A rose by any other name would smell as sweet…

My current dilemma is to describe my newest area of work…

How do you talk about what you do for work? 

Or, perhaps a better question is, how do you describe what you do for your clients in your work? Because it’s really all about them, right?

These are very practical questions for me as one who has had many different types of work.  When I was a teacher of children with special needs, a principal in schools, and then an administrator in schools, people assumed they knew what I did. To be honest, I’m not sure they had any idea of what it took to be a teacher of children and young adults with special needs back in the late ’70s and ’80s (but that’s another conversation). I was a constant in the lives of my students, an authority figure who nurtured their social-emotional growth and created an environment in which they could engage meaningful learning. 

Becoming a curriculum developer (or instructional designer in the language of business) was a title that my colleagues in the education field understood. In my experiences in the business world however, the understanding ran the gamut from in-depth knowledge of the requirements of designing and developing curricula/training programs to think that ID’s create slide decks (and training is about reading slides).

I heard these questions, as a

  • coach (“Are you a life coach?”)
  • trainer (“Do you work in a gym?”)
  • facilitator (“So you make facilitate things, make them easy, what does that mean?”)
  • visual practitioner/graphic recorder, facilitator and coach (“How do pictures and words help people communicate?”)

I have faced so many questions—granted, that is a good starting point for a conversation though the frequency with which they occur is alarming. 

What’s your label? Does it really describe what you do?

My current dilemma is to describe my newest area of work. Visual practitioner, visual storyteller, sequential artist, comics artist, cartoonist, graphic novelist, graphic memoirist…when I say any of these terms, what do you think of?

What do you think?

I grew up reading comics and so my idea of “comics” —what they are—is tied up in those memories…Peanuts, Archie, Dennis the Menace, Batman, Spiderman, and more.

Here are some examples of this work from my project/book to illustrate (haha!) my experience training as a chaplain. I feel like I’m straddling different genres and I wonder how much a label matters…

When I visit the Graphic Medicine website and read the description of their work, it makes me change my thinking about the word “comics.”

“Graphic Medicine is a site that explores the interaction between the medium of comics and the discourse of healthcare. We are a community of academics, health carers, authors, artists, and fans of comics and medicine.”

They believe “the graphic is the medicine.” Think about that for a minute or two, the graphic IS the medicine—so cool right?

I think I will choose between these labels for the time being — Visual Storyteller or Comic Artist — the first being more inclusive of my work (graphic facilitator and recorder, observer of life) and the second being more my next move/my multi-panel works about my internship experience.

I’d love to hear your thinking!