One of the things I am discovering I’m terrible at is being my own student.
Over the years I’ve developed a particular style of learning in order to teach myself how to write about things I want to write about. For years, I blogged about a lot of personal shit and then I figured out how I like to write a personal essay.
I will read the fuck out of a type of thing, write hot garbage about the thing, rewrite, read more rinse repeat until I feel like I’ve learned about it enough to confidently write the thing the way I want to write it.
This has mostly worked out very well.
However, I am an impatient ass asshole. I have been taking notes. I have pages in my Pash Planner dedicated to my bucketlist of writing related shit. Most of my bucketlist writing shits are things I’m heavily interested in and also heavily invested in writing about them my way. I want to find ways to use my lil voice to talk about subjects/things I traditionally might think are over my head.
I am really excited but, I want to be done with the learning. I want to stop writing hot shit about these things and get to the good stuff.
It is very frustrating to me.
And I have to laugh a little, when I was a baby potato trying to learn stuff I was the same way. I’d have baby potato rage because okay good example.
When I was in the fifth grade, I tried to read Romeo and Juliet. I couldn’t and it made me so angry I studied Willy Shakes for a FULL year teaching myself the syntax, the vocabulary etc. I did it out of spite and then out of love.
I’m at the point where at least one of the bucketlist things has been tentatively begun. A memoir flavored story about how JT Leroy and that whole thing fucked me up, a bit of a reader memoir, a bit of me questioning why it is that POC especially Black folks are never allowed a certain flavor of confessional work without being expected to finish it out with a connection to the world/issue and some teaching.
I’ve started it five fucking times and I think this last start was probably the best one. I have to sit back and laugh a little. I always ask, WHY AM I LIKE THIS….
This is how ambition functions in me and how my human competition streak goes. I’m not fighting y’all. I’m not trying to outrun y’all. I want to satisfy myself. And I am the hardest person to deal with.
That said, I am enjoying how it’s going.
I think that’s all I have energy for right now. I’m fighting some intense nausea and just not barfing is pretty much taking all my energy.
I’m dreaming of my ultimate literary event. My event. So also things might get NSFW.
An assemblage of grown ass folks because I don’t write kids lit. First the house lights come down and there’s a stage and a pole. A THICC stripper comes out, her act starts with this song. Thicc means: A descriptor meant to designate a woman with a shapely figure and is typically somewhat chubby. They often will have an hourglass or pear shaped body with emphasis on the shape and size of their buttocks and thighs. It’s my party, I want fat strippers.
Start with some slow grind.
Maybe if I was dressed right we could do a little duet to something like.
And I would run it more like a burlesque show. No live tipping just some rapt attention for some amazing stripping.
Then a little break and a reader. Possibly someone who writes erotica or something else super sexy. Then we’d need to bring things up a bit and I would have my own personal twerk team. I’d really need a multi gender, multi sized twerk team in all black and everybody in booty shorts. And I would need a lot of my people who love twerking as much as I do to be up front to cheer.
Post twerk team, I would need to have another break. Maybe for a little twerk contest? Poets twerk. Readers twerk. All butts all skills welcome.
We’d wind down the stripping and twerking and I’d read. I’d read some poems and maybe some porn. I’d do an ask me anything. Or maybe I’d read from the work being launched and tell a story. I tell funny stories.
Actually wait, I think after twerking there’d be an intermission. Time for folks to pee, smoke, grab a nibble or something to drink or medicate.
THEN I’d read and storytime.
After that, I’d post my chunky ass at a table and sign shit. I’d likely stay put because mingling at these events never fails to freak my whole shit out.
And I’d have the most fabulous witchy art hoe outfit. Titties out. Face beat for the Gods. Very glam, a bit creepy.
I mean………..if I’m gonna fantasize.
If the world was my oyster I’d have some live music too. I’d invite artists I love and have them have tables of stuff to buy or trade. I’d invite zinesters and sex workers. Have a big ole bazaar of awesome and sexy.
I’d ask friends with patreons and things who couldn’t be there to send me business cards to tuck into swag bags.
I wouldn’t want it to be only about me but about us.
That’s how I dream about the literary life I want.
The literary life I imagined is full of sexy beauty and me having the ability to support my community by providing events or just space to say, hey you like my shit, check out this shit here.
This post is brought to you by me having to navigate the Default and Correctness of Whiteness in my literary life this week.
A few things.
I’m very low on spoons. I will not link to any of the trash I discuss, you’ll have to google first. Also if you don’t know what I mean by default Whiteness, or Whiteness as a concept and destructive construct, do not comment and be mad. Either google or go watch this puppy video cause shit is about to get real.
There are a few articles going around that are anti-sensitivity reader and I’ve been involved with three very distinct (as in zero overlap) conversations about it with White people who have all made the same assertions that sensitivity editors/readers are:
Looking to profiteer off of censorship.
Will change the voice of the original author.
Don’t know what they are doing.
Are “forcing” identity politics into writing.
Are actively trying to as a whole rook poor White people out of money basically.
AGAIN for the cheap seats. Some things are censorship other things are not. Things that are not censorship*:
Being told no.
Being critiqued and dare say I fucking DRAGGED and publicly read for filth due to writing, editing or publishing fuckshit.
Being told that you’ve written, said, produced or published something actively harmful.
Being called an asshole (taken from a real comment to me by someone RE: the Paris Review post/s I made way back).
Not being given primacy in writing about a thing.
These are things that come up constantly in my lit life. Most of the time cries of censorship begin when White authors feel threatened by POC talking to them about their use of their Whiteness when it is a problem.
By that I mean things like, saying hey just because you can write about something, doesn’t automatically make yours the voice. This is what I was talking about in this entry. And in saying it, I spent months being harassed and often the first “criticism” was that I a writer am pro censorship because I said they could have used the opportunity to feature a Black Poet during such a time of historic Black action.
Here’s the thing. I am against censorship. Censorship as enacted by religious concerns and the government.
Publishing is not magic, it doesn’t happen by vote and publishing companies are not the government. Nobody is entitled to publishing. Nobody is entitled to be the primary voice on an issue just because they can talk.
I go on at length about this because over the past, let me be generous and say five years specifically, it is only White people who apparently lose all ability to think critically and if I a Black person, dare to correct or instruct them, or even just talk about Weaponized Whiteness (and by extension using Whiteness as both Correctness and the Default) suddenly, it is censorship. That is not how censorship works.
Now in the context of a sensitivity reader, the conversations I was a part as if the very idea that they, Paragons of Correct Whiteness they were, could ever fuck up writing something.
Okay look. I fully believe that you and everyone else in the world can write what the fuck they want, when the fuck they want.
I also believe that is you say, write a children’s book that portrays a slave child as a happy little worker yeah, you deserve to get dragged.
Now, what amuses and frustrates me in these things is the assurance that oozes from the assertions of how terrible “identity politics” are and how, if only those people could see, Whitey Whitepants writer didn’t mean to write a racist polemic that would give Lovecraft a boner, GOSH.
Of COURSE a White writer or a straight writer etc who is trying to create or delve into the world of marginalized peoples is going to likely not always do a bang up job. No wait let me put it into a different context.
If you are a nerd like me, you probably see stuff in TV or movies are like, WHO THE FUCK GREENLIT THIS SHIT, THAT IS NOT HOW THAT WORKS…
That’s reasonable right? It’s reasonable to expect that something presented as a professional thing, was researched beyond wiki.
So why would it be any different than writers who are writing say Black folks in their stories to check in with real live Black people to see if they are doing things wrong?
If your voice is so fragile as an author, it can’t withstand something like:
Hey Whitey Whitepants writer, here in chapter 4 you have X character seeming to have an “urban” meltdown calling the one Black character homie over and over again and doing their MTV showed me what Negroes be doin schtick and it is not great for these reasons:
That is how it works. This is a professional service, that is not designed to censor or ruin your precious work. It’s to help you uncenter yourself and your experience and have a moment to connect with your readership on a far deeper level.
The other problem I have is this.
Aside from perambulating around for about 40 years in a Black Queer body, I have been studying, writing about, talking about, dealing with racism for about that long. Depending on who I’m talking to, sometimes (as y’all know if you read me regularly) I use very academic language, sometimes I don’t. I code switch like a mother fucker.
That said, for the last two weeks or so here’s how those conversations have gone. Without rancor on my part.
Person posts link to shitty article about the terrors of Sensitivity readers/editors or posts a link to a blog post by a semi famous White lady writer: OMG They are going to censor us and ruin our work! How terrible! We can’t stand for this.
Me: That is not what sensitivity readers/editors are for. They do (insert examples of stuff they do) nobody -has to use them- dude you’re fine.
Random other White people: fall all over each other to “correct” me (not that they use or have acted as sensitivity readers), explain to me how having this option is automatically censorship, how it is an attempt to co-opt or otherwise fool innocent White writers into being SUPER PC.
Me: ………..no it is just like asking an expert in a field you’re writing in.
Them: NO IT IS NOT.
The problem isn’t the arguments. The problem is that even in instances where I am/have shared my work/thoughts on these things, Whiteness is always given the immediate trust that they are correct. Even when they are loudly proclaiming something that is dead ass wrong.
Then, regardless of what I say or how it is said, it takes another White person to come along and occasionally repeat what I’ve said verbatim and then, OH WOW I NEVER THOUGHT OF IT THAT WAY.
I’ve spoken with MANY poc about this. 90% of the time, we are thought to be wrong. People say things like: knee jerk, bullying, mean, trying to “turn” someone PC, that we’re silencing, pro-censorship.
If the people speaking up happen to be Black women, the language is carefully not overtly racist but, the impression is always either that Black women are mean and aggressive or liars or otherwise are the perpetrators of violence even when what’s actually happened is that folks have been given some high level major education on anti-Blackness.
Intent and impact are vastly different and White folks, men especially if your first instinct is to “prove” someone wrong, maybe it’s time to examine that. More so if part of your remarks are to say that you don’t actually know about the thing and don’t use it.
Now, I could have posted this in the spaces I was talking about but it is easier for me to leave them. As I’ve said many times in the last year, y’all I have written about this shit so fucking much. And you know what the actual worst thing is?
It’s not the Default and Correct Whiteness.
It is the fact that it doesn’t matter how I talk about these things, because I am Black and use words, I’m put into the ANGRY NEGRO corner and then White folks who don’t like what I have to say can be like, oh well you’re so angry I can’t listen to this/take it in.
Tone policed to fucking death.
And I’m not mad. It’s painful.
It hurts to be dismissed out of hand because White is Right.
It hurts because writing and literature have been my driving passions since I read a book about a pregnant dog when I was 3 years old. It is my blood and my bones. It gets me through bullshit ass days at my dayjob. It has led me to meeting some of the most important and most wonderful people I’ve ever met in my life. It has led me to my chosen family and to a place in my actual soul that feels free. It is my passion and my companion and the work of my heart and I love it so much.
And my love of literature and writing is the only reason why I keep talking about these things. I don’t try to change shit I don’t care about.
And yet, all this passion and there have been moments where I’ve literally said hey, person you are causing me harm right now or I’ve said that I’m hurt and you know what?
I’m not a White woman so White folks are relentless. Harm to me doesn’t exist because I’m always perceived as angry, aggressive and scary.
And after so many years of trying so hard to be a good literary citizen and use my knowledge about these issues to help- I’m just kinda done.
This entry wouldn’t have happened if I didn’t have a migraine and need to keep my brain busy at work and I needed to get out some hurt without yelling at folks.
The take is this.
When used as the only measure of calm, competency Whiteness will fail. Not only will it fail but in the context of the literary community, will drive folks out and if that’s the point hurrah! If that’s not the intended consequence, then think about how you interact with POC before you decide they are wrong about the thing you don’t even know about.
*There are times when these behaviors are rooted in the spirit of censorship and are actual censorship as in done by the government but we’ll talk about that later.
To answer an age old question, often I get my ideas from tidbits of things.
I tend to refer to it in my head as my fly on the wall inspo.
I get a lot of inspiration from tiny pieces of things, day to day happenings on facebook friends statuses, tidbits of conversations I overhear when I am commuting, the sound of an accent on a particular word or a voice. I notice and remember the hitch in how someone walks.
I tend to get specific inspiration from particular voices, I hear them as the narrators/characters as I write them. It’s almost like I have an audiobook while I’m writing the thing. The voice often just starts yammering and I need to write to keep up.
The other thing that happens is a full story just craps itself in my brain. It is like, what if this, this and this and then this, GO GO GO GO GO GOGO.
When I was a young potato writer, a lot of the time I thought that was the end of the game. Voice(s) poop out the story, I catch as much as I can of it on paper and then it is done. Now, I realize that often the initial poo is just the framework. It is the uh, well, we know I’ll murder a metaphor so let’s go with continuing the poo theme.
The first rush of getting the story down is like having gas. First is the bubble guts and then, PFFFFFFFFFFT.
So initially it is super exciting and feels amazing. I mean, is there anything more satisfying in life than having your belly blowing up or having bubble guts and FINALLY, whoosh. You fart. You feel your belly deflate. Maybe it makes a hilarious noise, maybe it is just such a relief you want to lay down. That is how that first expression of the big idea.
Okay, I’ll stop with the poop.
There is a physical component to this particular type of inspiration for me. I feel pressure in my body to get it out (like a fart), then the relief of getting that part done and then often I feel like I HAVE to get to the tinkering, the rewrites and the remolding of the story until it is what it wants to be.
I feel the pressure in my belly (like right now I’m constipated as hell) and while I work on these stories, I squirm around, trying to get into that magical comfortable place where I can find relief. The act of writing becomes a mix of the intellectual and the physical. I ride the space between bodily doings and brain doings.
It isn’t really a dignified state. I feel very animal and out of control in this state. Whatever alien voice or thing that the story needs to be, takes me over and I obsess about it until it is what it tells me it wants to be.
This is sort of how I used to imagine it felt to be taken by the muse. In all the flowery, purple prose I read as a kidlet, this is what I thought it meant. Except not as gassy or poopy, I thought it would be more sexy.
It’s not sexy.
It is pleasurable in the very base sense of the filthy body and the noisy brain doing something together for once. Co operating rather than my brain playing forty seven radio stations while my feet go numb because I ignore that I have a body.
I store so much in my body, when the moment happens that I can move some of that onto the page, I feel like I’ve done something right.
On my mind. Right now, y’all should check out this hashtag on tweeter. And related read this. See also this.
Please note: I only use the word woman/women very loosely and to include Genderqueer/Femme presenting living folks.
How are these things related? Here’s what I’m thinking.
On the hashtag you’ll see it relates to Ebony which is a traditional Black publication. A lot of Black women write/have written for it. If you look at some of the responses they fall in line with the other link.
Everybody loves to ask or demand Black women do work. Whether it is the exhortation to get ourselves out there and hustle. HUSTLE and get those bylines to show the WHOLE goddamn world what we can do.
I’m here for it.
There is a trap in it. When the places that are supposed to be here for Black people, women in this case fucking fail. This is exploitation and as a larger issue, I see this constantly with freelancing. This is another reason why I hate it so much.
For me personally, living with my particular set of marginalizations I cannot fuck around with people who don’t pay what is agreed upon.
While there is an absolute cachet to scoring those home run bylines, there is peril. As with any industry, when you’re loud about how those in power fuck up, shit gets real. I’ve watched it play out time and time again from writing groups to twitter etc.
We say, hey fuck you pay me. Or say, this editor at X magazine will not respond to my need to be paid. And things can get so bad. Part of the reason for this is that nobody trusts or believes women, especially Black women.
If we say, I’ve been mistreated-BOOM suddenly we’re just being big ole meany face bully gossips. Echoes of rape culture and sexism and Misogynoir.
Now, the person who started the dialogue about Ebony, has been subject to shitty ass trolling especially from other Black folks and from supposed professionals within Ebony. Ebony is not some little three person zine struggling for postage money. This is huge money, this is old money and like so many other things will celebrate Black women out of one side of their mouths and steal food off their table and talk shit about us from the other side.
This is from the big leagues. This is supposed to be the right way to be a writer or to be an activist. These are the people who’s nod we’re supposed to earn.
And they treat us like this.
So, some people like me decide, you know what?
Fuck your legitimate money.
Not that I won’t occasionally get me some but overall, nah.
For a variety of reasons.
So, as y’all know if you read me regularly, I have my donation area and my tipjar and my venmo. It is how a lot of people I know who put in a hell of a lot of work help ourselves survive.
For the type of work I do, for the type of activism I prefer and how I am able to create the shit I’m good at, patronage (YUP we’re going there again) is an ideal model. I have my dayjob and that mostly pays my rent and I have my art. When the mundane parts of my life are paid for, I’m a motherfucking artist juggernaut.
And a lot of the time, my tipjars and whatnot make up for the intense emotional labor I am prone to do in spaces where, a lot of folks don’t appreciate shit.
So then along comes this person who abused their platform to really shit on those of us who aren’t operating within spitting distance of legit money acceptability.
I’ll quote from the post I linked to above:
They discourage Black activists and organizers from Liberation, and inspire them to chase individual fame and fortune from white power. They reinforce respectability and funnel shared resources into their own crusty Black hands. They use us when needed, but abandon us when necessary.
This is why I will not and cannot fuck with people like this. And the person who started the bullshit about what is and isn’t acceptable in terms of the hustle and doing the work is the type person who helped drive me away from freelancing.
This culture of deciding that you ONLY count if you are acceptable. If you don’t tell, if you are a Good Negro, if you get by in an acceptable way is pure fucking garbage. There is nothing revolutionary or cute about replicating the macro world problems in a microcosm.
That said, there is money in aligning yourself with the “right” way.
I mean, that blogger is making some coin right?
Ebony is still making them coins.
I respect the hustle. Y’all know the old saying, don’t hate the player, hate the game. I hate the game.
Fuck that game.
That game and trying to play it really almost killed any desire I had to ever write another essay. These behaviors hurt me in what at times feels like an irrevocable way.
On the other hand, it does fire me up. Knowing that I am doing exactly what I need to do in order to be the best creator I can be is amazing.
Yes, these things are still exhausting and painful. It hurts me as a Black Femme/mostly womanish type person to see Black women shit on each other to get ahead.
It hurts my actual soul. It hurts my heart because these are the tools of White Supremacy and if we can’t stop using them against each other what chance do we have of expecting White people to not use them against us?
Now here’s the thing.
I have zero expectation of agreeing with or kumbayahing our way out of it.
What I hope is that at the very least we stop shitting on each other for cash.
I know, we ALL need to make money. Y’all know I am about that hustle and grind life. But not at the exposure of people who are also marginalized.
I’ve been writing a lot of magical Black folks this week. Not just in the Daiyuverse but, another mermaid story, a high fantasy story about a cat woman and her female King lover.
I always have a soundtrack. I don’t write well without music. When I’m working on these particular stories, I feel both weight and lightness. I feel the weight of representation and the constancy of the fight to be visible in the lit world.
I feel the weight of navigating this world as both a reader and a creator. I hear shit from people like this, (seriously read that hashtag), I watch known abusers and rapists get airtime and still have to deal with shit like:
Me: writes story with magical negroes all in and through it. Them: UM ISN’T THAT A MAGICAL NEGRO TROPE #WhatWoCWritersHear
So, I detach and try to immerse myself in Magical Blackness because there, I don’t have to deal with this shit. I can write what I want to write and be magical as fuck and it feels okay. It feels comfortable. I don’t have to think about the pitches gone unanswered, the unpaid predatory “opportunities” extended to me, the attempts to exploit my emotional labor all of the things that make the industry part of writing hell for me.
So I escape.
I create worlds where me and my ilk don’t have to fight. Well we do but it’s not the sort that takes food off of our tables and out of our children’s mouths.
This is the world we POC and especially multiply marginalized folks navigate. And sometimes, I really just gotta get away from it.
I go to this place of safety even though I know I probably won’t sell a single bit of it.
I know and I go anyway because if I don’t, I’ll just be angry and my stomach will hurt and nothing will ever feel better.
So I keep doing it. I go back to this place and write in it and read in it. I daydream about living a fantasy Artist life and then I go pay bills and juggle and struggle.
So I’ll keep my soundtracks going and go back to my magical words because I have to.
She looked down at the purring cat in her arms and smiled.
“I love him so much. What is his name?”
Before Dr. Emryss could speak the cat opened his eyes, yawned and spoke.
“My name, my dear beauty is Bastien Chevalier DuPuis. I do love you too, you are so brown and big and warm. I never want to leave your arms my love.”
Her eyes widened and she tried to say something like, nice to meet you but nothing came out. She’d seen and heard of shapeshifters resting in animal shapes, heard of those with an understanding of animals but never, one that spoke.
“Bastien, bad cat. I told you not to speak to her. I was going to introduce you two eventually.”
“Forgive me old friend but, she’s just she’s so soft. And so tall. Why didn’t you tell me you had a giantess coming for tea?”
The cat put one of his huge paws on her cheek, when he met her gaze he rubbed his face across her nose and nibbled her cheek.
“Forgive me being forward dear Linda. I can’t help myself. I’m a fool for someone like you.”
I have my little escapes and days like today when I watch the perks of Whiteness elevate the work of a rapist and abuser, and watch folks use their privilege to make money off of shit that they don’t even experience- I need to escape.
I do what I have to in order to be able to write what the fuck I wanna write.
It’s not lucrative, it sure as fuck won’t make me famous but, it still feels damn good.
I’ll end with this. And please do enjoy my soundtrack.
After a really great month for my Patreon, Like the best month ever and I celebrated with some stickers for my planner, a couple of thrifted books and a double credit card payment. I also got a nice lil tip in my Venmo that netted me a couple of coffees and some time to sit down and make some plans.
This morning, I got a long rambly angry note from an anonymous person at a throwaway email address all about how they KNOW I take advantage of people and how I am a (this phrase is verbatim) Welfare Lady in Waiting and how I’m just fleecing people because my writing is not good enough to get the big bucks and shit from publishing.
Now, aside from the sheer saltiness and the fact that they cherry picked things I post about freely on social media as examples of how I’m rooking folks into funding my lavish lifestyle, I noticed that what came across was that this person is bitter as fuck but follows me closely.
Obviously their welfare lady in waiting thing is a racist as fuck, sexist as fuck and comes from what I think is probably a place of hurt that I, a Black person has dared to carve out an artist life of sorts.
Let’s use a super famous and successful White person as an example here. Now, I cannot stand her for many reasons, but Amanda Palmer is gonna be our example. She literally makes more money per thing than I do in a year.
Cruising through the top writing creators, most of them make anywhere from 1200$ up through 12,000$.
The thing is, there is a very long and rich tradition of patronage to artists. All kinds of artists, writers, painters, singers etc. Folks giving people money to live so they can create is something that has gone on forever. What I find interesting about modern life is that in reality, often the argument I hear from people against my own search for patronage is wrapped up in age old stereotypes about Black people.
The uppermost layer revolves around the idea that unless you are extraordinary, if you don’t have ties in the world you work in you have zero access. If you are not the right negro, often the gatekeepers want nothing to do with you unless they are tickled by you.
If you can be an exotic pet for them to talk about to their friends. Or they will fuck you or display you or, at worst steal from you.
Some of those things have happened to me. Way back when, I had the “opportunity” to deal with some mentors who were older White men with money and pretty much they wanted a literate fuckdoll. They wanted to be the one to say they bagged the next Maya and I wasn’t having it.
I have read a lot of artist bios and in so many, patronage of one sort or another was the way through. It provided what we as humans need and what we creatives often need to make our work great.
Now, Whiteness alone doesn’t necessarily protect an artist from being taken advantage of but often it protects against the insults and accusations.
You can even be an actual fraud and frankly, if you’re white enough a lot of people won’t ostracize you. Granted, some fare better than others, but, I think history shows us this is pretty true.
I think I’ve been painfully aware of these things since I was a baby potato writer dreaming of having patrons. I remember reading Henry Miller when I was 14 or whatever and after jerking off, I’d dream about mailing pages to publishers and getting wired money and having beautiful places to visit, having that life and writing wonderful broken things.
I outgrew thinking that was my path, but looking back, I see where Blackness became the thing I believed would keep me from having that access and support because I didn’t know about any living Black creators who had it.
I couldn’t have said it at that age, but I felt it.
I think that’s all. This topic/area has been on my mind because I’m writing about things that intersect with Blackness, patronage in the arts, fraud, etc.
So to wrap up, if you really follow me closely enough to know when I last was published by another person, when I bought new boots etc you know that I hustle.
So fuck off.
Before I go, later this week or next I am going to make some announcements about things. And for right now, you can read a free Daiyuverse story I posted on Wattpad. I will probably post more there as I write them if I don’t submit them places. You can follow me. Enjoy.