Running away from what you are labeled as an artist could keep you from your true gift or calling. We live in a society that gives a contradictory message about being labeled. On one hand, people will say don’t label me according this or that thing. On the other hand, people will use that same label to be identified with in order to get the public to buy their art.
I see this labeling contradiction the most in the arts and entertainment world. Most artists do not want to be defined by the genre their industry has labeled them in order to sell the public.
Artists will say things like, “I’m not just a science-fiction or fantasy writer” or “I’m not just a Christian fiction writer but writer who happens to be Christian” or “I’m not just a rapper” or “I’m not just a jazz musician” and so on.
I get that people don’t want to be pigeonholed by the labeling that comes from their industry. But the problem comes when you don’t embrace what that labeling has given you in terms of devoted fans and genuine encouragement.
Also, there is this belief that if you are not labeled then you will have the best chance for mass appeal and popular/crossover success. I will acknowledge in some cases that has happened for some artists.
However, that’s not always a guaranteed formula for success. What becomes popular for mass consumption is something that goes beyond any formula or manipulation of a label. Moreover, people’s tastes are fickle and trying to appeal to everyone has run over many an artist who tried to get on that highway.
Yes, your label as a science fiction or fantasy writer or Christian Fiction writer or a Rapper or a Smooth Jazz Musician will not appeal to some people. There will be those who will not give your work a chance because of the label that has been attached to it by the market.
It seems like we would rather pursue the illusion of not being labeled than the attainability of having a label than can gives us the truest connection with people who will truly enjoy what we are producing as art.
I have decided to embrace a label instead of running away from it and because of that shift in my thinking I have started to find a sense of community that all artists truly want. Also, I may have found my true calling or gift by wearing that label instead of distancing myself from it.