The other day I finished a new essay. It is about a girl I met and used to sleep with and the awful end of her life. Despite me not making it dark and easily readable as tragic it was painful to write.
As I’ve started writing more essays I’m realizing that I almost automatically go to very dark places. I find the sharp snags in my psyche and dig til it bleeds. I think that is because I believe in sharing not just the nice things. I’d rather be real about the fact that I have seen and experienced some terrible things that led to or situations that I was led into by joy.
I never want to be reduced to being Essay Barbie.
What I mean by that is that I never want to be one of those women essayists who are always fly. Their nails are done, their hair is done they never have the shits or run out of tampons at inopportune times. They are those authors that frankly bore me.
It’s the men who are always well dressed and never say the wrong thing.
It’s the romantic comedy type of cutely quirky but not really deeply flawed kind of thing. I just don’t like it and it’s not what I want to read so it’s not what I’m going to write.
However, as a Black author sometimes there is that pressure to be a “Positive Black Woman”. The issues of wanting to write what the fuck I want to and the community pressure to represent “well” can be overwhelming and awful.
Earlier I was reading Tayari Jones blog and saw this:
She said he hadn’t, but that because she was a black writer and wasn’t writing “street lit”, self publishing was the only way to see her work in print.
I had this moment of pure rage and then sadness because I got the very same advice from a “professional”. Not just when I was very young and a little unfocused but almost constantly. It’s frankly awful.
It’s awful when someone reads say one of my less porny pieces and in thinking they are being complimentary says something like, “I didn’t think you were Black” or “wow I wouldn’t have guessed a woman wrote that.” These are things that people have said to me about some of my recent work and it makes me want to cry.
Sometimes I really want to participate in conversations about these things around the literary community but I am honestly just too tired. I’ve spent so much of my life trying to explain and justify and stand up for myself that I just don’t want to anymore.
I want to write my things. I don’t want to discuss why it’s not okay for White people to tell me I’m not oppressed or for anyone to explain to me why whatever I wrote isn’t very feminist of me or whatever. I am wandering from my point.
The point is I want to write what the fuck I want to write. I want to submit it to magazines and perhaps have them publish it or not. I would like editors to tell me the stories/essays/whatever are super interesting and awesome but they aren’t what they want. I would like editors to send me form letters that begin Dear, Author.
I am really too exhausted for this. I didn’t really sleep last night and forgot what I was really trying to say.
Tomorrow I am going to try and talk about community and my inability to really engage.