A little rant on why labels limit the possibilities for our lives, and for the future.
I opened my social media today to an ad for an online course. The hook line went something like this...
"Learn to sell your indie book like a professional author."
This was met with both a blank stare, a cringe, and, well, anger. Feeling a bit offended, I thought to myself, "Hey! I am an indie author...I am a professional...AND I sell books. What's wrong with this picture?" There seems to be a stigma that an independent author does not create to the same standards as an author who has been traditionally published. Is one really better, more credible, or any more valid? What is the reason behind such an us vs. them mentality?
Just a few days ago, I was talking with a client about promotions for her book, and a similar notion popped up. In a conversation about her social media marketing, she said to me “I can’t do that, I’m an indie author!”... There's that label again. There's that stigma!
Time for a mindset reset here...
In the first example, I just, essentially, swiped left and let the ad go. It was offending to me, but, really, no big deal. I clearly am not their target customer. To my client, though, I could not sit back and ignore the comment. I replied... “Yes, you can (do that). You’re an author! Your reader cares that your book fills their need, entertains them, teaches something, or provides them something of value. The reader doesn't care if it's traditional versus independent. They aren’t looking at the label. You shouldn’t either.”
I am tired of the stigma. I am tired of the labels.
I am an independent author. I consider myself a professional. To imply, insinuate, or flat-out state anything to the contrary is insulting, and, well, mean, to those who have taken the time to craft any type of work with the intention to share it with the world.
The choice to self-publish is just that...a choice. It was one that I thought long and hard about when I finished writing my first book. I talked with my editor about it. I considered my options. Ultimately, I decided that, if I was putting this time and effort into writing and editing this book, I wanted to keep control over the work itself and the message behind what I was sharing.
I knew that it wasn't going to be easy. I had no misconceptions there. I knew full well that it was going to take time and effort and energy to learn the industry and acquire the skills needed to share the message. There is nothing about this choice that makes me any more or less of an author or a professional or a creator. It doesn't dull my creativity, or my desire to create a positive change in the world. Nor does it impact my ability to make any sort of a living from my work.
Don't let it dull or dim your creative spark either (please and thank you)!
Thinking back and taking a look around life, and thinking through these two scenarios, I see the impact that labels have on our mindset as a whole. Think about these labels...
Self-published or Traditional
Fat vs. Thin
Man vs. Woman
Rich vs. Poor
Nation vs. Nation
Young vs. Old
and dare I add White vs. Black
Sit back and think about how limiting these are, not to mention emotionally charged.
In the case of publishing, the reader doesn't care if you are traditionally-published or self-published. They care that the right book was sitting on the shelf for them, just when they needed it. But as authors, we internalize the label and use it as a reason to hide.
For my indie friends out there, let me remind you that a few very popular books started out as independent publications, including Fifty Shades of Grey, The Celestine Prophecy, and Eragon. Does knowing that make anyone suddenly look down upon those authors or consider them any less professional?
Labels are created because someone believes they are necessary. Someone else has skin in the game, and are afraid they have something to lose. Rumors, misinformation, and bad publicity gets thrown around, pointing the finger at the person or group that someone else wants to make the problem. And suddenly, we have an us vs. them mindset.
We live in a data-driven world, one that thrives on labels and spreadsheets, and assigning value based on those labels. I say it's time that we stop! Labels don’t create new conversations—they separate and create division. We don't need anymore wars or fights in the world. Haven't we had enough? Labels create fear, anxiety, and anger. They are a root of hate and intolerance. They have the power to stop someone dead in their tracks. Think back to my client above. She believed she couldn't' share her message in a particular way simply because she was an independent author. Compared to other examples in the world, this one seems so simple, but it's easy to overlook the simpler ones. We can't brush past it.
We give so much power away to the label, thinking it has to define our situation or our destiny. I've been labeled many times in my own life. I have seen firsthand how this goes down. It doesn't feel good, and it left me feeling so stuck in my life. Everyone around me told me I was one way or another. I forgot to remember that I was powerful and strong and smart, and totally capable of doing what I wanted and going where I wanted to go, simply because I was alive and playing on the planet right now. Which brings me to the next point...
What caused me to feel such an intense reaction to seeing that post? What is sitting behind the anger?...
...the feeling, the fear, that maybe it's true. Maybe my work is for nothing. Maybe I am just not good enough to cut it.
...Fear! (It's such a dirty, four-letter word.)
Consider the labels above (i.e. Fat vs. Thin, Man vs. Woman, Rich vs. Poor, Nation vs. Nation).
Sit back and think about how limiting they can be! Do you identify in any of the groups above? How has that stopped you in your life?
Where in your life are you using or hiding behind a label that someone else gave you? What happens when you take that label away? What could you do? Who would you be?
Drop the labels!
The author who wrote this blog post is just that - an author.
The person sitting next to you is just that - a person.
The body that you judge every morning is neither fat, nor thin - it's a beautiful body, and a miracle to the planet.
The person we see walking around with a different nationality or color or gender - they are people, too.
Instead of judging any group as good or bad, open your heart and mind to new possibilities, for yourself and for other people. We all have a story to tell and something to contribute. Take the time to learn about other people and see them as an individual. Then turn the questions inward and see yourself, label-less and limitless, in a whole new light.
Where did they come from? What have they contributed to society? What are they struggling with?
I am willing to bet that we are all so much more similar and have way more in common than the labels lead us to believe. I know that we all have something that we can learn from everyone else around us. This is where the magic happens. This is how we create change in the world. This is where you pivot!
Remember: You are never stuck. You are never lost. You are never alone. At any given moment, you can use your power to pivot, make a new choice, and start again. That pivot can be as simple as choosing to reach out and find another way. You can do it! And you are worth it!
Now, it's your turn to share...
How can you pivot to a new mindset today? Where do you feel you need to change your outlook? How can we help?
Continue the conversation in the comments below, or reach out to us via email, or over on social media:
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Elizabeth A. Miles is the author of: