I keep writing.
As I entered these poetry slams, the slammasters would insist we don’t use our birth names. They found the appearance of my surname inconvenient. To draw parallels with Kendrick Lamar using his birth name was an inelegant defence. I needed a pseudonym. One as impactful as Mystique, or Illuminatus or Unspoken.
So, my search began. To define myself. A word, a phrase that could represent me. My message, my artistry. The search found some pseudonyms corny, some foreign, some awkward. None of them, right.
This then, was a compromise. It says nothing about skill. Nothing of content or message. Does not intimate nor excite. It is not… Complete.
It is learning, while doing. Mastery in the act. A state of being. I pick up the pen and jot words, phrases, poems and stories. I… Valentine, writes.