General Writing

How to write disobediently

You have the final say in shaping your work; the first say in its birth; the real responsibility of bringing it forth in a way that is true to your project and your truth. You might work tirelessly to learn, to hear, to read, to be open to the truths of other writers; you might deeply respect editors who can help bring forward your vision and teachers who can help bring forward your deepest work, but you are still the real deciding voice, along with the wonderful and dynamic characters who reside within you, speak story to you, as you write. You are fearless, even if afraid. You are ethical. You are true, authentic, not hiding from big mean truths, from what might seem awkward at first and can be developed into pure power and stunning expression. On the large level of story, you don’t accept prepackaged narratives and stereotypical characters and the death of surprise by conventional and formulaic narratives. Even threatened with not being published by a certain publisher, you go on with what you are developing—not out of some sense of ego, but out of standing in your truth as a writer, without which you can only develop as much as formulae and convention let you. And that leaves not much room for your most amazing work.

You are a rebel, sure. You are a seer, yes. You have information about the planet, and about human beings, about the larger history and the individual history that may go against textbooks and against the loud bullying of some regimes. You have guts. You are not a clerk sticking to a list of statistics that would make a story that would support the lies of the planet. You are, whether loud or soft in your approach, able to stand up for a story, for characters, for language, for dynamic literary forms, for your own mix and development of ideas about your work and about literature–that’s something you can fully stand with.  That you can fully stand with. You are always ready to go further, to develop powerfully, to defy orders, to take chances, to go deep, to develop your way of bringing story, to develop uncomfortable and even unpalatable characters—and keep developing them into fullness, into illumination even when some or many say, nope, I don’t like him.

You don’t care if a publisher is “not in love with your book.” You are dedicated to your work and not to quick and superficial praise. You know that something depends on your truest boldest work coming forward, something vital. Something like survival, something like freedom, something like truth and struggle. Something that must be seen through to its fullness. You write fullness; you write not to please a checklist in the hands of someone whose work…you don’t even care for. You write because yes, your voice and your life depend on it, and someone else’s might as well. 

Let’s face it; you write with no guarantee. You write with risk. You write with limitless promise. You write true and wild. You are capable of amazement.

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