Coffee-drinker and over-thinker. Fiction writer and super-villain fighter.
Let's get weird.
Imparting advice is tricky — while I am always excited to and interested in speaking with women of color about how identity intersects with their own writing, I’m still very much in an incubation period. I am a slow writer, (it’s looking more and more like I read more than I write), I don’t take as many chances as I’d like to take, and sometimes I feel too susceptible to too many opinions or hashtag-type waves of precipitous discussions. What I will say and what I’ve always said is, it’s vital to meet other women writers — women of color writers especially — and to surround yourself by them. The year that followed college I was still living in that residual space where I seemed prone to writers named Jonathan (yikes!) and where I thought being smart (whatever that means) was the ultimate pursuit. I was not writing for myself. I have since learned to write for the three or four people (mostly women) who I admire most on this planet, who I know hear and love hearing my take on things. A litmus test of who those people are would be to check your inbox. Who do you write your best emails to?
After college, I was surrounded by too many white male writers and journalists. They were everywhere! I even wrote a dopey fan letter to, of all people, Jonathan Franzen, seeking advice. He wrote back, months later, and recommended I read Rilke’s The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge and added the following: “My first piece of advice, perhaps already unnecessary, is to seek out a reader or two whom you can trust to be maximally and lovingly hard on what you write.” The words “lovingly hard on what you write” were not, for me at least, the right advice, though I guess it was cool that he wrote back. Thing is, I was already hard on myself. As a woman of color, aren’t we all already so hard on ourselves? Either trying from a young age to fit in, or be the best, or be invisible? What I needed was to trust myself more, trust my voice, let it run a bit before it could walk, and believe that my own way of seeing things and making connections were valid. It’s funny to write now, but even a year ago, I felt like my words were illegitimate. Meeting other women writers of color, especially so in the last year, has given me so much momentum. The ways in which a simple, knowing nod can encourage me back to my computer are breathtaking. I now write not just as a reader but as someone who trusts that my lived experience can offer more to the conversation. Sometimes I just remind myself to feel valid and to know that I can only approach the macro through my own micro experience."
Durga Chew-Bose, from “39 Pieces of Advice for Journalists and Writers of Color” (via commovente)