This is a continuation of examining discomfort in difficult topics such as race. This is a half-step post between the first and second, in which I talk about general fears vs. deep fears, the kind that might prevent you from acting when it matters most.
This series is inspired by art-tic, but my interpretation of their message may differ from what they intended, and the homework at the end of this post is my own. I encourage you to check out the links in the resource section, starting with the ar-tic Instagram videos to get the full picture.
Let’s Talk About Fear in Writing
Fear is a real thing. There are a lot of versions of fear that we experience, whether they’re deep or superficial. They can be vague worries or concerns or they can be deep-rooted, such as what many people experiencing deep and constant injustices.
We’re afraid of starting to write, we might be afraid of finishing our project—because, what then? We might be afraid of failure or criticism, or we might be afraid of success.
These are all relatively easy fears to overcome. It’s my job to help you get through those fears when it comes to your creative projects.
Let’s Talk About Deep Fears
Here, I’ll explain with my own recent experience.
With the events going on around the world, I can’t sit and be quiet. Yet I have been afraid. I have been afraid to voice my concerns and voice my stance on the injustices going on. I’ve been afraid that I’ll say the wrong thing, or that even though I have the intention of being supportive, that I’ll take away from those who need their voices to be heard more than mine.
I’ve had situations in which I said the wrong thing at the wrong time, and I was so mortified that I nearly deleted my social media account at the time. I’ve endorsed a problematic piece of literature only to realize just how problematic it is, and nearly broke my rule of no book burning. We all make mistakes.
And these things have fueled my fear of speaking out and using my voice to be an ally, a co-conspirator in justice, however you want to phrase it.
Sure when it comes to my personal writing, I can be afraid of rejection (though rejection letters aren’t that bad), I can be afraid of a bad review or of someone saying that my writing in drivel. But those are injuries to the ego.
The deeper fear, the one that I experience about speaking out, about using my writing to share a message, that fear goes deeper than the ego. It revolves around doing harm. I’m afraid of doing harm.
This is why I’m writing this series this week. This is the reason why I’m pushing you guys as well as myself to really get to the depths of your fears and journal through them, to ask yourself where you are in all of this, what you can do, and what is the least harmful way you can do it. Who knows, you may even stumble on the answer as to how to transcend “least harmful” into “most helpful.” That’s the goal, right?
Again, Rebecca Davis MA, MSW truly inspired me this weekend when she encouraged white people to really sit with our discomfort. It opened my eyes to how I’d been prioritizing my actions and how I present myself to the world. Sure, this is making it about me, and I’m not the one being damaged by the injustices in the world. But if I can’t sit with my own discomfort, learn to move through it and overcome it, then how the hell can I help anyone else do it?
It starts with me.
Yesterday I gave an introduction as to what this week is going to be about, and gave you the homework of watching some videos—you did watch the videos at the very least, right?—and a lot of resources to check out, including articles, fiction and non-fiction books. By the way, if you have any more you’d like to add to the list, I would love to hear them.
While tomorrow I’m going to challenge you to look at your discomforts, today I’m going ask you to make a thoughtful list of fears you have at the minute. Literally any fear. It could be of spiders, snakes, cooking with oil, flying (a personal fear of mine), etc., all the way to the deeper stuff, such as being afraid you won’t complete your magnum opus before you die.
Write down all of your fears. Really make sure you spend time thinking about this, feeling it through. Maybe even start it at the morning and think about it through the day, adding to it when you think of something new. I know that this can be more than uncomfortable for some of you, so make sure you’ve got methods of self-care at your disposal. If you need some comfort while you do this, check out some meditations. I’ll put a few links of calming music I like to listen to when I’m getting overwhelmed.
Don’t respond to your fears, don’t think about the causes of them, or go deep with them. But once you’ve created your list, perhaps at the end of the day, read through it. Give yourself a moment with each item of on the list and just sit with it for a couple of seconds or a couple of minutes with each item on the list, observing how it makes you feel to acknowledge it.
When you’ve gone through your list, spend some time journaling about your experience. How did it make you feel to acknowledge each of these fears? What did you think of the fears when you read them and sat with them?
Again, this isn’t a time to delve into the how and why. We’ll get into that in tomorrow’s post. But for now, you’re just observing how your mind and body react to these fears.
I would also like to note, that while ar-tic inspired the focus of this series, the homework assignments and journal prompts are mine. I strongly encourage you to check out the trainings that ar-tic provide, as well as the other resources that I have linked below.
Again, if you have more resources you would like me to add, please let me know and I will be more than happy to add them.
Ar-tic Instagram: @ar_tic_org
Ar-tic website: www.ar-tic.org
“Why I Am No Longer Talking to White People About Race” by Reni Eddo-Lodge
“7 Casually Racist Things That White Authors Do” by Mya Nunnally
“White as the Default” by Marissa Rei Sebastian
“Definition of Cultural Appropriation: What it is, Why it Matters, and How to Avoid it,” by Nicki Lisa Cole, Ph.D.
Why I am No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard For White People to Talk About Racism by Robin Diangelo
Natives: Race and Class in the Ruins of Empire by Akala
I Know Why the Caged Bird Singsby Maya Angelou
Writing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination by Toni Morrison
The Source of Self-Regard: Selected Essays, Speeches, and Meditations by Toni Morrison
Mouth Full of Blood by Toni Morrison
Race by Toni Morrison
Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward
Killing Rage: Ending Racism, by bell hooks
Talking Back: Thinking Feminist, Thinking Black by bell hooks
Black Looks: Race and Representation by bell hooks
Plantation Memories by Grada Kilomba
Writing Excuses Related Episodes
15:12 Writing the Other—Being an Ally
14:31 Cultural Setting as Conflict
14:21 Writing the Other—Yes You Can!
14:12 Writing the Other—Latinx Representation
7.4 Writing the Other
6.15 Writing Other Cultures