Write the things you know, not the things taught to you or shoved down your throat. Write the visceral things you have felt, experienced, witnessed, lived. I encounter too many writers for instance, who write the way the old white British men wrote—the ones whose words scrawled across our textbooks, especially if you are a writer from the British Caribbean. Those Caribbean writers would later recount how their first characters were white. And male. This happens in other places too, not just the Caribbean. Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie admits that she was once guilty of this as a novice writer. Junot Diaz recounted in a recent New York Times article that the literature in his MFA program at Cornell was dominated by mostly white males, some dead, some alive yet clutching pens that will forever be immortalized. I too had to learn this given that I grew up reading books that weren’t about me or my experiences. However, it was Toni Morrison who once said that you have to write the stories you want to read. And in this city of writers, all panting forward for the biggest agents and literary journals and publishers, be assured that someone out there—be it someone who may not be all the above—will pick up your story, read it, and be inspired by it.
Brilliant works are never written in one sitting. If someone utters such nonsense, then perhaps they’re lying. Or perhaps they might not be as brilliant. For Writers, good ones, tend to be humble. And for good reason. Because there is vulnerability in writing. Writing means you have to crack yourself open and expose yourself to the world. Each sentence, each word, is a labor of love, written with great care, handed over in blind faith of trust. Like new mothers we hold writing dare, clutched close to our hearts, too close, as to prevent them from being mangled, misinterpreted, destroyed by the world. But then we learn to let go, though still attached, forever pregnant with hopes that they will end up in good hands. Not many people can walk the earth exposed and not blush. Not when every blemish is visible to be scrutinized, stared at. Even if one thinks nakedness is the most empowering and beautiful thing. Gazes are subjective. The best bet is to try your best, put your heart and soul into writing, revise carefully, and send it out into the world. Be grateful and humble by the ability to even have a voice in the first place.
A voice. Not many are given voices. As a writer, your duty is to give a voice to the voiceless. Let this be your motivation. Every time you stare at the blank screen or blank page, terrified to write, crippled by what others might think, or crushed by a rejection letter; know that someone out there needs to hear what you have to say. Someone out there needs to know that they’re not alone in a personal struggle. Someone out there needs to see themselves, their stories in books. Let your stories empower them. Just Write.
About Stuyvesant Writers Workshop:
Stuyvesant Writing Workshop understands that writing is lonely, and that every writer needs a safe space to share their work, have it critiqued by other serious writers, and discuss authors whose stories inspire them or whose techniques they can learn from. The workshop is geared towards the working professional who has always wanted to write, but never seems to have the time; the storyteller searching for a voice; the writer who would love an opportunity to form community outside the coffee shop in the neighborhood without having to venture to Park Slope or South Brooklyn. The workshop is facilitated by yours truly!
Stuyvesant Writing Workshop is affordable with four sessions for a total of $250. Classes run from June 24th- July 15th. Tuesday evenings, 6:30pm-8:30pm. To register, please email firstname.lastname@example.org. Like Stuyvesant Writing Workshop on Facebook. Or follow us on twitter at @StuyvesantW.