The Writing Life of A Disorganized, Antisocial, Black Single Mom with ADD

Somehow, I have a career writing about my opinions and experiences with the world. If you want to do this, maybe this will help you too. Or maybe not.

· When I’m mad or happy or sad or scared, I write down the sentence yelling loudest or most repetitively in my brain. Sometimes it’s just something like “I don’t care if you like me” or “what if your identity is tied to my oppression?” or “are you fucking kidding me?” or “Boston Cream Pie.” Whatever is most viscerally speaking to me at the moment is what I write down. If I can write the entire essay right then, even better, but if I can’t, I have an emotional touchpoint to reference — the actual feeling or thought I want people to understand, which is better to me than a thesis any day. Sometimes I can’t remember what made me write down that sentence because it will be really vague and that kind of sucks, but I get enough gems for it to be worth it.

· When I need to come up with something to write and nothing in my list of ideas appeals at the moment, I ask myself, “what did you not have words for this week?” Maybe it’s something in the news that had me feeling uneasy, maybe it was a political argument online that was never finished, maybe it’s just a nagging feeling about the world that has been hanging around in my gut.

· My primary goal of writing is to put words to things where words have not come easy, in such a way that they will never be so difficult to voice again.

· I sit and “listen” online, in person, on tv, in articles — to what isn’t being said, and I ask myself why.

· Sometimes the thing that isn’t being said is a horrible thing that probably shouldn’t be said because it causes mostly pain and releases nothing but hate and bias and abuse into the world with not enough benefit to anyone other than those who seek to profit off of hate and bias and abuse to make saying such things anything other than selfish. To some writers, saying those things anyway is seen as freedom. I am not one of those writers.

· Sometimes the thing that is not being said, that I want to say, is so frowned upon by general society that I begin to become convinced that it is one of those things that really shouldn’t be said, but when I try to figure out why, it doesn’t make any sense. So I say the thing. These essays are the worst to write. I hate them, I hate the entire process. I become convinced that each of these essays is the end of my career. But these are the essays that people write me letters of thanks for.

· Sometimes something needs to be said, but not by me — even if I’ve convinced myself that I could say it well. Some stories aren’t mine to tell. I have to be okay with that.

· I like to pretend that I’ve made peace with everything I write before I write it. It is the only way I can force myself to put my thoughts on this electronic paper. But I cry when I’m proofreading about half of the time.

· Sometimes I think, “What is the thing that I can’t explain to individual people one more time without going on a murderous rampage?” And then I write that down into an essay for the sole purpose of never having to say that thing again. These essays do really well because apparently other people are also tired of explaining these same things.

· I do not write for everyone, there are some people who are used to being catered to in every story and every article and I have no problem in leaving them out if space or interest or whim dictates. I am, however, absolutely never able to write something that isn’t always at least a little bit for other people of color.

· I do have to write for white people a lot more than I’d like to though. They just keep getting in the way of everything else I and other POC would rather be doing, so I have to keep telling them to stop.

· I do not address every viewpoint on a topic. I address my viewpoint. I don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on the other points that could be made about the subject. Those points are for other writers to make. People should read more than one essay on a subject.

· Sometimes the thought of a keyboard so disgusts me that I write my essays on paper with a pen and fancy penmanship like a weirdo. My entire book outline is handwritten.

· Before I write about what I think about a topic, I ask myself, “ok, but why do I really think that?” and I try to remember a time when I didn’t feel the same way about said topic, and what brought me to where I am. Sometimes the journey is really profound, and connecting to that life experience makes a stronger essay. Sometimes the journey is really dumb, like “my mom told me that once and I shrugged and said ok” and then I realize that I might have been wrong about something for a very long time. That makes the strongest essay, if I’m feeling up to the challenge of diving deeper.

· I write very, very fast (rarely does an essay take longer than an hour and a half) and even when I do make myself proofread, I never check grammar. Sometimes I feel very lazy because of all this. But the truth is that I spend probably twelve hours a day painstakingly observing the world to figure out what I feel is worth saying, and doing that day in and day out produces about two essays a week — usually only one of real quality if I’m lucky. When I’m done, I need a nap.

· When you start writing, you’ll be convinced that everything you write is complete garbage and that every essay you write will be the one that ends your career. If you are lucky, after a couple of years you will become convinced that even if what you are writing is complete garbage, it is the garbage your readers are looking for, and you are producing consistent quality garbage to their tastes — and if that is not a skill to be proud of, I don’t know what is.

· I’m writing this essay to avoid the other writing that I’m supposed to be doing right now.

· I don’t actually enjoy writing — it is not fun to pry your brain open like this and try to translate feelings and smells and songs and images into coherent sentences. I have to drag myself to my laptop every day. But it is something that has become as necessary to my life as eating and drinking and hugging my children. I am ruined for all the other work I used to do and love. If push came to shove and I needed to go sit at a cubicle again or push buttons on a cash register again to feed my family, I’d do it, because all privileged romanticism aside — I’m a grownup and this is shit that real people do all the time. But I don’t think I’d be able to convince myself that I was happy.

· I’m a writer because I write. Not because I’ve been published in certain places. Not because people pay me. I’m a writer because I write. So are you.