Are We Brave Writers?

I am burning up, have been for years now. Inside me is a toxic brew that, if not dealt with, will get the best of me. Hell, it’s bound to at some point. The writing saves me, a day at a time. But for what purpose do I buy this time if I continue to hold in what’s most important? I am a disgusting thing. The most despicable of all writers. For the world burns in me while I turn my back to it, erect walls with societal steel. All to contain the flames. All for another day of feigned happiness. For consumption. For me. I am weak because I write what I think you want. I avoid writing what’s important for what’s safe. Brand over bravery. Death, day by day.

I believe fiction is a gateway through which reader and writer have a chance to enter into a cosmic connection, where they are stripped bare and where dignity is found in the space between tight gazes, where eyes meet eyes and, by extension, soul meets soul. And if we — yes, we — are lucky then maybe that feeling, that unmatched intensity, lights a flame in the reader. A flame which burns with such malice that the only way to cool it is through creation. Birth through emotional torment. And if we are brave enough, the cycle repeats.

But are we brave here? Do we see and represent the anger and sadness and fear beyond our own? And if not, are we ready to dive into it?

A good writer notices; a great one inhabits, invades. There should be no space a writer won’t go, for fiction, may be the last space for true nuance, where good and evil aren’t so obviously separated. A writer shouldn’t shy away from evil — from the racist, the terrorist, the boy who shoots up a school — for only a writer can make monsters human. As writers, our mission is to invade the space of devils and emerge with something fragile and beautiful. To walk the entire journey from good to evil and to locate where the rotting begins. Only then may we credibly plant warning signs. Only then may we say “abandon all hope, ye who enter here!” But we must first visit Hell. We must come to know it and we mustn’t fear what we need to say about it. We must be brave here.

Do we possess the courage to write with empathy for even the worst among us? To show that the descent into evil is indeed a short fall? That perhaps many of us have, by luck, merely been fortunate enough to have never gotten the chance to prove just how evil we are capable of being.

There is much beauty in the world and I read many stories that reveal it, bring it to life with imaginative and delicate language. There is a deafening silence about what makes our world ugly, about the victims and perpetrators of that ugliness. I believe we must be more comfortable with monsters and may we not ignore their humanity. That they may have lost it along the way is a tragedy. As fiction writers, we must live in the savage pits of worldly despair. And, if we’re lucky, we will die there, so that others may see the hilltops. For hills were never meant for writers. The flesh of the writer is bound for the incinerator, her soul for paradise. Let us believe it. Let us march into that chaos.

Forget productivity and writing about writing. Leave the snark to cowards and let the call, instead, be to bravery, to revealing truth through fiction. Let us march into politics in a way that no other profession can, for who else has the ability to declare themselves omniscient? Should the world become even more fucked up then, damn it, let us march, with renewed vigor, to the front lines. And let us fall, one by one, until we reveal the truth, that good and beauty are always within our grasp at the same time as they are about to slip away.

If writing is about bleeding then let us not forget how to cut! And may our blood spill in order to save the world, for to write is to face down death with a pen, as sword and executioner, at the ready. It’s time to be braver, bolder! May we rise to the challenge and may we burn, burn, burn like those famous Roman candles through the night.

When it’s over, I hope to see you there.

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