I love Black writers. Our experiences of race conveyed with compassion and courage. Our ethnicities, cultures and subcultures. Our family stories. Our individuality. Our interests. Our vulnerabilities. Our creativity. Our love. Our anger. Our words as truth and as power. The value of our intellectual and emotional labor laid bare, from the smallest moments in tweets to the generational longevity of our most prominent writers and scholars. The knowledge that there is no pavement to pound without the power in the pages of our words, forming a foundation where our movements are more than solely momentary momentum, but in fact physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual exercises in longevity over just launches, in process over just performance, in substance over just sheen. Also, our moments of mundanity without marvel. Our problems. Our pitfalls. In essence, our humanity.
There are so many Black writers that I adore; some are quite famous and others I would not know about without Tumblr or Twitter. Some have won prizes for their skill and others face constant plagiarism and erasure, yet their words have been so critical to my development as a writer, an artist, a thinker, a Womanist, a Black woman, a Black person, a human being. However, I do not only engage Black writers within a political or sociopolitical context; not only to "learn." Definitely not as a reader who cannot gauge my consumption to know when I might be demanding too much from a writer versus engaging what they choose to share as a gift. My consumption needs will never be more important than what it may have taken for them to even dare to share. Whether I enjoy some specific Black writers or not, I still respect the process of writing.
Black writers saved my life, in so many ways. When I feel alone, I know that I am not alone because Black foremothers and ancestors came before me, paving the way, often in more difficult times and situations than I experience in my own life, letting me know it is possible. What is possible? Life. Living. Writing. Creating. Sharing truth. Changing how I think. Changing how others think. Learning from others. Evolution of thought. Changing the world. All with written words. While it is easy to discredit the literary prowess, creativity and scholarship of Black women—something that happens interracially and intraracially, unfortunately—the reality is so much of what people base their art and their activism on is made possible by the Womanist/Black feminist traditions, scholarship and lived experience as knowledge from Black women. Some of this is oral, which is valuable as well. Music. The tempo and flow of call and response. The moments in beauty salons, in homes, in churches, in classrooms, in organizing spaces. In the quiet private conversations and in the public eye. However, a lot of this is also written. Books. Essays. Articles. Poems. Plays. Conversations and dialogue in social media space. I would never devalue the intellectual and emotional labor that Black women contribute to Black culture because if I claim to love Blackness, that means recognizing the value of Black women and our creations.
Whenever an experienced Black writer speaks or writes about what compelled them to write, what they think is "good writing," and why they cannot imagine a life without writing, I listen. Whenever a young Black writer—with less experience than I have—asks me how to become a better writer, my advice remains the same. Write. Read. Write more. The only way to get better at writing is to write and to read good writing. I love Black writers who not only inform, educate, critique and analyze—which are critical skills and valuable themselves—but also Black writers who dazzle. To dazzle is to “amaze or overwhelm (someone) with a particular impressive quality.” Not just what they share but how they share it. Anytime I read something from a skilled Black writer where I feel that tingle in my spine—where I literally want to throw the book or article or essay or poem or play etc. across the room because how dare they be so excellent and emotionally move me this way; the sublime audacity of it all—I feel grateful for the experience.
I am not writing for fame. I am not writing for the kind of attention that rapidly becomes unsafe hyperconsumption and hypervisibility. I am not writing to be well-known as a writer. I am not writing solely to be competitive with other writers. I am not writing for mainstream acceptance nor accolades. I am not writing for reblogs. I am not writing for high note counts. I am not writing for Disqus comments. I am not writing for likes. I am not writing for retweets. These things aren't always bad things, but when they are the goal over the writing itself, they can become a problem. I do write to understand myself. I do write to be understood. I write to heal and to celebrate that healing. I write because I do not want to imagine a life where my own story cannot take up space. I write when I am compelled by an internal story that seeks permanence. The external narratives of who I might be is not my truth; I write as it allows me to shape and convey the reality of who I am. Even so, one day I want to dazzle too. Not for fame, however. Thoroughly impress myself though...the most critical audience of one.