Wanna make a room of white people feel awkward…?

Books by writers of color are more likely to be banned. That’s right. In the above Bitch Media interview with Kristen Pekoll from The Office of Intellectual Freedom with The American Library’s Association, she states that more than three quarters of the books banned by school libraries in 2017 were by, or about, people of color.  “What does it say about our culture that people don’t want these books on the shelf?” she asks.

Even though offended parents, teachers and administrators claim that they object to these books due to religious, political, sexual, or other “controversial,” content,  what they all have in common is that they explicitly and honestly address the experiences of non-white Americans, or protagonists from other cultures.

And that can make a lot of people uncomfortable. As she says “Wanna make a room of white people feel awkward? Talk about race.”  

It’s not only difficult for most white Americans to face up to the racist history of our country, it’s even more difficult for them to understand what racism is, and how it functions on a structural and institutional basis. Unfortunately, however, because 89% of publishing industry professionals are white, the odds are against writers of color getting the attention and support they need to effectively explore the intersections of race, poverty, gender and class in ways that will awaken readers and challenge the status quo. 

Nevertheless, I have hope. And right now that hope lies in my commitment to creating spaces for writers of color to discover and develop stories that not only convey infrequently-heard truths, and possibly inspire a more just and fulfilling world, but where they also never have to hear the question, “Why does everything have to be about race?”

Register for my upcoming Circle for Writers of Color, launching in February 2019, or sign up for a free group coaching session for Writers of Color.

Sitting Down To Write

The first step towards writing anything is deceptively simple. It’s sitting.

But it’s not just any sitting. It’s sitting in front of a blank page or screen — the prospect of which can be intimidating. While there are people who can sit down and get right to business, for others it can take time.  

If you are one of these people, do not fret if you find yourself:

  • Straightening out your desk, living room or kitchen
  • Watching Netflix
  • Making a cup of tea
  • Lighting a candle
  • Throwing out the garbage

Even experienced writers can dismiss such puttering as mere procrastination, but I prefer to think of it as a kind of nesting. It is simply what’s necessary to welcome your imagination into the room.

After all, the mindset with which we address daily life is different from the one required for creative labor, and it’s not always easy to switch gears. And while, of course, there will be times when inspiration hits you while you’re doing something else, devotion to a project demands that you be able to write on command.

Creating the proper setting for your imagination is an act of self-care that requires practice and patience.  So give yourself some grace and explore what you need to settle into a writing session: Do you prefer quiet or noise? A messy space or a tidy one? Morning or evening? Just as every writer develops a “voice” through choice of words and story, every writer also develops preferences for diving into the creative process.

Especially in the beginning, it can take time for your mind to turn away from the mundane details of daily life and towards creation. So don’t be ashamed if, as one highly accomplished artist once told me, it takes three times as long to prepare as it does to actually create. 

Your story is waiting to be told, and I encourage you to do whatever it takes to sit down and begin telling it.