Happy Hump Day!
(credit: freelance cartoonist Gavin Aung Than)
I love listening to this commencement this speech by bestselling author (& many other things) Neil Gaiman, addressing the 2012 University of the Arts graduating class. The above cartoon shows the gist of it. It’s one of those great things to listen to when you’re down or when you just want to hear some great advice. It’s aimed at those who wish to pursue a creative lifestyle/profession, but I believe all can use his words of wisdom.
When I was thinking about my first post of the year, my first me post, not counting cover reveals etc…, I wanted it to be something that becomes strong foundation for 2014. Three days ago, I read what would become the inspiration for this post. The post was from a speech given by another bestselling author, Junot Diaz, at World Up Bookshop in 2012. I reblogged the post onto my Tumblr, and you can read the full speech here.
In the speech, he talks about writing and how admitting your privilege is crucial to becoming a better writer. He cites the writing community as a way to “check your privilege,” saying it’s important to have others read over your work because while you might not catch a stereotype etc…(because you grew up thinking it was okay) someone else might.
My favorite passages are these:
The most toxic formulas in our cultures are not pass down in political practice, they’re pass down in mundane narratives. It’s our fiction where the toxic virus of sexism, racism, homophobia, where it passes from one generation to the next, and the average artist will kill you before they remove those poisons.
As a writer, if you’re really trying to write something new, you must figure out, with the help of a community, how can you shed these fucking received formulas. They are received. You didn’t come up with them. And why we need fellow artists is because they help us stay on track.
The trangressiveness of art has to deal with confronting people with the real…All these things [cliches, stereotypes, etc…] are the way we hide from encountering the real. But art, art is just about that.
-Junot Diaz, World Up Bookshop, 2012
In 2013, I created (a lot) of good art. In 2014, I aim to create better art. I’ll never forget my first writing award. I was in third grade, it was a regional UIL competition, and I won third place. As a note was the phrase “good, better, best,” for I had misused some grammar throughout the essay. I’ve made good art, I aim to make better so that I can be my best.
Recognizing our privileges isn’t an easy task. It takes a lot of self reflectiveness that most don’t want to begin. It’s not pretty process or a neat one. I know because I’ve started, and I’ve been shocked how many stereotypes and such appear in my writing that I’ve sworn I don’t use. As Junot Diaz says, “[writers] want [cliches, stereotypes] in there because they feel lost without it.”
We all rely on cliches and stereotypes and shortcuts. It’s human nature, but it doesn’t have to be your nature. And so as I close this post, I encourage you to push yourself past what you know into a land of the unknown where we, together, can kill these mundane narratives and shed these received formulas. This isn’t about diversity or tolerance or acceptance, it’s so much more than that. This is a way of life and a growing into an artist, one that makes better art.
Happy New Year! I hope it’s one that makes you very happy 🙂