Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A Theme in My Writing

Using duty to hide from dreams and desire. And not necessarily romantic or carnal desire, although that is very valid. Just the desire to do what you want to do--maybe what you were even born to do. Using your (perceived) duty to your family and community instead of fulfilling your own aspirations. And, getting all "academic" with this, these could be construed as very "middle-class" concepts, because those who have little to no leisure time can't afford to worry about dreams or desires. There's food to be put on the table; clothes to be put on backs; bodies to remain living in safe (or as safe as possible) dwellings. Yet, it doesn't matter what class, what race, what gender--people have dreams and desires, and I think everyone should have the opportunity to reach them.

I could stretch it further and say the above is also a "white middle-class" concept, and especially "white male middle-class" concept. In this society, women of color have had the least opportunity to fulfill either in any real way. And because I am a black woman, that is my basis and frame of experience. That is what I write, that is also with what I struggle in my own daily life. Responsibility, duty, has always been at the fore--and often to the point of allowing someone else the opportunity to achieve those dreams and desires. Family is big; community is big; not being "selfish" is something taught time and time again.

Selfish. That's a tricky word, a loaded word. Oftentimes, an unfair word. Many of my characters struggled with perceived selfish behavior versus doing something or being with someone who makes them happy. I struggle with that word, with that perception, as I do this writing thing. I'm the type of person where it's so hard for me to say no to a request, that duty or what I "should do" for others almost always can trump what I need/want/should do for myself.

Black women are rarely told it's okay to "do you". Do for others yes, always, definitely, but do you? Do for you? No . . . So many of my heroines are struggling with this, and I try to surround them with people who will give them the courage to "do them"--not just their hero--
but their best friends; their sisters; their brothers. LJ in Being Plumville is definitely and example of that person, and I hadn't planned on him being that, but I'm glad he was. Samara struggles with that regarding whether she would take a chance with AJ in AJ's Serendipity; and in her case, AJ was the one to help her make her ultimate decision.

I've used the phrase "hiding behind 'x'" in many of my manuscripts, not even realizing it until just now (as I'm working on yet another story lol), but instead of removing it, I'm keeping it, because it's real. To get to that point where you can "do you", and not to the detriment of others, is truly liberating, I think. You can't give your all if part of you is tethered to the ground. We have to allow ourselves to soar.

And once we do, don't apologize for doing it. I'm still working on that, but to see my characters get to that point, or at least get closer to that point, definitely helps.


thebluestpurple said...

To get to that point where you can "do you", and not to the detriment of others, is truly liberating, I think. You can't give your all if part of you is tethered to the ground. We have to allow ourselves to soar.

mmm. preach. great quote. i'm working on this right now too. very slow process, 2 steps forward 1 step back kind of thing, but i'm still making progress. good luck on your journey.

Bana said...

Girl . . . I'm on that same track with you--sometimes it's one step forward, five steps back lol. But we have to. We have to. Our foremothers didn't do all that so we can keep doing what they did. Or else, what was the point of THEIR sacrifice? At some point, somebody has to make good, so why not us?

jojodancer said...

I'm struggling with that word "selfish" a lot lately. I recently ended all contact with an ex of mine because I realized as much as I thought I would be abandoning him, our friendship was so unhealthy for me and him. So now, I am trying to come to terms with "doing me" for once and not putting him first. In actuality, I should be putting God first, and that's exactly what I'm going to do! Thanks, I really needed to read this today!

Bana said...


Ultimately, it's about getting your priorities in order, and at no time should you be at the bottom of that list. It's easy to do that, but we've got to stop it. I'm glad you broke off the unhealthy relationship. You can't grow if you remain stunted. And shoot, God ain't a bad choice to get behind, either!