I’m going to write a novel. For the love of all that is holy, why?

There is creative reading as well as creative writing.

                                                        – Ralph Waldo Emerson

A writer is a reader first

You’ve heard it before: in order to be a good writer you must be well read (we’ll discuss this lovely concept in another post). Read as much as you can and expose yourself to as many diverse authors as you can, writers learn to write from reading others who are masters of writing, and other wonderful pieces of advice that do little to ebb away our anxiety as writers.

I discussed in my I don’t need you to be my hero post that it is important to find your voice as a writer through writing. I made the argument that our influences make us who we are as writers, but we shouldn’t get lost trying to be Fitzgerald, Hemingway or their likes.

So we’ve dealt with the possible extreme of losing your voice through excessive imitation, without exploration of your own writing voice. We’ve yet to look at the debilitating effects of not reading at all. Debilitating? Yes, and I’m sure after this video you’ll be using such words to describe the side effects of not reading at all.

Anyone who wants to be an author needs to watch this video:

What are some of the things that have made you the writer you are? Is being “well read” all that important? What’s your favourite line from the video? I can’t decide, but “I’ve never even seen you read a book,” is golden.

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Out of mind, out of sight

Why do people assume that a “broken” brain means a “broken” mind, heart and soul?

I can’t speak on behalf of the difficulties that people dealing with mental health issues experience, but I can give my perspective as an observer. Mental health, like Black History Month, is a conversation that doesn’t end with its delegated time. This will hopefully be the first of many posts and discussions to ensue from this topic.

Why is mental health so stigmatized? I don’t mean poor mental health or good mental health, just mental health in general. People are afraid to suggest the topic, it’s like the brussels sprouts of conversations. If you have a problem with your heart, leg, lungs or stomach, you can go and see a doctor with little fear of being judged or looked down upon. Why does that change when we shift to the brain? Why do people assume that a “broken” brain means a “broken” mind, heart and soul? You’d think that something so central and vital to the human body, something so intricate and sensitive, would be approached with openness and impartiality.

Mental health, like one’s sex, colour or sexual orientation is not something rooted in choice. No one wakes up one morning and thinks ” you know what, today feels like a good day to start my depression” or “bipolar disorders are trendy, I’ll try that!” These aren’t garments or fashion pieces picked out of a wardrobe. They are garments one is forced to wear, that societal voices make only more suffocating.

Take sex. Sex deals with the physical difference between men and women. We’ve heard this before (sorry if I’m the first person to tell you this): women have vaginas, men have penises, men tend to be taller than women, women tend to bear babies. Then what society does is distort these differences, taking the physical and moving it into the societal, stereotypical, gendered and political. You have sex and then you have distortions of sex in gender, which is similar to mental health, only the distortions are amplified.

Millions of people are affected by mental health issues. With increased joblessness, stress, engineered hormones, media exploitation and other factors, the “issue” of mental health isn’t going anywhere. There are misconceptions about mental health out there, and I’ll admit, I’m in the process of re-educating myself. I wouldn’t want to be judged by my skin or sex, so it’s only fair that I take that approach with others.

Are you a feminist, sexual rights activist or humanitarian? Do you believe people are more than their skin, hair, sexual partner, situation, upbringing or religion? If you nod yes to any of these, then by default you should also be a mental health activist.

My first…

How did your first time feel? Were you anxious, unable to control your desire? Were you nervous and eager to get the whole thing over with? Did you tell anyone, show off to all your family and friends? Or did you keep the knowledge a secret, as if sharing the experience would take away from the special moment?

Well, for me, it happened at school. I remember restlessly waiting for the bus to pull into campus. As soon as it did I rushed off the bus, apologizing as I hurriedly brushed past people. I made it to the student centre, picked up my university’s newspaper, Excalibur, and flipped through the pages until I found it… my FIRST Publication! I was so giddy, I even thought of redistributing the papers amongst the students that whizzed by. I used any conversation I had that day to unabashedly promote my article.

I know it’s nothing big, but here’s the beginning of the piece. It’s on Black History Month and some of my experiences growing up in Toronto. Feedback is welcome, and don’t hesitate to share your firsts with links to your own publications. We”ll save other firsts for another time.

So, without further adieu or misleading sexual references, here’s my article:

The curly, the coily and the kinky

I dug my fingers into a tangle of thick wires that coiled around and bounced off my hand. This time felt different. My fingers weren’t running through straight, thin strands. I realized for the first time, at the age of 16, that my hair was growing.

For years, I had chemically processed my hair. It had become a regular part of my routine. Every two months, as often as someone may cut their hair, I bought a box covered in smiling black girls with smooth, shiny straight hair, and relaxed mine.

The chemical burns were a naturalized exercise of my youth.

Stiff neck, sore scalp, silky hair: I went through the process without hesitation. I’d shiver when the first glob of white creamy crack tickled my scalp; my mother’s hands were always smooth and precise.

It seemed to be a rite of passage for every black girl to shed her kinks and coils as she entered into adolescence. 

I only knew that something undesirable and unacceptable came out of my scalp and needed to be kempt and suppressed.

The rest of the article can be read here.

I just came back from Jupiter

I didn’t actually come back from Jupiter. I’m sorry if I tricked you into believing this post was about planetary travel. I need some earthly help.

I had a dream that I was standing on my porch with my family. We were all staring at Mars in the night sky. I don’t mean that we were looking off into the distance. There was a red ball in the sky and it grew in size as the blue sky darkened.

Then all the planets appeared, and my dad kept on saying “take a photo, get it centred.” I took some photos with my phone, but my dad kept telling me to take photos, as if I hadn’t taken any at all. Eventually my attention shifted to the massive green ball of Jupiter. Stunned by the planets (which of course we had never seen until now) we remained outside the entire night.

I’m thinking the writing and planetary gods are telling me to write more science fiction. Maybe the point of the dream is that I’m going colour blind. Or maybe I just need a better phone.

Any dream experts out there? I’m more than open to interpretations of this wacky dream.

Aborted Words

Here’s my take on “silence.” This piece was inspired by the Weekly Writing Challenge. I’ve wanted to write this experience for a long while, but didn’t have the right form for it. This challenge, gladly, has given me the frame I needed for my silence.

It is a Tuesday and I’ve just finished my Process class. I sit outside the library on an old, wooden bench, waiting for my friend as restless, groggy university students stream by me. Some stop, looking up at the peeling yellow walls, some make a quick right to the Tim Hortons, while others artistically swim through idle students, running to classes they’re already late for or buses they’ve already missed. In this familiar chaos I see my TA and wave. She smiles back as she hurriedly walks on.

I turn away from my class and see my friend approaching. I get up, collect my books, and we walk towards the food court.

“Yo I am so hungry!” Books cascade to the floor as she drops her bags in front of a BMO. “I need to take out some money. Is that okay?” She shuffles forward without waiting for a reply.

“Why wouldn’t it be? You don’t need my permission to take out food. I mean money.” I follow her in the line, laughing quietly to myself, not wanting to sit on the bench again. “How was class?”

“Lord, lord. Hell if I know what that man was talking about. I hope class gets cancelled next week.” She slides her card into the ATM.

“I feel you man. This class is pointless. It was $2000. For what, I don’t know. The lectures could be taught by an undergrad. I don’t know what I’m going to do for the exam. This course has no structure, all she does is ramble on for an hour and let us go an hour early. I mean, I would like to leave an hour early if I actually felt like I was getting something out of this course. Honestly, if you were there—”

“Isn’t that your TA?” She asks, nonchalantly cutting me off with her hand at the money dispenser.

I jerk my head and look. I see a women with cropped blonde hair, brown rimmed glasses, green turtleneck and black slacks. She sees me staring and waves before she leaves the building with another woman. “Yup, that’s my TA.” I smile at myself and help my friend carry some books.

“That man-woman.” She forces out a laugh. It wasn’t a question.

I frown. “She isn’t a man-woman, she’s just gay.”

“Come on, who is she kidding. She’s a man. Where do you want to eat. Knowing you we’re going to walk around this building for two hours and end up eating nothing.” She opens the door for me and we walk towards the student centre.

I try to answer, but I’ve lost my hunger. Despite how much I try, my appetite won’t be revived, won’t be goaded, and won’t be stirred – like the words I let go, unformed and forgotten.

Here’s 99 other thoughts on silence. Check them out and let me, as well as these creative bloggers, know what you think.

  1. The Sound of Silence | Through the Peacock’s Eyes
  2. Listen to the silence | Master Of Disaster
  3. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | JGTravels
  4. Eight Things I Wish I Knew Before I Taught at a Boarding School | Kosher Adobo
  5. The Sounds of Silence* | Icescreammama
  6. underwood | yi-ching lin photography
  7. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | Under the Monkey Tree
  8. Moments | anonim0us
  9. Moments | anonim0us
  10. Silent Agony | Broken Light: A Photography Collective
  11. Silent crimes | Speaking Voiceless
  12. The Sound of Silence is a beautiful thing | Amanda Montomery
  13. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | A mom’s blog
  14. Hug Her Back | Fish Of Gold
  15. Media Blackouts Insult My Intelligence | Bumblepuppies
  16. As Loud as Silence | Chimerical Chicanery
  17. Unspeakable | Musings of a Soul Eclectic
  18. Aborted Words | The Backwords
  19. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | carojesu
  20. yesterday’s snow lets | y
  21. A SILENT SONG | Diary of a mind
  22. A Common Baby Myth: Babies Should Sleep in Silence.. Ssshhh! | Peek-a-boo: Baby and You!
  23. Silence « mediumblackdog
  24. Never Give Up, Never Give In: My Epiphany! | Hope and Faith
  25. Brady’s Silence (explicit) | Stories From My Mind
  26. Coyote Hill | The Seminary of Praying Mantis
  27. A Silence Louder Than Words | snapshotsofawanderingheart
  28. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | Tales from the Motherland
  29. When The Silence Almost Deafens You | Unload and Unwind
  30. Classy Broad
  31. The Day I Found My Voice | A Path of Living Stones
  32. When you said “Nobody loves you” | So Not Simple
  33. Finding what you didn’t know you were looking for… | Crap I Blog About
  34. WWC: The Sound of Silence | Learning the Anishinaabe Way
  35. Who Said So? | Buzzy Beez
  36. Silence challenge | knovak616
  37. The Silence Welcomes Me | StormieSteele
  38. Weekly Writing Challenge: Have you seen me? | Life of A Fallen Angel
  39. Silence | Perspectives on life, universe and everything
  40. The Things We Don’t Say | A Sign Of Life
  41. Breaking The Sound Of Silence | At least we made it this far…
  42. In the silence of a word | MC’s Whispers
  43. From Silence Came Wisdom | Lifeinpawprints’s Weblog
  44. Blog challenge – The sound of silence « Defy The Narrative
  45. Could the end of ‘that time of the month’ be related to that time of the year? | Minnesota Transplant
  46. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | Echoes of My Past
  47. Good Grief | Wittyburg.com
  48. silence and snow | from dreams to plans
  49. Weekly Writing Challenge: Sounds of Silence | Reflections and Nightmares- Irene A Waters (writer and memoirist)
  50. Jumpers for goalposts… | Dreaminspice
  51. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | Pop-Culture-Referenced
  52. The Silent Sisters | 22 going on 33
  53. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | Bringing Out the God-Colors in the World
  54. Suicide no. 27: Vow of Silence | derekalanwilkinson
  55. Silent White | Mary J Melange
  56. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | Your Original LUPUSDIVA….
  57. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | No Apologies
  58. Cable Cut-off | The Zombies Ate My Brains
  59. Silence so Loud | My Weigh To Lose
  60. Silencing the Critics’ Chorus | V Learns Something New
  61. Silence of the Blog « ph.d. in creative writing
  62. Life: The Search For Someone Who Understands You | Paint Before Death
  63. Silence | Dandilyonz-4-U
  64. Remaining Silent | Bits of Life
  65. Inexhaustible Treasure | Love in the Spaces
  66. HOW DOES SILENCE SOUND? | SERENDIPITY
  67. A moment in Paris | The Bohemian Rock Star’s “Untitled Project”
  68. Weekly Writing Challenge | Fit 4 Life, LLC
  69. No More Honesty | Among the Whispers
  70. The Silent Storm | Martialing Art
  71. I’m excellent at taking criticism (see? that sounds weird, right?) | sincerelyimitated
  72. My worst nightmare is coming alive, the silence is the glue to it all | From One Crazy Life To Another
  73. This is the absolute FPiTS! | Thorough and Unkempt
  74. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | My name is Ellie and this is who I am.
  75. Ah-kya-kha-loo-i | I’m a Writer, Yes I Am
  76. Don’t Change That Channel-er ! | Once Upon Your Prime. . .
  77. Enjoy the Silence | Kokopelli Bee Free Blog
  78. “Oh” | Gnome Lover
  79. Breaking the Silence on Autism | Love, Support, Educate, Advocate, Accept…
  80. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound Of Silence | imagination
  81. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | sailingthroughthefog
  82. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence | alysslombardi
  83. Minnie’s Quite Silent | Minnie | A Personal Blog
  84. Silence Breaker | thenaturalprofessor
  85. I’m Hoping My Mother Ignores This One. | meg lago
  86. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence – Silent-phobia | SA:ME (사메)
  87. Favorite quotes from Alabama literature | Andrea Reads America
  88. A resounding silence. | Multifarious meanderings
  89. Weekly Writing Challenge: The Sound of Silence? | seikaiha’s blah-blah-blah
  90. What I Didn’t Say | My Newingness
  91. litadoolan
  92. Shamed Silence Broken | Ever Upward
  93. THE SILENT TREATMENT | DANDELION’S DEN
  94. #1 | Justin B.
  95. society | yi-ching lin photography
  96. all of life is a | y
  97. The Long Unspoken | the intrinsickness
  98. Being Silent Nevermore: The Psychology of Raising My Voice For Those that Have Been Muted « psychologistmimi
  99. A Borrowed Identity to Fill the Silence. | W.T.F.
  100. Footfall | Tell Tale Therapy

There is no such thing as colour

When you’ve worn the coat of oppression or superiority as an identity, how can you simply shake it off: the suit makes the man doesn’t it?

What does Black History Month mean in the modern, Western world? People don’t practice racism. The colour of your skin doesn’t affect your career opportunities. Interracial marriage is universally acceptable. People, regardless of their skin, have access to education. It sounds so easy, forcing the image of democracy and freedom over inequality in the world. It is a comforting image; it allows us to function without guilt, but sometimes reality reminds us of the falseness of this image. The idea of democracy, freedom, and equality, now function as ideologies that don’t allow us to question the actual state of people. Sure I’m free, yes everyone is equal and colour doesn’t matter. If we think there is no racism, we’ll be blinded by blatant acts of it. Black History Month, among other things, reminds us that some features of our society (people, institutions, law), are still coloured by prejudices. I believe there is racism is the world, not because I go looking for it, but because the media lays the pickings at my feet.

Is race never an issue? To that I answer by asking: when you’ve worn the coat of oppression or superiority as an identity, how can you simply shake it off: the suit makes the man doesn’t it? Changing dominant views, societal conditions and prejudices towards people of colour isn’t something that occurred alongside freedom. Being a free black person did not mean that you were a living human being. Human recognition had to be earned by devoted people like Martin Luther King, Rosa Parks, Malcolm X and others who took up the cause against racism. Freedom doesn’t equal equality, respect and love.

Great black people fought, made art and invented things so we commemorate them in February. A single month, out of the entire year dedicated to their achievements. People don’t have to think about racism, slavery and lynching in any other month, only in February. Are you witnessing something racist in your culture? Wait until February, that’s the appropriate time to bring it up. Just like there’s an app for that, there’s a month for thinking empathetically.

On Martin Luther King Day I read posts and heard rants from people saying that it doesn’t make sense for them to go to work. However, the argument I heard these people make was that Martin Luther King Jr. was a great man therefore it doesn’t make sense for them to go to work on a day dedicated to his greatness. Those two things – work and Martin Luther King – are unrelated. If you want a day off from work, that’s fine, but don’t use the pretense of a great man to get that. That’s not what the day should be about. What if we all demanded the day off because racism against people of colour is still prevalent; black men are stereotyped as stupid, dead beet fathers; black women are painted as loud, obnoxious, uneducated, ghetto characters; black people are asked to tailor their hair to Eurocentric ideals; inner-racism exists in cultures of colour; and sexism, homophobia and racism still exist even though they are rooted in biological occurrences that are under no one’s control? What if we demanded that we will neither participate in nor contribute to a society in which not all members are treated equally? Why don’t we talk about that, instead of using the sufferance of people for our own benefit?

My Music Mondays

What do you do when you write? What I mean to say is are you engaged in any other activities or are you solely focussed on the words? For me, I sometimes need complete silence. I can’t even take the clicking of the keyboard. Other times I need a song playing in the background, something to ground my ideas and words. Like I said in My Music Picks: Peaky Blinders, if a picture paints a thousand words a lyric evokes a thousand images. When I’m listening to certain songs I can see entire scenes playing out before my eyes. When I reach for them, try to commit them to paper, they vanish. It’s sort of like a musical trance where my stories are made vivid and tangible by music. And as soon as the music stops so do the moving scenes. It’s weird but I can’t be the only one out there who feels this way.

Here are some of the songs I listen to when I write. I don’t always go for these songs because I go based on how I’m feeling at the moment.

Anything Radiohead works for me. This playlist is one of the only playlists I can listen to while studying.

I love Soley’s sound and lyrics. When I first heard Pretty Face I wasn’t feeling it, but like anything good she has grown on me.

I’d love to hear what you listen to for inspiration. We can compile everyone’s personal music picks into an album of creative awesomeness. Leave me a comment with your music picks and I’ll definitely give them a listen. Let me know what you think of mine too.