The African-American Writer’s Inferiority Complex

I spend a lot of time feeling like I cant. I think it’s an issue that plagues most African-American writers. Honestly, writing a New York Times #1 bestselling novel seems out of reach. Some days, I attribute this lack of confidence to the political nature of race in this country: To get to number one on the NYT list, I have to sell to everyone, not just black readers. But, the cards are just simply stacked against me. It’s challenging enough to sell a book to a publisher, and get them to market if for you.  If you get that far, you’ll realize that publishers and bookstores prefer to sell books by black authors that depict the “stereotypical” black experience of thug life and promiscuity; you know, the books with sluts on the covers.  And those books don’t sell to everyone.

Other days, I attribute this inferiority complex to a post-slavery era mentality that’s been imposed upon me by the collective subconscious.  I feel that my only option is get a good education, go to college/grad-school, graduate and get a job. It doesn’t matter if my degree is in a creative field. I can’t have success on my own. submitting writing to literary journals isn’t for my kind. Nope. How could I possibly be talented enough for that?

Is it just me? Or do other African-American writers (or artists of any kind) feel this way too?

I want so much for myself.  I’m bursting at the seams with ideas.  I’m going to keep moving forward, regardless of how I’m feeling. I’m going to keep blogging, writing, thinking, planning and moving. I’ll never make it if I don’t try, right?

Advertisements

Why I Write

After a tumultuous year spent writing a thesis, I came to wonder why I started writing in the first place. Apparently, I love writing enough to get a Master’s degree in it. There were times in my life where writing something was a necessity to get through the day. Yet because of thesis, I’ve stopped writing. All writing has become a chore. My blogs are suffering because of it.

So why did I start writing?

I started writing because I wanted to be heard. As a kid, I never really felt that people listened to what I had to say. I was told an infinite number of times “you talk too much” or “stop talking.” I was silenced. I had no outlet for my musings, thoughts, or emotions. They had no place to go. Furthermore, I had feelings that most perceived as irrational. How could I talk about something that most people didn’t think was worth talking about? I had some friends growing up, but really, who wants to listen for hours on end to a rambler?

Diary

For instance, I got a pink diary with a lock for my 9th birthday.  I still have the key in an old jewelry box in the top of my closet. The first entry says:

August 9, 1995

Today is my birthday. Ths my friends S slept over. They were being mean to me. Yesterday my friend said “Just becuse tomorrow is your birthday means you can have the light on.” (Flashlight on seling) Then I had ters in my eyes.

Apparently, this was a painful experience for an oversensitive nine-year-old on her birthday. Darn it! I wanted to play with the flashlight on the ceiling when we were supposed to be sleeping.

And still, I’m an oversensitive adult, at present, lacking an appropriate outlet for my, at times, emotional overflow. So I’m forcing myself to go back to writing. No pressure to post every week on a certain day (sorry guys), but I have to write something everyday.

When I was in high school, and the first year or so of college I maintained a diary at freeopendiary.com.  Do you remember that site? (Don’t bother looking for my diary, they went on a deleting spree a number of years ago, and it is gone).  I wrote any and all of my business online for people to read, and I would hope and pray for comments and advice. I’d hope that people in the internet world would care about how I was doing.  Needless to say, they didn’t.

I have found in my course of study there is some debate going on about whether writing for others to read is a truly, justifiable reason to write.  I always get the feeling that “true” writers feel that it is taboo: that a real writer writes solely for the craft of writing– like any other pursuant of the arts. It’s true we certainly don’t do it because we expect to make lots of money– but we do hope that we can reach people on a profound level while making lots of money. That would make us really happy, knowing that people give a enough of a crap about what we are saying to actually pay us.

I used to write for myself. I enjoyed when I came up with a particular line, passage or poem that I loved for the sheer way it sounded. Once upon a time , I wrote just to organize my thoughts, or figure something out. I’d write because I was bored. My teenage years were filled with angst and drama: I needed an outlet.

Working for a movie theater when I was sixteen, I’d often find myself in the unfortunate position as the ticket taker on a slow night. I’d flip over the back of movie schedules and just write and write. About what, I can’t remember.  I have so many notebooks and random papers stashed away, you’d think I’d had an addiction to writing.  I’m not like that anymore. It seems that life has gotten in the way.

Right now in my life I’m dealing (barely) with all sorts of stress. And instead of expressing myself the way I used to, I’ve been bottling. At this rate I’ll burst like mentos in a coke bottle.

So now, I write to be heard. Blogging is such a public activity– I mean, I can’t tell you everything. I would like to have a job one day. But I write for you guys/gals out there reading. It’s nice to know that someone out there is listening, and that someone can hear me. (And I hope you aren’t judging me.) I spent a lot of time in my life hurting (as nine-year-old me can attest to), and I just want to be able to communicate, and work through my fears and insecurities.

Writing Black Characters

I’m not sure how much I’ve told you in terms of specifics about the characters in my thesis. Probably nothing because in general I like to keep everything about my stories a secret until I’m satisfied with them. But I will say this: my main characters are black.  Race does not determine my characters’ personality attributes, but I wanted them, on some level, to be able to relate to me and relate to a largely  underrepresented (and inaccurately portrayed) population of people.

In the United States we have this normalization of the white character.  If you start reading a story, and there are no pictures of people on the cover of the book, or no mention of race, you will automatically assume that character is white.  Why wouldn’t they be, right? It annoys me, sometimes, that I have to mention how dark the character’s skin is, or the curly-coily texture of their hair, or describe some other distinguishing feature that makes them “black,” when in fact, race is irrelevant to the journey the character must experience.  Still, if I want to give a voice to those invisible, black characters, I have to deliberately make them so.  Black characters will never be normalized in any genre of American Literature except in that Urban/African American Interest that I’m not too fond of.

That being said, I have very few models of “normal” black characters written by authors of any race. Nor have I found stellar advice on how to write amazing black characters whose race isn’t their most distinguishing feature. (The most recent character  I can think of now is Rue, from the Hunger Games. Granted she isn’t a main character, but I bet you didn’t even realize she was black until you saw the film, did you?)

And then, there are all these rules for portraying black characters. Skin color, hair texture, and dialect, to name a few, always matter. Why??!! Because many people on the internet are worried about appearing racist or racially insensitive.  I can’t blame them because there are no prototypes. For instance you can’t use words like “nappy” (especially if you’re white) because somebody will be offended.  And that may be true, but I think we are missing the point here.

I think the challenge with portraying race, without it being a story about race, is that many non-white people (and characters) have had their race influence their life experiences and perceptions about the world.  That’s simply a difficult fact to get around.  But you have to remember, not every story is about race.  The love story you may be trying to tell may have nothing to do with race. The story of a young woman trying to repair the relationship with her mother also may have little or nothing to do with race. I struggle, sometimes, not to make it about race if I don’t think race is an important factor.

So here is my advice to black writers, or any writers of color (white people, this may help you too, but no guarantees). Think about the last time you were writing or telling a story about yourself, and the moral or punchline had nothing to do with race. Remember how you portrayed your actions, the things you said, how you reacted to them, and what was going on in your environment that you responded to? You weren’t thinking about being a “person of color” the whole time, were you? You were thinking about yourself and the situation.  You were just a person with a particular problem, just like any other person with their particular problem.  You portray a black character the same way you’d portray any other character: as a person who just happens to be black.

If you find that your mind is so enmeshed in stereotypes, and you have no other perception of black people then the pitiful stereotypes seen on American TV, watch the UK TV show, Misfits, watch the web series Awkward Black Girl, and the Unwritten Rules.   Watching these shows has given me a bit more confidence as a black writer portraying “normal” black characters. Despite almost every movie, play or TV show we’ve seen in American history, there can be “normal” black characters. Beware, if you are uncomfortable with black women being portrayed as beautiful, strong, intelligent and attractive to men of all races, stay away. Yet, if that’s what you’ve been waiting for, maybe these shows can inspire you too.

Getting Motivated

One of the hardest things to overcome as a writer is a lack of motivation.  I don’t really believe in writer’s block (more on that another day).  But I do believe in extreme laziness.  So how do you push past these feelings?

Ask yourself, is this really what I want to do? Do you really want to write?  When I think about the answer to this question sometimes I want to say no.  One of my true passions is singing.  I love to sing– and if I’m not writing to process a hard time or whatever, I’m singing it out.  I’m not awful– I probably could be really good at it.  I just never really pursued anything outside of high school. I remember filling out my college application for UM, wondering if instead of checking an undecided major, I should have checked voice.  But then I’d have to go to an audition and certainly be rejected. There was too much risk in pursuing that dream.

So back to my original question: Is this what I want to do? To answer: in many ways, yes.  As much as I love to sing, I’d be content just doing it at church on Sundays.  I really don’t want to be a famous singer. (Famous writer? Now that I’m okay with)   So, I went with my number 2 passion, which is writing. I’ve gone so far as to get my master’s degree in it.  But the last thing I want to do is work on anything related to it.  The sad part is, I watch online TV all day instead of just writing what I want to write.  I don’t know why I can’t waste time doing something worthwhile.  If I’m going to do something constructive, I feel like it absolutely has to be school.

You always hear people saying: “follow your dreams.”  And in this world, you can’t always skip the boring crap and just follow your dreams.  I don’t have a trust fund that I can live off of while I start my businesses, write my novels, and move to some fancy apartment in LA while I audition for record labels.  Real life for the majority of us doesn’t work that way.

I don’t feel like writing a thesis.  I want total creative freedom over my story.  I want to write with un-yielded inspiration and passion.  Sometimes I feel like my story has been hijacked. (no offense professor.) I want ideas to come to me as I write.  That’s part of the fun.  Yet, writing a creative thesis is not like that.  I have a freaking outline for my story. I don’t even write outlines for academic papers.  I find outlines constricting and awful.  Who knows what you’ll discover while writing?

Ironically enough, I found a quote from one of my school readings that fits this situation perfectly by Donald Murray (as quoted in Composition Pedagogies by Gary Tate, Amy Rupiper and Kurt Schick):

The writer is constantly learning from the writing what it intends to say.  The writer listens for evolving meaning…The writing itself helps the writer see the subject.

I feel like my artistic creativity is being constrained and squashed into a tiny little box.

I want to be a writer but I have BILLS that must be paid.  I have to get a job to pay those bills. And in order to get a job I have to get my degree and take professional exams. And to get the master’s and pass the tests I have to do all the boring crap I don’t feel like doing.  And it goes on and on and on.   But if this is what I want to do, I have to do all the boring crap.

I have to look past all of the stuff in front of me and look at the big picture.  I have to see those words: “#1 New York Times Best Selling Author Talia Clay.”  I have to see my master’s degree framed and mounted on the wall.  I have to see my accomplishments in action so I can continue moving forward.

I never understood why self-help authors tell people to make vision boards. I get it now. Vision boards let you see your accomplishments before they happen. They inspire you.  They remind you why you’re busting your ass doing bullshit you don’t care about. They give you hope.

Hope, in and of itself, is the best motivator.

Advice for Starting Your Thesis

I shouldn’t have started my thesis, yet.  And I should have followed the advice of all those who have gone before me.  I am way over my head. I’m finishing up my master’s degree– if an entire year remaining counts as finishing up– and it has been an extremely tumultuous journey.  Here is some advice that I didn’t follow, but should have:

Don’t start your thesis while taking a class. Everybody says this, but they don’t tell you why.  There are actually a few reasons.  The first being that your thesis may no longer feel like a priority.  You schedule some far off deadline (mine is September 1, 2012) to turn in 50 pages.. Even if you have intermittent deadlines, like I do, they still seem relatively far away compared to that 30 minute presentation that is due in 2 weeks. So what do I focus on? The  presentation.  Suddenly those two weeks have passed and I haven’t read the 2 novel length books on my thesis reading list.  Would you really like to be 500 pages behind on your thesis reading? I don’t think so.

Secondly, no matter how easy you think that class will be, you are wrong. You still need to pass that final class with an A to graduate with honors; and working on the thesis whilst in the class could ruin all of that. Conclusion: Class + Thesis = Burned-out Grad Student

Watch out for surprise homework. Your thesis adviser will assign extra work to “help” you with your thesis. And, it may actually help you take your thesis to the next level.  But having to do an extra character interview on top of the homework for class and other thesis work you’ve already scheduled down to the hour, may be problematic.

Plan your thesis out BEFORE meeting with an adviser.  Your adviser, who has worked with gazillions of know-it-all grad students, will find every gap, crack or hairline fracture in your thesis.  If there is one tiny thing you thought you’d just figure out later, forget about it.  She wants it figured out now, before you start, before there are 36 hours until D-day.  She wants details on things you didn’t even think to think about. Get started NOW on that proposal.  If you are writing fantasy, make sure you have your fictional world air tight.

Getting a full time job is a bad idea.  If you already have a class, and thesis, when do you have time for a job?  My adviser informed me that I ought to be spending 12 hours on homework for every class for which I’m enrolled.  That, and an additional 12 hours a week on thesis crap. So, if you are like me—not good at math—here is the adding all laid out for you:

        

So unless you can work a full time job in 10 hours a week, I suggest you use those Grad Plus loans wisely.

Thesis is all consuming, forget your life.  If you actually like your thesis topic by the time you are done working though the proposal, you won’t want to do anything else.  Your sweet, loving boyfriend will feel neglected.  He will wonder why it is that you stare at your computer when he comes over for a visit.  Your DVR will become full, and by the time you realize it, the season finale of True Blood won’t be recorded.  You will get fat, eating chips, popcorn, and if you’re a girl, chocolate.  The money you spend on your gym membership will go to waste. Say goodbye to your social life, your friends, and anything that interested you prior to thesis.

And lastly, don’t neglect your newly adopted Chihuahua mix.  If you do, even if she is fully trained, she will poop on your floor, lick your laptop and shed hair all over your apartment.

I know you won’t listen to any of the advice I’m giving, as no one ever does.  But I’ll be the first to say “I told you so.”

Five Year Plan (my goals)

five year plan

Image courtesy of toothpastefordinner.com

In life I have been  meandering. I make decisions, yet I’m still not sure how everything is going to work out.  The day to day struggles seem pointless in the long run.  So I am going to take very concrete action and come up with a plan.  Okay, a plan may not be action, but a specific plan will help me know what actions to take.

I’ve been researching on line ideas for designing a five year plan.  I need to figure out what aspects of my life need clarifying. And, I’m still trying to figure out my love-hate relationship with finding a job.

So here is what I have found so far.  There are 9 sectors that I need to clarify and set goals for.  Artistic, Attitude, Career, Education, Family, Financial, Physical, Public Service, and Travel.   Some of these sectors I never even considered setting concrete goals for.  Other ones, like Career, I’ve agonized over for years and years, and not managed to get very far.   That’s what I feel is happening right now, like it did when I was in high school and again while I was in undgrad.  So, here is my five year goals for each of these sectors:

Artistic: Play guitar well enough so I can sing along.  And, have some sort of singing gig, like in church

Attitude: Reduce and manage stress. Be happy.

Career: Have a career I love: writing and helping children.

Education: Completed Master’s Degree in Writing.  Made a decision on whether or not to pursue a Ph.D.

Family: Meet someone that I love and care about and get married.

Financial: Paid off credit card debt. Earn a comfortable living.

Physical: Working out consistently (at least 4 times per week), healthy knees, and my idea of a “perfect” body.

Public Service: Volunteer weekly with an organization helping children in need.

Travel: Visit a foreign country.

Now just because I’ve set out these goals, doesn’t mean I’m all done.  Not even close.  The real key is going to be breaking these goals down yearly, and then monthly. Other wise known as “THE PLAN”  I will spare you the details on everything except for career. This blog is about becoming a writer, no?  I suppose that I can’t become a professional student and live off of student loans forever.

I think the key to setting up my five year plan is deciding what exactly I want to do.  I have a thoroughly low commitment to any one thing.  And even if I pick something, getting a job is a whole other story.  I don’t like job interviews.  I feel uncomfortable bragging about myself to employers, presenting myself as some perfect person in a stuffy business suit.  If money weren’t an issue, I’d write all day and just enjoy life.  I abhor the whole job search process.

So in lieu (partly) of looking for a grown up job, I’m going to get volunteering gig with the Boys and Girl’s Club of America.  It seems like a great first step to do something positive and something that could find me a slice of happiness in this world.

To Be Continued….

Sources:

Create A Personal Five Year Plan

Personal Goal Setting

Toothpaste for Dinner

I’m never getting a real job!

I refuse to get a real job.  I find the idea of being under someone else’s law unbearable.  I want to do my own thing, make my own rules, and do the things I love.   I have so many ideas floating around in my head it’s difficult to know where to start. There is the blog, the non-profit, the restaurant, the novels, the magazine, maybe even a publishing company, idk.  I want to do it big!! And, since I plan on becoming a very wealthy business woman one day (with a very beautiful picture on the cover of Fortune 500 magazine), now is a very good time to get started.   However, I suppose before I do anything I ought to create a business plan.  The question is, where do I start?

I always supposed that working on the novel first would be the way to go.  #1, there are absolutely no start-up costs.  Just me, my computer, my brain, and lots of time.  But in reality, working on my novel won’t be income generating until it becomes published (and hits the NYT bestseller list of course!)  Sound’s really conceited of me, I know, but that’s the truth.  I have this nagging urge to do something income generating right now because I’m ready for a change.

My initial thoughts were to start working on a business: a non-profit that helps kids.   Sure, I could put everything together, and find grants to support the organization.  But building this non-profit could take a while because I have to put together a curriculum.  I’m feeling a sense of urgency to get started on something.

Ever since school started I’ve cut back on my freelance work. I do a little here and there, but not enough to sustain me.  I want my freelance to eventually be my full time work. I’m going to start seeking out more projects again.  This summer will be an opportune time because I will only be taking one class and I will have more time to get it done.  This time around I will be focused on picking up editing projects.  Editing projects require little emotional/inspirational commitment, unlike writing projects.   Besides, I like editing.

Seriously though, I am going to get to work on a business plan. I think I will limit to the scope of what I want to accomplish by the time a graduate.  The goal will be to have the businesses up and running so I will have my “real job.”  Updates coming soon.

P.S.  I’m adding “book reviews” to this site.  Like I’ve mentioned before, more than one blog is too much to keep up with, so I’m just integrating what I already have (really it’s just one post) to this site.  Reading and writing are thoroughly related.

On taking criticism

The hardest thing about being a writer is having to take criticism from your peers, professors, editors or publishers. I hate it.

I remember when I was in elementary school, I was working on some creative form of writing.  The teacher told me that I should modify my work in a certain way, a way I didn’t like.  I felt as if I didn’t have a choice because my teacher was a source of authority and of course, they knew better than me.  Ultimately, I was unhappy with the final outcome of my creative work because they teacher influenced me to change it into something I didn’t like.

I’m not saying that all authoritative figures pressure their students into changing their work into what they think it should be, but my experience in grade school has been pretty representative of my experiences overall.    In college I had a poetry professor who was excellent orchestrating criticism sessions.   I don’t feel that the criticism was any different, she just made the class a safe place.  And as a highly sensitive person, I appreciated that.   One particular poem turned out better in the end because of everyone’s feedback.  My professor helped her students capture their intent, style and voice in their writing.   I’ve forgotten what that feels like because most classes leave me feeling deflated or inadequate.  I can’t be that horrible of a writer.

Because of this criticism problem I’ve adopted a coping strategy.  When working on assignments, creative or otherwise, one of two things usually happens: #1) I will work really hard on the assignment and feel good about it.  or #2) I’ll do a half-assed job, and know it’s a half-assed job and hope its not as bad as I thought.    No matter which route I take (usually # 2), I still get the same about of criticism on my work.  And I’ve found that its much easier to take criticism on work where I’ve done a half-assed job and know the criticism is warranted.  However, when I pour my blood soul and tears into the work, the criticism stings.

People making comments and suggestions is not the problem.  The problem is when they are trying to fit it into some cookie cutter mold that satisfies their expectations.  The problem is when my best still isn’t good enough.  And that’s what happened in class this week.  I gave a whole hearted effort to my assignment due this week, and I don’t remember one positive comment from this week, not even from the professor.

I’m not going to lie.  I like my writing style.  It’s taken a long time, but I’ve found a voice I’m comfortable with.  And I think that when I work really hard at something, it comes out pretty well.  Not worthy of what I got this past week. When I come up with something I like, it will be extremely difficult to get me to change it.  Sometimes, I will have spent hours agonizing over a phrase and eventually get it to a place that I like.  Then, my commenters say that line is a piece of sh*t, then what?

Especially with poetry, I take the bullsh*t comments and flush them down the toilet.  I roll my eyes at the stupidity of my commenter’s inability to comprehend; yet I also relish in the fact that they will never understand.  But I quit poetry (academically) because its too complicated.  I’ve always seen the world in a strange, unappreciated way.  I wrote a poem about a beautiful girl walking, and her desire to shun peer pressure to be a certain way because of society, and my readers interpreted it as some model trying not to be anorexic or whatever.  I didn’t correct them.  It’s poetry- you are entitled to your read of it.  From your experience, your personal life, the writing may speak to you in that way.  And I think that any type of writing can work like that.  Readers will see the world you create in your writing through the tint of their reading glasses, not yours.  They read what they want to; they’ll skip what they don’t.

Now all of this gets incredibly complicated when your grade is being determined by someone who doesn’t get you, or at least refuses to see your perspective.

I want to quit writing, sometimes

Some people praise me for chasing my dream, but I have to be honest, it kind of sucks. Everyday I say I’m going to be a writer, and at this point in my life, I absolutely hate writing.   I’m not sure if it’s the assignments mandated by my professors, or the lack of interest in the subject matter, but writing sucks. I’m even getting tired of writing blogs about writing. So today, I’m not going to talk about writing. I’m going to talk about other things.

Yesterday, it occurred to me, that maybe, just maybe I have lost interest in my current pursuit because it’s difficult.  That I want to abandon my M.A. in writing because I am not motivated enough to do the work.  But this isn’t the only thing I’ve quit because it got tough.

When I was in undergrad, I was an education major; I wanted to teach and work with children.  I went to my little field experience assignments– Field experience is where you would spend a few hours a week shadowing a teacher.  You help out in her classroom, take notes, and maybe teach a lesson.  I was with a kindergarten class.

This did not work so well for me.  I had to walk 1.5 miles in the hot Florida sun to an elementary school. Funny, because my advisor told me the school was close enough I could throw a rock and hit it. Bullsh*t. Clearly 1.5 miles is not rock throwing distance. Duh.  Anyway, the University of Miami has an elementary school right behind the dorm where I was living at the time, to which I was conveniently NOT assigned.  And my “advisor” had no interest in helping the car-less/bike-less chick out.  Furthermore, I was graded on my personal appearance.  Do you think you would look freshly pressed after walking a mile and half when its 80 degrees out? I don’t think so.

Needless to say, field experience was not fun.   I think I would be lying to myself if I said that having to walk to field experience wasn’t the reason I quit.  But I’m going to lie anyway.  I liked kindergarteners, but they would be boring to teach. ABCs and 123s day in and day out.  That would be the bane of my existence.  I couldn’t do it.  I could have reassessed and said, well, if I don’t want to teach elementary school, who do I want to teach?  But I didn’t, I baled.  That was in 2005 or 2006.

So now, five years later, because I’m struggling with the writing thing, I’m thinking, well maybe I should teach.  I mean, what exactly am I going to do with my writing degree anyway?  If I don’t want to contribute to big business (i.e. advertising/sales/marketing), I have to teach.

Then I think, teaching kids English Literature might be fun.    So then I look online at all the requirements for people without a degree in education.  The page itself is a f*cking headache.  Figuring it out would be a ton of work in and of itself, then getting a temporary certificate would be kind of a pain– all the exams I’ll eventually have to take, paperwork, interviews, etc.  And then, my literature classes prove I don’t analyze literature the “correct” way. What can I say, I have a strange view of the world.  Strange view of the world= Failed FCATs.  And I abandon this whole teaching idea all together.

Where does that leave me? Back focused on writing.  I’m focused on writing, but I’m not truly focused on writing.  I am procrastinating and doing a half-*ssed job. And this is where I am today. I’m about to abandon the whole writing thing and go work at a summer camp.

Now suddenly, looking over some comments my professor made on previous assignments (some positive feedback btw) I thought, I do want to write and be a writer and all that. I just want a job, doing the parts of writing that I love. Not the crappy homework assignment type of writing.

When I see other writers and journalists doing what they love, I envy them.  I envy their success. One of my favorite blogs: Untiligetmarried.com (always hilarious and interesting). That to me is a successful blog.  And I’m sure the author makes good money from it too.  But when I imagine the writing lifestyle for myself, its tough and way more work than I ever thought it would be.

Sometimes I just want stability: a steady, predictable income, a routine, and a schedule, etc.  Actually, I crave stability in my career.  Meanwhile, I think there is no way I could spend my life doing a job I hate. Life is too short to waste.  Yet there is no the stability in writing fiction, poetry and blogs.

Another thing I thought could be a good (yet extremely challenging career move) is to go into publishing.  I will certainly have the right background for it with my Master of Arts in Writing. I don’t necessarily have to be published.  But I will have to move to New York City to get a job as an editorial assistant for a publishing house.  And I truly believe that would be an interesting job.  My only hesitation is, does it leave room for me to do my own writing on the side?  I’m not really sure it does, so this career idea is on hold for the moment.

So where do I go from here?  I think I really am going to give the teaching thing serious thought.  This idea has been floating around in my head for a long time now.  Maybe I should give it some serious thought.  I’ll go shadow a few different high school and middle school English teachers, especially those that teach creative writing.  I’ll let you know how it goes.

Cursing, Swearing and F-Bombs

So I’ve been thinking a lot about cuss words.  Is it really that bad to use swear words when writing? Some people feel that being vulgar when you write is somewhat cop-out: That using curse words is an indication of a limited vocabulary. I don’t think so.

For me cursing is not really about expressing anger or anything like that.  It can be used that way, however,vulgarities can add personality to a writer’s voice.  Now, I’m not saying drop an F-bomb every other word.  And when I mean cuss words, I’m not necessarily talking about the big scary ones: the A-word, B-word, C-word, D-word, F-Word, S-word, etc. (Please don’t ask me what the C-word is, if you don’t know, you don’t need to know) I’m not talking about those words.  I’m referring to language that, in general, is less than pretty.

For example, in a travel entry for my travel writing class, I talked about whoring myself out to the airlines by taking all different ones during my holiday travels.  My professor said that publishers may not like that word whoring, and I ought to have another word handy.  I suppose some people just don’t like cuss words when they are reading. I guess.  And I can see how swear words can become problematic if aren’t used correctly. It truly is a balancing act.  But coarse language comes as a package deal with my writing.  I don’t really use curse words that much. I prefer to liken my style to the usage of rough language instead.

See, I have an extreme dislike for flowery language.  When I started writing, I started with poetry.  I remember reading the flowery language and thinking it was beautiful.  Yet I could never write like that.  If I try to write about caressing breezes and foam dancing on ocean waves, it doesn’t sound authentic.  Does it sound like me, to you?

Part of finding my voice as a writer just meant accepting that flowery language, when I use it, sounds fake.  That’s why I like to use coarse language when I write.

Now what about you?  If you wanna curse, go ahead and curse.  Just make sure it sounds authentic and it’s absolutely necessary.  Curse words must fit the overall tone of the narrator or character. Thats it!