Write what you know.
This idea has stuck with me ever since I devoured the book Little Women in middle school. Jo, the protagonist, agonizes over writing a swash-buckling tale of derring-do. When her short stories are published, they receive little attention. Jo’s editor suggests instead she try writing something more personal, something from her heart. After some offended guffaws she pens a novel about growing up with her three sisters, aka Little Women.
As I’ve embarked on my own writing, the only place I know to start is with what’s in my own heart. Sometimes this gets me into trouble for being too honest, too transparent, and perhaps exposing those who’d prefer to remain anonymous. But it is not my wish to write for shock value or revenge. I share my experiences because I’m compelled to do so, and because I believe that writing is what I’m called to do.
I write about my love life, my aspirations, my fears and even my finances, but I have not written about social issues. Topics of race, oppression and sexuality have felt too monolithic for meager me to approach — best to let the PhD’s and activists in the world tackle such important issues. What could I possibly add to the conversation?
Maybe from living in a city steeped in years of activism or maybe from waking up to my own Blackness, I’m realizing how deeply flawed such beliefs are. Not believing I have something to add to “serious conversations” is indeed a mark of my own social conditioning. Am I not a living, breathing human living in a chaotic, confused time? Do I not walk as brown-skinned woman in a world where such distinctions are a liability? How could I not have something to say?